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Rep. Kathy Castor talks federal money for Tampa as Republicans redraw her district

As Tallahassee lawmakers redraw congressional boundaries across the state, Castor says the maps she’s seen for her district violate the state’s constitution.
U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor of Tampa, center, said Monday that the maps she's seen violate the state's redistricting rules.
U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor of Tampa, center, said Monday that the maps she's seen violate the state's redistricting rules. [ Charlie Frago ]
Published Nov. 22
Updated Nov. 22

TAMPA — U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor said Monday that federal money starting to flow into her district represents a “hard-fought legislative achievement” that would transform Tampa into a more walkable, livable city.

At a news conference at Armature Works, the Tampa Democrat, first elected in 2006, said effects from the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill signed by President Joe Biden last week will soon begin to be felt in Hillsborough County.

And much of the federal money flowing into Tampa will improve transit, Castor said, by expanding the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit’s budget, building sidewalks, and improving safety for pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers.

“We all understand that Tampa is growing by leaps and bounds. But in order to keep it special, in order to make sure our streets are safer, and in order to get people out of their cars, we’ve got to invest in connecting neighborhoods,” Castor said.

Castor, who has stepped up public appearances recently, also spoke at length about an $18 million federal grant to further Tampa’s Complete Street mobility initiatives, which isn’t tied to the larger infrastructure legislation.

What her staff didn’t want her discussing, at least not during Monday’s news conference touting infrastructure dollars, were reports that state Republicans are contemplating throwing her currently safe Democratic seat into swing-seat territory.

Related: Kathy Castor may end up in a swing district

Afterward, Castor said she didn’t want to comment too specifically on the redistricting process, which isn’t over. She said, “it’s not really appropriate for incumbents to weigh in.”

But she did have thoughts on the state Senate maps released last week, which showed a redraw of her congressional district that skews it into Republican-heavy precincts in west Hillsborough and northeastern Pinellas counties.

“Looking at that map, it’s a pretty blatant violation of the Fair District standards,” Castor said. Asked to elaborate, she added that the Florida Constitution calls for districts being kept compact and contiguous while protecting minority voting rights, “so it looks like they’ve violated the Fair District standards on a number of levels,” she told the Tampa Bay Times.

Castor noted that her district extended across the bay into south St. Petersburg until the Florida Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional in 2014.

“No matter how they draw it, I’m going to fight for every dollar to come back here,” she said.

Castor’s seat has allowed her to become a close ally of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has delegated power to her, including as chairperson for the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. Castor hasn’t had a close race in years, either winning by more than 20 points or running unopposed in the seven elections as an incumbent.

Her priorities on infrastructure spending include a new control tower to replace the 50-year-old tower at Tampa International Airport. Castor said an employee got trapped in the elevator recently, one more piece of evidence that the tower’s useful life is over.