BAY AREA — 12:42 p.m. update: Janet Cruz has declared victory in the State Senate District 18 race, which was one of the closest races heading into Wednesday.
She's leading her opponent, incumbent Sen. Dana Young, by 289 votes. There are still vote-by-mail & provisional ballots to be counted. A recount will still be required by law.
Cruz planned a news conference later Wednesday.
PREVIOUS COVERAGE, OTHER RESULTS
In addition to the major state races, voters are being asked to decide on key positions in counties across the Bay area.
Several state senate and house positions will be contested in Hillsborough, Henando, Citrus and Pinellas counties.
Here's a look at those races:
- Florida State Senate District 10 ▼
- Florida State Senate District 16 ▼
- Florida State Senate District 18 ▼
- Florida House of Representatives District 37 ▼
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- ELECTION DAY IN FLORIDA: Governor's race | U.S. Senate race | The amendments | Attorney general's race | Key House races | State races and more
- Decision 2018 Voting Guide: Everything you need to know at the polls
Florida State Senate District 10 Race:
UPDATE: Republican Wilton Simpson was the winner, claiming 65 percent of the vote.
Republican Wilton Simpson and Democrat Michael Cottrell are running for Florida State Senate District 10.
Simpson, who represents Hernando and Citrus counties, was first elected to the Florida Senate in 2012. For the first time, Simpson is facing an opponent in his try for reelection to the Florida Senate.
Florida Democrats are looking to regain outright control of the state Senate for the first time since 1992. They currently hold 16 seats, so they’ll need to gain five seats to have a majority in the chamber.
Simpson says he wants to initiate a top-down review and overhaul of the state’s foster care and adoption systems.
Cottrell supports accepting federal funds to expand Medicare in Florida, something the Republican-dominated Legislature has not done.
Cottrell said his decision to challenge Simpson stems from a belief in the democratic process. Cottrell said he wants to be the candidate that represents the middle and lower classes, unlike others that work to protect the interests of the rich.
Cottrell said he supports more resources expended to pursue wind and solar power. He said Florida is the Sunshine State, and it’s pitiful that more renewable energy resources are not being utilized.
Cottrell also believes it's possible to maintain gun-free school zones and still guarantee student safety by designing schools that are less open to potential shooters and have designated safe lock-down areas.
Simpson said one of his top priorities is to make sure Florida stewards our natural resources and preserves our environment for future generations. He is also fighting for better education for kids and better access to education and employment opportunities for veterans, according to his platform.
Florida State Senate District 16 Race:
UPDATE: Republican Ed Hooper got 52.2 percent of the vote to get a close victory over Amanda Murphy.
Longtime Clearwater politician Ed Hooper is running as the Republican candidate. He previously served in the District 67 seat in the Florida House of Representatives from 2006 to 2014, when he had to leave due to term limits. Hooper worked as a firefighter for more than two decades.
Amanda Murphy, the Democratic challenger, worked as a financial adviser before she served in the House of Representatives from 2013 to 2016 after winning a special election to replace a Republican House District 36 representative.
Florida Senate District 16 covers north Pinellas County and western parts of Pasco county. The District 16 seat has been vacant since December, when powerful Republican politician Jack Latvala resigned amid a sexual harassment investigation.
Democrats backing Murphy are gunning to flip the seat from red to blue for the first time since 1992.
If elected, Hooper said he would work to improve transportation and expand private flood insurance opportunities.
Murphy said she would vote to support environmental protection and funding for public schools. Murphy believes a better public school system would improve Florida's economy and raise wages, along with lowering taxes.
She is also fighting to make sure Florida's public schools are fully funded and to reduce the number of standardized tests. Murphy is also a big supporter of banning fracking and off-shore oil drilling to protect Florida's environment.
One of the top issues Hooper is fighting for is reducing taxes to create more jobs and help small businesses flourish. He is also fighting to protect Florida's natural resources and to ensure Florida's schools and teachers have the resources they need.
Hooper's campaign also focuses on keeping crime in check by safeguarding the youth from drugs, protecting senior citizens from those who would prey on them, and to make sure all first responders have the tools they need to do their job.
Florida State Senate District 18 Race:
UPDATE: Rep. Janet Cruz has declared victory in the State Senate District 18 race, which was one of the closest races heading into Wednesday.
One of the closest races on the ballot according to polling has been the State Senate District 18 race between Democratic challenger Janet Cruz and incumbent Dana Young.
Young, 53, who has held the office since 2016, is facing a stern challenge from Cruz, who has been a member of the Florida House of Representatives since 2010.
Both candidates have stuck close to their base talking points while criticizing their opponent.
Cruz, 62, a public school advocate, supports expansion of Medicaid and what she calls “reasonable gun control.”
Young, meanwhile, is a backer of charter schools but has said during her campaigning that she is all about common sense solutions for school funding.
The two also have sparred over gun control and environmental issues. That has led to several negative ads during the campaign.
Cruz has said Young undermines schools and is owned by the NRA.
Young calls Cruz fiscally irresponsible in ads, saying Cruz had attempted to have two homesteads and voted against a proposed amendment to increase homestead exemptions.
District 18 covers downtown Tampa north along I-275 to the Pasco line and west to the Oldsmar area.
Florida House of Representatives District 37 Race:
Republican Ardian Zika, with 48,855 votes, defeated Democrat Tammy Garcia, who had 31,938 votes.
Ardian Zika, a Republican making his first run for office, is a former banker and owns a business consulting firm. He received three gubernatorial appointments to boards overseeing Pasco Hernando State College, CareeerSource Florida and state Council on Homelessness.
Tammy Garcia, a Democrat and Tampa native, is making her first run for office. She is a billing manager for an eye-care business.
District 37 includes portions of west and central Pasco and is bordered approximately by Little Road on the west and Ehren Cutoff on the east.
Florida Democrats are looking to regain control of the state House for the first time since 1996. They currently hold 41 seats, so they’ll need to gain 20 seats to have a majority in the chamber.
Zika, if elected, says he will focus on higher education, workforce and vocational training, and health care.
Garcia, if elected, says she wants to improve the public education system through additional funding and better pay for teachers, and work to protect the environment by banning offshore drilling.
Zika said he will also fight to lower taxes and promote polices that bring higher paying jobs and businesses to Pasco County. He also plans to protect Pasco's water quality and secure funding to fix current flooding challenges in the county.
Garcia said she will fight to ensure that every Floridian is granted the same opportunities by eliminating the gender pay gap along with the racial pay gap, as well as protecting the rights of the LGBTQ community.