Florida 11th District
One of America’s boomtowns, Tampa has a history that goes back not much more than a century. Its industrial past can be traced to 1886, when Cuban cigar-makers from Key West settled in the city’s Latin Quarter, called Ybor City. Then Tampa became the major embarkation port for U.S. troops in the Spanish-American War of 1898. It also became a major citrus distribution center. The old industrial city developed along the waterfront, with distinctive architectural touches like the 13 minarets on the Arabian-style Tampa Bay Hotel, built by railroad and real estate tycoon Henry B. Plant in the 1890s. The building is now part of the University of Tampa. For a time, Tampa was Florida’s one industrial city. Today, it has a diversified economy: a healthy service sector, an academic sector with two universities, and tourism, led by Busch Gardens. Tampa’s subdivisions and condominiums, office towers, and low-rise commercial buildings have spread inland across swamps and lowlands.
2008 Presidential Vote
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Through its history, in contrast to St. Petersburg with its many retirees, Tampa has remained a city of families and young people. Senior citizens account for only about one in eight residents here, an unusually low percentage for Florida. As Tampa expands, its blue-collar character is moving upscale. But as in other parts of Florida, its housing market was hit hard by the recession in 2008. Tampa is an important military center. MacDill Air Force Base, on the south side of the city and jutting into Tampa Bay, is the headquarters of Central Command, which ran the Persian Gulf War and the campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is also headquarters for Special Operations Command. Both Generals Norman Schwarzkopf and Tommy Franks retired in the same gated community in Tampa.
The 11th Congressional District of Florida is centered on Tampa, but has irregular boundaries. It includes most of the city and close-in suburbs, the east shore of Tampa Bay, plus two areas across Tampa Bay. One is the heavily African-American and lower-income neighborhoods south of Central Avenue in St. Petersburg. The other is a strip of Manatee County bordering Tampa Bay that includes working-class neighborhoods in Memphis, Palmetto, and Bradenton. Connecting them is the distinctive Sunshine Skyway Bridge, a four-mile span completed in 1987 that has come to symbolize the Tampa Bay area. The district has a population that is 27% black and 24% Hispanic, making it the most heavily minority district in Florida outside the Gold Coast and the Jacksonville-to-Orlando 3rd District. While Hillsborough County as a whole voted for Republican George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004, the 11th District cast solid majorities for Democrats Al Gore and John Kerry. In 2008, Barack Obama won the district with 66% of the vote.