Thursday, February 22, 2018
Politics

March column: If Castor runs for Tampa mayor, bike tickets may be issue

Tampa political insiders are saying former Tampa police Chief Jane Castor is acting a lot like a candidate for mayor, hitting community events and meetings.

But several black political leaders say if Castor runs, she may face an obstacle — resentment in the black community over ticketing of blacks on bicycles. .

The controversy erupted in 2015, after a Tampa Bay Times analysis found Tampa police were giving more tickets to bicycle riders than four other large Florida cities combined — 80 percent of them to black riders.

Castor, then police chief, said targeting bikers in high-crime areas was a crime prevention measure: As auto thefts were curbed, criminals increasingly used bicycles and many of those ticketed were engaged in some criminal activity or had guns or drugs.

But black citizens resented that the same numbers of tickets weren't being given on Bayshore Boulevard or Davis Islands.

"I have no doubt it would come up," said county Commissioner Les Miller. "It's going to be a issue that she and others will have to face."

City Councilman Frank Reddick said the issue will be "a challenge for her in the African-American community," and that while Castor had to take direction from the mayor, "she had a voice and the training – I think she could have used that."

Asked how Castor could repair the damage, Yvette Lewis, Hillsborough NAACP political action committee chairman, said, "I don't see a way. The damage is done, and there was no ownership of it."

Asked about the issue, Castor responded via email:

"I will always be proud of the fact that we were able to reduce crime by 70 percent in our city, in just over a decade. Our success was grounded in, and made possible by, the working relationships with our citizens. That crime reduction translates to thousands of people who were not victims of crime in our neighborhoods.

"Certainly there were missteps along the way, each of which I handled with integrity and transparency. I am always willing to discuss my record and will remain proud of our work we have done in making Tampa safer."

About 23 percent of Tampa's 233,491 registered voters are black, according to the Hillsborough Election Supervisor's Office.

Political activists in the black community used the same issue in campaigning against former Hillsborough State Attorney Mark Ober, who was upset by Andrew Warren in the Nov. 8 general election.

Proctor boosts record in judicial races

Local political consultant Mark Proctor has developed a specialty handling judicial races, boasting an enviable record: Since 2006, he's worked on 13 judicial races and all 13 candidates are now on the bench, he said — a dozen by winning elections and one appointed to the bench during the campaign.

Proctor made a name in the field in 2012, when he handled the campaign of Circuit Judge Mark Wolfe against a challenge by former state House Speaker Johnnie Byrd. Despite Byrd's well-known name, Wolfe won nearly 2-1.

Proctor is a Republican but friends with many Democrats — he's an affable guy — which enables him to work both sides of the fence in non-partisan judicial races, he said.

On occasion, he's even won with candidates he had previously helped defeat.

In 2014, he helped Barbara Twine Thomas defeat Carl Hinson and helped Robert Bauman defeat Melissa Polo in circuit judge races. This year, he worked on successful circuit judge races for both Hinson and Polo, as well as county court candidate Miriam Valkenburg.

He also worked for Kim Vance in a circuit judge race in 2014, but when Vance was appointed to the county bench in mid-campaign, he took over the campaign of her opponent, Mike Scionti, who beat back the rest of the opposition to win the race.

Campaign records indicate Proctor charges candidates $1,000-$1,500 a month for his work, generally totaling $20,000 or so over the course of a campaign. He said he handles no more than five candidates per election cycle.

He doesn't always win. He handled Eric Seidel's unsuccessful challenge to Hillsborough Clerk of Court Pat Frank.

His secret in judicial races? "I make them work harder than their opponent."

So long, moderate Republican voice

More than a few fans are probably dismayed by the decision by former state Sen. Paula Dockery to end her political column, which ran in the Times and 24 other newspapers, offering an insider's view of state politics from a moderate Republican.

In an interview, she explained why she's ending the column, which lasted five years after beginning as a chronicle of her last year in the state Senate:

"I've gained an appreciation for you people who meet deadlines every week," she said. "I began to dread Tuesdays, which were my writing days."

As she gained experience, Dockery said, the writing seemed to take more time, not less.

"I wrote columns twice from hospital beds. I tried to respond to every single email, and sometimes I'd get as many as 500 on a single column. I'm supposed to be retired."

And no, she has no plans to run for office.

Contact William March at [email protected]

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