TAMPA — It’s been a contentious period between the City Council and Mayor Jane Castor. And that conflict has taken front row in the five-candidate contest for the citywide District 3 seat.
Former State Sen. Janet Cruz says she is part of the solution. She says council members need to work with the mayor in moving the city forward. She says the city is being embarrassed by all the drama. She also is the mother of Ana Cruz, the domestic partner of Mayor Jane Castor.
Lynn Hurtak — appointed to the City Council in April after John Dingfelder resigned to resolve a public records lawsuit — has been an opponent of Castor and says the city needs council members who will stand up to the mayor, especially on issues such as PURE, the controversial wastewater reuse project championed by the mayor. She also says Cruz’s familial relationship with Castor calls her independence into question.
Three other candidates, Jose Vazquez, K.J. Allen and George “TheHunted” Feshev, who have not held other offices, also are competing for votes. The crowded field could mean that no candidate secures a majority of the vote, which would mean the top two vote-getters head to an April 25 runoff.
The seat is citywide so all Tampa voters will get a chance to weigh in. Across the city there are 240,270 registered voters, of which 103,122 are Democrats — a 40,000-voter lead over Republicans. Nonparty-affiliated voters make up a nearly 70,000-voter slice of the electorate. Voters aged 66 and over are the largest voting segment at 18%. White voters make up 53% of the electorate, with Black voters at 20% and Latino voters at 16%.
Allen, 31, is a counselor with an afterschool YMCA program in Sulphur Springs. He lives in Seminole Heights.
Cruz, 66, a former state representative and senator, is making her first run for the City Council. She lives in Sunset Park.
Feshev, 52, survived being shot in the head while having dinner at home in 2019. The incident helped spur the Ybor City resident to run for office.
Hurtak, 45, was a technical writer and consultant before being appointed to her City Council seat. She lives in Old Seminole Heights.
Vazquez, 48, an East Tampa resident owns a transport, towing and storage company. He has run for political office previously, including as a write-in candidate for mayor in 2015.
Allen told a South Tampa forum crowd recently that transportation and affordable housing are important issues. He said he would focus on increasing the qualify of life for city residents.
Cruz says her experience as a legislator in Tallahassee for 13 years gives her inside knowledge of how to help Tampa with state resources. She also pledges to be part of ending the standoff between the City Council and the mayor.
Feshev says public safety would be his top priority on the City Council.
Hurtak says killing Castor’s proposal to reuse wastewater by treating it to replenish Sulphur Springs and the Hillsborough River, a source of drinking water, is her highest priority. Increasing affordable housing options also is a top concern. Hurtak also led efforts to rein in the mayor’s power in a series of proposed charter amendments, four of which are headed to voters.
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Vazquez, who has advocated for Puerto Rican statehood, says he is running to better represent residents’ needs, including on public safety, he told a crowd at a recent South Tampa political forum.
According to the latest campaign finance reports, here’s how the candidates are faring in the money game.
Allen: Contributions: $3,510 Expenditures: $3,250
Cruz: Contributions: $83,723 Expenditures: $69,358
Feshev: Contributions: $7,507 Expenditures: $6,540
Hurtak: Contributions: $56,821 Expenditures: $15,830
Vazquez: Contributions: $4,465 Expenditures: $4,248
The race has made the biggest headlines of the season as Cruz, at a recent forum, accused Hurtak of “having a problem with gay people.” The assertion was based on Hurtak pointing out the relationship between Cruz and the mayor’s partner.
Hurtak, a progressive who has been endorsed by local and state LGBTQ groups, has dismissed the charge as baseless. Castor has done little to quell concern about the relationship posing a potential conflict, endorsing Cruz. Hurtak has said the race is a referendum on whether council members will be independent of the mayor or a rubber stamp for her policies.
How to vote