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Castor, Straz Battle In First Debate For Mayor Of Tampa

Jane Castor, left, and David Straz are running to become mayor of Tampa.
Campaign photos
Jane Castor, left, and David Straz are running to become mayor of Tampa.

Voters in Florida's third-largest city will go to the polls April 23 in the runoff for Tampa's mayor.

During the March election, former Police Chief Jane Castor almost got the 50 percent plus one needed to avoid a runoff. And retired banker and philanthropist David Straz came in second of the field of seven candidates, with around 16 percent of the vote.

The pair have agreed to three debates. The first was held April 5th at the studios of WEDU Public Television. It was broadcast as part of their Florida This Week show, hosted by Rob Lorei.

We have that debate on this week's Florida Matters.

We'll also listen to Florida Matters host Robin Sussingham talk with WUSF reporter Steve Newborn about the race.

"What we've really been hearing about so far," Newborn said, "the three main topics are transportation - which as anybody who drives in this area at rush hour is close to gridlock. Affordable housing - the cost of housing has been rising exponentially in the city.

"And the third topic is job creation - keeping the number of jobs coming in, and reversing what has been a history of educated professionals leaving once they get out of college and never coming back - reversing that pipeline."

The race has been anything but collegial. Straz, who is trailing in the polls, has gone on the offensive, embarking on what Castor has decried as negative campaigning. He has taken her to task on her claims about reduced crime when she was police chief, and she in turn says he has no concrete answers when asked about the issues.

Straz has campaigned with a broom in his hand, saying he'll sweep out waste and corruption in the city, and has vowed to cut 10 percent of the city's budget. But he has declined to name what he'll cut, saying he'll undertake an audit of the city's finances after becoming mayor.

Castor said she favors keeping the city's red light cameras. She also talked about increasing the amount of affordable housing, maybe providing free lots for developers and easing parking restrictions on new apartments.

Straz has campaigned to repave the city's bad roads and  build new sidewalks around schools. He also says he'll continue hammering away at Castor's record.

"I'm going to tell the voters the truth about her failure in the police department, her lack of management experience, her failure to even create one non-government job," he said.

"We need better for this city," he continued. "We don't need this good old boy network from the mayor on down in the city."

Castor countered by claiming she's the only one with the skills needed to run the city.

"People have had the opportunity to test-drive me for 31 years," she said of her time on the city's police force. "You know what kind of a leader you're going to get."

Another debate is planned for the Tampa Theatre Thursday, April 11, to be aired on Spectrum Bay News 9, and on Friday, April 12 on WTMP Radio, 1150 AM.

WUSF Public Media asked the candidates for Tampa Mayor to answer a questionnaire outlining their stands on some of the major issues facing the city.

The questions focused on critical issues including transportation, affordable housing, growth, the attraction of high-paying tech jobs. They also were asked about their vision for the city.

Here's the response from former Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor.

Here's the response from businessman David Straz.

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.
Robin Sussingham was Senior Editor at WUSF until September 2020.