Bob Buesing may be looking for a rematch.
One of the most bitter races in all of Florida politics last year took place in Hillsborough County’s Senate District 18, where Democrat Buesing faced Republican state Rep. Dana Young and independent Joe Redner.
Although Democrats believed Young was vulnerable to a serious opponent she ultimately defeated Buesing 48 to 41 percent. Redner finished a distant third with 9.5 percent.
With redistricting, half the state’s 40 Senate seats are up for re-election again next year, and Buesing said Friday he is considering another run against Young in 2018.
“It’s not about me, it’s about what’s best for the community,” said the 63-year-old Buesing, a longtime attorney with the law firm of Trenam Kemker who before last year had never run for public office. “I’ll make a very reasoned decision, and once I talk to a lot of people, try to do what’s best for the community and if nobody else on the team is going to do this, and somebody needs to do [it], then I’ll think about it.”
Buesing figures to improve his performance in 2018, especially if Redner is not part of the equation.
The adult entrepreneur and progressive activist ran a serious campaign, spending more than $330,000 of his own money and producing several television ads attacking Young. Although Buesing and Hillsborough Democrats insisted Redner’s support would come equally from both Democrats and Republicans, Buesing unquestionably would prefer he not be a factor in 2018.
“I met with Joe Redner and he looked me in the eye and said he’d be proud to endorse me,” Buesing said. “And said he’s not going to run.”
“If she is her opposition, I will back him,” Redner confirmed in a separate conversation. But Redner questions whether Buesing is the right Democrat to run against Young.
“I don’t think he’s the person for the job,” he said. “I don’t think he’s aggressive enough. But anybody but her. At least his heart is in the right goddamned place.”
Between her own campaign contributions and her political committee, Young raised more than $2 million, while Buesing took in more than $500,000 on his own. His PAC, Floridians for Early Education, raised another $133,000.
“It is interesting that she only got 48 percent of the vote after spending millions and millions of dollars on a false attack smear campaign,” Buesing charges. “With spending that kind of money, she only got 48 percent?
“Sounds to me like it’s an opportunity.”
One of the biggest issues in 2016 were attacks made by Buesing, Redner and third-party environmental groups accusing Young of a pro-fracking vote she made during the 2016 Legislative Session.
Throughout the campaign, Young defended her vote by saying it was actually against fracking. That House bill, which was opposed by environmental groups, sought a one-year moratorium on fracking while the state performed a yearlong study on the practice and its effects on drinking water in advance further regulation.
“I do not support fracking in Florida,” she had told the Tampa Bay Times in September 2016. “I will never support fracking in Florida.”
On the campaign trail, Young promised that, if elected, she would propose unambiguous legislation in the Legislature to ban the practice.
This year, she did just that. In January, Young introduced SB 442, which prohibits “advanced well stimulation treatments; clarifying that permits for drilling or operating a well do not authorize the performance of advanced well stimulation treatments,” among other things. The bill is currently in the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Environment and Natural Resources. A companion bill has been filed in the House by Orlando Republican Mike Miller and Tampa Democrat Janet Cruz (HB 451).
“She had six years to do that bill,” Buesing said. “I’m glad she did. It’s good for the community that she did, but what about the 99 other issues?
“I view this district as much more moderate and sensible that where she’s been on these issues, so now we get to see what her record looks like.”
When contacted later, Young stayed above the fray.
“I’m focused on doing the job the voters in my district elected me to do,” she told FloridaPolitics.com. “I am not focusing on the next election cycle. If I continue to do my job, the rest will sort itself out.”