Rep. Kathy Castor (D)
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
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
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.
Rep. Kathy Castor (D)
Elected: 2006, 2nd term.
Born: Aug. 20, 1966, Miami .
Education: Emory U., B.A. 1988, FL St. U., J.D. 1991.
Family: Married (William Lewis); 2 children.
Elected office: Hillsborough Cnty. Comm., 2002-06.
Professional Career: Asst. gen. counsel, FL Dept. of Community Affairs, 1991-94; Practicing atty., 1994-2000.
The congresswoman from the 11th District is Kathy Castor, a Democrat elected in 2006. Castor studied political science at Emory University, earned her law degree from Florida State University and worked as a land-use attorney. Her parents were heavily involved in public service. Her father, Don Castor, sat on the Hillsborough County court for two decades. Her mother, Betty Castor, served in the state Senate, as state education commissioner and as president of the University of South Florida. In 2004, Betty Castor was the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate, but lost 49%-48% to Republican Mel Martinez. Kathy Castor herself appeared on the ballot twice, first in 2000, when she ran unsuccessfully for the state Senate, and again in 2002, when she won a four-year term on the Hillsborough County Commission.
|Kathy Castor (D)||184,106||(72%)||($662,366)|
|Eddie Adams (R)||72,825||(28%)||($57,655)|
|Kathy Castor (D)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (70%)
When five-term Democratic Rep. Jim Davis decided to run for governor in 2006, opening up a safe Democratic district, Kathy Castor entered the contest, benefiting from the familiarity of the Castor name after her mother’s close Senate election. In a district where Democrats enjoy a nearly 2-to-1 advantage over Republicans, Castor faced four opponents in the primary. The most formidable was state Senate Minority Leader Les Miller, a veteran African-American legislator. Although Miller was familiar to voters from his service in the state House and Senate, he proved unable to keep pace with Castor’s prolific fundraising. With the support of EMILY’s List, Castor raised nearly $1 million before the primary and outspent Miller 3-to-1. Whites make up less than half the district’s population, and Miller contended the seat was drawn to elect a minority candidate after the 2000 census, especially since the Tampa-St. Petersburg area has never elected a black representative. Castor trailed Miller in the heavily African-American portion of the Pinellas County, but she defeated him by more than 8,600 votes in Tampa’s Hillsborough County. She won 54%-34%.
The outcome of the general election in this comfortably Democratic district was never in doubt. Republican Eddie Adams, an architect, struggled to raise money and was absent from the campaign trail for three weeks in October while recovering from a ruptured appendix. Castor campaigned for expanded health care for low-income families and for stronger ethics and lobbying rules. Both were issues she advocated as a county commissioner. She also advocated a rapid withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. She won the general election 70%-30%.
In the House, Castor has a liberal voting record. From her early days in Congress, she positioned herself for future roles in the Democratic leadership. She asked Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi to be appointed as the freshman representative to the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, which determines committee assignments. Pelosi, surprised because no one had asked her for the position before, promptly gave it to Castor. In 2007, she got choice seats on the Rules and the Armed Services committees. As a member of the leadership-run Rules panel, she was the first freshman to speak on the House floor when Congress took up its first legislative business under the new Democratic majority, which was a change in ethics rules.
But in 2007, she was one of only eight House Democrats to oppose the expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, complaining that Senate revisions to the bill made its benefits less favorable for Florida. Many of her constituents were also opposed to a significant hike in the cigar tax in the legislation. Later, Castor, following her loyalist instincts, voted to override President Bush’s veto of the bill. When Republicans pushed in 2008 for increased oil production, she insisted on a permanent offshore drilling ban within 125 miles of the Florida coastline. In 2009, Castor took up the issue of increased trade and travel to Cuba, a popular move with many of her constituents and an idea that was being resurrected by the new Obama administration.
Castor was rewarded in 2009 with a seat on the influential Energy and Commerce Committee, where she wants to work on the issue of making health care more available and affordable.
In a rematch against Republican Eddie Adams in 2008, she increased her share of the vote from 70% to 72%, winning easily.