Tampa elections: Lynn Hurtak swamps Janet Cruz in City Council runoff

The incumbent Hurtak bested her challenger, a former state senator, by over 20 points.

Janet Cruz (left) and Lynn Hurtak.

Janet Cruz (left) and Lynn Hurtak. Photo illustration by City & State/Photos from campaign Twitter accounts

Tampa City Councilmember Lynn Hurtak retained her seat with over 60% support in Tampa's municipal runoff elections on Tuesday. 

She overcame her challenger, former state Sen. Janet Cruz, who entered the race to challenge her after losing her seat in the Legislature during the 2022 election cycle. The pair were locked in one of the most expensive and antagonistic races in recent local political memory.

Cruz spent over 13 years in the Legislature before challenging Hurtak, a progressive who has been a frequent critic of Tampa Mayor Jane Castor since being appointed to the seat in 2022. Cruz’s daughter, lobbyist Ana Cruz, is Castor’s longtime partner, adding a flair of family intrigue into the race. 

Throughout the race, Hurtak questioned whether Cruz's relationship with Castor would make her unable to push back against the mayor when needed. Cruz, a Democrat, responded to concerns with accusations of homophobia, asking if Hurtak had “a problem with gay people” during a Hillsborough NAACP debate.

Ultimately, Cruz was unable to pick up any additional support since March’s municipal election. In that five-person contest, she picked up 38% support. On Tuesday, she got about 39%. Tuesday’s result means Hurtak will continue to be a counterbalance to Castor for the next four years after the Mayor won another term in March. She faced only a write-in candidate.

In other races

Three other contests were decided Tuesday:

— In the citywide District 1 race, former air traffic controller and Democratic National Committee executive board member Alan Clendenin beat Keiser University professor Sonja Brookins with 64% of the vote. Clendenin is set to become the first openly gay person to serve on the city council.

— In citywide District 2, current District 6 council member Guido Maniscalco won over progressive organizer Robin Lockett with about 62% support. Maniscalco regularly works as a swing vote on the council, meaning his reelection will continue to keep the two Tampa factions on a knife's edge.

— The closest race of the night was in West Tampa and Seminole Heights’ District 6. Charlie Miranda won the seat with 51% support, only about 2 points better than he did in March. Political newcomer and attorney Hoyt Prindle nearly pulled off an upset, performing 29 points better than he did last month.

Ultimately, what provided the boost in the citywide elections were the South Tampa precincts, Tampa-based Republican political consultant Anthony Pedicini told City & State. Almost all of those precincts went to the three winners by large margins, allowing them to run up the score on their opponents.

Pedicini said the area was critical for sending two DeSantis-aligned Republicans – state Sen. Jay Collins and state Rep. Karen Gonzalez Pittman – to the Legislature last November. But during April runoffs, the same area is critical in enshrining Democratic-aligned council members.

The answer is likely voter turnout: Only about 11% of voters participated in the runoff, while over 50% voted in the 2022 general election.

"I just called my opponent to wish her well on the next four years on the Tampa City Council. I look forward to seeing Tampa continue to grow and prosper," Cruz tweeted later Tuesday. 

In her victory speech to campaign volunteers and supporters, Hurtak thanked those who voted for her and worked with her.

“I want to thank everyone for believing in me and believing in a better Tampa, because that is what this is. We are going to continue fighting for the people. People power,” she said.

Contact Tristan Wood at twood@cityandstatefl.com and follow him on Twitter: @TristanDWood

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