Tampa Bay Times: “Q&A: Jeff Brandes’ Democratic Florida Senate challenger Lindsay Cross”
Cross talked about why she’s running and why she thinks she’s the ideal candidate for Senate District 24.
On Monday, Lindsay Cross, the executive director of a land conservation group, stepped in at the last second to challenge Republican incumbent state Sen. Jeff Brandes.
Cross sat down with the Times for a phone Q&A Wednesday evening, in which she discussed her plans to reform Tallahassee and how she’ll overcome what will likely be a significant fundraising gap between her and Brandes.
Here’s a transcript of her conversation with the Times, which has been lightly edited for space and clarity.
Kirby Wilson: What do you think is the number one problem facing Senate District 24 voters?
Lindsay Cross: I think we have several key issues in SD 24 and statewide. I think some of the most pressing ones are finding affordable health care for all of our families and residents; making sure that we have good quality schools that are not letting our kids down; and making sure that we’re protecting our natural environment. Having clean drinking water, having places that we can swim and recreate with our families. Those are some of the top things that are important to me and to the families of Pinellas County.
KW: What did you think was the best piece of legislation passed by the Legislature last year and what was the worst and why?
LC: There was a lot of both good and bad legislation last year. I’m not going to point to one in particular. You know that we made some progress in funding Florida Forever, which is an important land conservation program, so I’m happy that we’re starting to make progress on that. And that would be something that I would continue forward in trying to fully fund.
KW: And a piece of legislation that you didn’t like so much?
LC: I think we haven’t made the investments in our public schools that we need to, so that’s something that I would fundamentally like to change. Looking at ways that we can make sure that our education systems are working for our students rather than the for-profit companies that are benefitting from that.
KW: What about your background makes you an ideal candidate for this district?
LC: I think I am the voter here in Pinellas County. I come from parents who were both educators. I went through public school. I had opportunities and chose to come down to Pinellas County because of the quality of life here, the amazing natural beauty — and I’ve seen that that’s changed in the time that I’ve been here. I want to make sure that the families living here today have those same opportunities and are able to find high-quality jobs and their kids graduate school and are able to raise their families in Pinellas County as well.
KW: What do you think has been Brandes’ biggest failure?
LC: Sen. Brandes is working more for special interests and for his funders than he is for the rest of Pinellas County.
KW: What do you mean by that? Which special interests?
LC: Some of his initiatives related to the voucher system are more geared towards putting money in the pockets of these for-profit education institutions rather than putting the money into the public schools, which have so much opportunity to develop the young leaders of our community.
KW: Sen. Brandes is an incredibly well funded state Senate candidate, and you’re entering the race late. How do you plan to overcome the massive fundraising gap between you and him?
LC: Fundraising is certainly an important part of any campaign, but it’s more about reaching the voter and talking about the issues that are important to them. Finding out how we can tackle these big issues and make sure that health care is more affordable, that we’re investing adequately in our infrastructure and our public schools and protecting our natural environment.
KW: So how do you plan to reach the voter?
LC: I’m going to be spending a lot of time talking to my neighbors and our families. I’m so excited to be out on the street and hearing what’s important to the voter. I think that one of the failures in Tallahassee is not listening to really what the people want, but doing what’s in the interest of them and some of the big corporations. So this is such an incredible way to make a difference for the people of Senate District 24.
KW: Why did you have to quit your job to run for this office?
LC: You said it before, I’m entering this race late, there’s a big financial need here and I need to put all my attention into this. I am determined to be the best candidate for Senate District 24 and make some of these changes in Tallahassee that need to be made. We’ve had 20 years of Republican rule that hasn’t been serving the citizens of this county and this state. It’s important enough for me to invest 100 percent of my time and energy to make sure that we take back Tallahassee.
KW: You mention the 20 years of Republican rule. Why have Democrats been so unsuccessful these past 20 years in Florida?
LC: I think we’re seeing places where we’re making a lot of great strides around the nation. We’re seeing upset races because the voters are coming out and the constituents are listening to what’s important to them. I think this is just the start and we have so much opportunity to look forward and not look back. This is just the beginning of an amazing time in Florida’s history.
KW: Is there anything else you’d like to add or anything else you’d like the voter to know?
LC: I’m just so excited about this opportunity to serve the families in District 24 to make sure that this is the best place to live, work and play in our state and around the nation.