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Castor Defeats Straz To Become Mayor Of Tampa

Former Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor trounced businessman David Straz in Tuesday's elections and will become the city's next mayor.

Castor got about 73 percent of the vote to Straz' 27 percent, according to unofficial results from the Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections Office.

It marks the end of a heated campaign that showed some bad blood between the two candidates. Straz hammered Castor on her claims about reduced crime when she was police chief, hiring "experts" who took a different look at the figures. He campaigned with a broom in his hand, saying he'd sweep out waste and corruption in the city. Straz vowed to cut 10% of the city's budget, but declined to specify what cuts he'd make, saying he'd do an audit after taking office.

Castor said Straz had no concrete answers when asked about the issues. Her campaign also pointed to Straz' multi-millionaire lifestyle as proof “he is out of touch with people who have to work for a living."

Castor alluded to the negative campaigning during her acceptance speech at The Vault in downtown Tampa.

"No matter what we were faced with, no matter what obstacle was put in our way, we remained positive and focused on the issues that matter to our community," she said. "This city is going to change more in the next 10 years than it has in my entire lifetime. And we have one opportunity to create that city that we all want. The city that we want to live and work in, and the city that we'll be proud to pass off to the next generation."

In her acceptance speech, Castor focused on two of her campaign themes: easing the city's rush hour gridlock and improving the city's neighborhoods.

"What I'm going to do is focus on strengthening our neighborhoods. That's where my heart is at," she said. "And I'm going to do that by working with the county to develop transportation solutions that connect each and every one of our communities."

She also became the first openly gay mayor of a city in the southeastern U.S. The issue didn't come up much during the campaign, but the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer civil rights organization — released a statement celebrating her victory.

“Today, Tampa voters made history by electing Jane Castor as the city’s first openly LGBTQ mayor,” the statement read. "We congratulate Jane Castor on her victory and look forward to working closely with her to ensure the city continues to move forward as an inclusive and welcoming place for everyone.”

Straz congratulated Castor in his concession speech Tuesday night.

"What a journey and life experience these last several months have been. While we came up short in our quest for me to be elected Tampa’s Mayor, I’m thankful for the opportunity to have shared my vision for the city I love," he said in a prepared statement. "Thanks so much to family, friends, supporters, contributors, and volunteers for their generosity and enthusiasm that was shared everyday of the campaign. I am honored and humbled by your outpouring of encouragement."

In the general election in March, Castor got nearly the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff, with Straz getting about 16 percent.

Money was a big factor in this campaign. In the runup to March's first round of voting, Castor had raised over $1 million. Straz raised a record $4.7 million.

And in April alone, Straz lent his own campaign $600,000, according to campaign finance reports.

The mayor's post pays $160,000 a year.

Polls found the public's top concerns in the race were public transportation, education and access to health care.

Also, in the race for Tampa City Council District 1, Joseph Citro beat Walter Smith II by a margin of 57 to 42 percent.

In District 3, John Dingfelder defeated Stephen Lytle, 64 to 36 percent.

And in District 5, Orlando Gudes was holding a slim lead over Jeffrey L. Rhodes, 50.8 percent to 49.1 percent.

Jane Castor
Credit Daylina Miller / WUSF Public Media
WUSF Public Media
Jane Castor hugs her partner, Ana Cruz, after thanking her and her sons for their support during her campaign.

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.
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