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Rep. Castor defends record against familiar rival

TAMPA — No, you're not stuck in a time warp.

The 2008 race for the District 11 congressional seat includes the same players as the 2006 contest: lawyer Kathy Castor and business owner Eddie Adams Jr.

Castor, a Democrat, easily defeated the GOP's Adams two years ago with 69.4 percent of the votes to Adams' 30.6 percent.

Adams, 54, hopes this time will be different.

"Kathy has a congressional record to defend," he said, adding that his opponent typically votes along Democratic Party lines.

When she was elected, Castor was part of a team of freshman legislators that gave Democrats a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tapped her as the freshman representative to the Steering and Policy Committee, which helps set the Democratic agenda. She also serves on the Rules Committee, which sets procedures for floor debates, and Armed Services Committee.

Castor, 42, who first held public office in 2002 when she was elected to the Hillsborough County Commission, cites education legislation as among her biggest accomplishments during her first term in Washington.

She voted to increase funding of Pell grants to help students pay for college, and successfully introduced a bill amendment that would keep student loans available for people with late medical bills.

She said she's particularly proud of the hands-on work she's done in her district. She schedules monthly office hours in local libraries and community centers, and this summer offered workshops for homeowners facing foreclosure.

"We have helped people stay in their homes," she said.

Most recently, she voted against the proposed economic bailout — twice.

Castor argued the bill didn't protect taxpayers or offer help to struggling homeowners.

Among her suggestions for fixing the bill: charge a fee for financial transactions to fund the plan and earmark some money for loss mitigation personnel at banks who could help homeowners restructure their loans and mortgage payments.

Castor said she received nearly 1,000 e-mails from constituents who overwhelmingly opposed the bill in the days before the first vote.

"The American people all across the country stood up and said 'Absolutely not,' " she said.

She attributed the strong response in part to a lack of trust in the Bush administration.

"A lot of folks said this feels like the rush to war in Iraq," she said.

Castor rejected the bailout even though the Democratic presidential nominee, Sen. Barack Obama, whom Castor has campaigned hard for, supported it. Castor said Obama, perhaps, felt the arrangement was good for his state of Illinois or the country as a whole.

"It's a very bad deal for my district," Castor said.

She recently brought more than $9-million in federal funding to the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center, the University of South Florida College of Public Health and the James A. Haley VA Medical Center. The appropriation, she says, merges her interests in job creation and better health care for veterans.

If re-elected, Castor says her top priorities would be expanding federal funding for children's health care and education reform.

Castor wants to eliminate the practice of funding cuts to schools where students score low on standardized tests, and increase pay for teachers who work at schools in poor neighborhoods.

Adams worked at Tampa General Hospital as a lab tech for nearly 20 years before earning a degree in architecture in 1995. He now has his own business, Adams & Associates Residential Design, and works for the Agency for Workforce Innovation.

He supports lifting the ban on drilling off Florida's coast and opposes government-run universal health care.

"If you look at the VA system, that is universal health care the way the government does it. It is a horrible system," he said.

If elected, Adams says his top priority would be balancing the federal budget.

"The way we're spending money now is not the way to do it," he said.

He criticizes Castor for voting in favor of a tax on cigars that cigarmakers in the district opposed.

"That was her place to stand up and say, 'No, this is bad for my people,' " Adams said.

Castor didn't vote directly on the cigar tax, but did vote to override President Bush's veto of a bill that contained the tax. That bill was intended to expand children's health care and would have been paid for in part by the cigar tax. The override failed.

Janet Zink can be reached at jzink@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3401.

Rep. Castor defends record against familiar rival 10/22/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 23, 2008 6:23pm]
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