TAMPA — A modest crowd gathered on a breezy Tuesday evening near Tampa’s Riverwalk for the launch of recently defeated state Sen. Janet Cruz’s campaign for City Council.
In a short speech to supporters — including Mayor Jane Castor and Cruz’s daughter, Ballard lobbyist Ana Cruz, who is the mayor’s partner — Janet Cruz said she would be a unifying force in the currently fractured relationship between the mayor and council members.
And she emphasized her family’s deep roots and her experience growing up in Tampa.
“I was born just down the street from here at Centro Asturiano hospital,” Cruz said. Her great-grandparents were cigar rollers in Ybor City, she said, and she fondly recalled the days of former mayors Nick Nuccio and Dick Greco.
The current mayor needs council support to help a booming city continue on its upward trajectory, Cruz told supporters in Ulele’s beer garden. She said her time in Tallahassee proved she can work with political opponents.
“I worked across party lines — and I find that to be one of my strengths — and I delivered results. And as your next city councilwoman, I can promise to do the same. We can achieve so much when we put our petty nonsense aside and work toward a better Tampa. The citizens of Tampa deserve a council and a mayor and a city that works together to make a difference. We are a major metropolitan city and it’s time that we behave like a major metropolitan city,” she said.
Council member Lynn Hurtak was appointed to the seat in April shortly after John Dingfelder resigned to resolve a public records lawsuit that helped spark a rift between some council members and Castor.
Hurtak has filed for election to the seat, as has Gwendolyn Henderson.
When asked if she would endorse Cruz for the citywide District 3 seat, Castor said she hasn’t decided whether to endorse any council candidates.
“Oh, I definitely support her,” Castor said when asked if she would officially back Cruz at some point. “I support what she has to say, but I haven’t made decisions on City Council endorsements at this point.”
Hurtak in recent months has bucked the mayor, including backing challenges to her current authority under the city charter. But the Castor administration did send Hurtak to Denmark to learn more about waste-to-energy projects. While she was away, Cruz announced her campaign to unseat her.
Hurtak, a Seminole Heights activist before joining the City Council, kicked off her campaign last month at American Legion Post 111 in that neighborhood. Attending her event was council member Orlando Gudes, a frequent Castor critic.
Council chairperson Joseph Citro, a Castor ally, attended the Cruz event.