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Janet Cruz shakes up House Dems office, hires Joe McCann

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Incoming House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz of Tampa has let go two top staffers as she remakes the chamber’s Minority Office.

Its staff director, 17-year House veteran Durward Brewer, and communications director Paul Flemming have been released, Cruz said Wednesday.

Taking Brewer’s place will be Joe McCann, a lobbyist and former senior VP at the Ballard Partners lobbying firm and a campaign manager for past Attorney General Bob Butterworth.

“I appreciate their service but it’s not unusual for a new leader to want to install their own team,” she told FloridaPolitics.com.

McCann could not be immediately reached.

“He’s a wonderful guy and a great hire,” Brian Ballard said of McCann. “He’s the perfect candidate for that job. He’s got the legislative background, and he’s worked outside the process, so he’s uniquely situated to bring a level of experience that very few people have. We look forward to working with him.”

Before his tenure with Ballard, McCann was a senior legislative aide to then-state Sen. Ron Klein, and legislative aide to former U.S. Rep. James Bacchus, also Democrats.

“It is that kind of experience, paired with a fresh outlook and tenacity, that is needed to help our caucus,” Cruz said in an email to members Wednesday morning.

House Republicans currently outnumber Democrats 81-39 in the 120-seat chamber.

Cruz said she had not decided on a replacement for Flemming, hired by outgoing Leader Mark Pafford after being the politics and policy editor for The Tallahassee Democrat.

Brewer had served as staff director for the House Democrats since October 2009, having replaced Barry Kling, who retired.

“In 2017, we need to be ready to take on the tough work of bettering our great state,” Cruz wrote. “That will require a staff that is efficient, determined and fearless, and Joe is the man for the job.

“It is time for our caucus to come together and prepare to fight for what is important in the lives of our fellow Floridians,” she added. “With Joe as a part of our effort, I know we will do the work the people of Florida sent us to Tallahassee to do.”

FloridaPolitics.com Publisher Peter Schorsch contributed to this post.

Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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