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Challenger accuses Kathy Castor of seeking to defund police

Castor dismisses the claim as coming from an ‘extreme MAGA Republican.’
Tampa Republican James Judge is challenging Democrat U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor.
Tampa Republican James Judge is challenging Democrat U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor. [ James Judge Campaign ]
Published Sep. 9

Did U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, vote for and co-sponsor a measure to “defund the police”?

Her Republican challenger, James Judge, says so in several Facebook posts and a campaign news release. In an emailed statement asking for his backup for the charge, he added, “I firmly stand by what I said.”

But the evidence he cited is open to interpretation.

It’s based on Castor’s support for the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, a law enforcement reform bill proposed after the May 2020 killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. It passed the House but died in the Senate after Republicans argued, and Democrats denied, that it amounted to “defunding the police.”

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa
U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa [ handout ]

According to a House Judiciary Committee analysis of the bill, it included numerous provisions aimed at increasing accountability for police who use force unnecessarily, encouraging training of police on bias and non-violent intervention, creating a federal registry of incidents of police misconduct, providing grant programs for training and for investigating incidents of police misconduct, and more.

It doesn’t specifically mandate cutting funding for any state or local law enforcement agency. Congress doesn’t control the budgets of those agencies.

However, the bill does include making agencies ineligible for certain federal grants if they don’t follow some of its provisions, such as offering training programs, eliminating choke holds and no-knock drug warrants, outlawing sexual misconduct by police or hindering federal investigations of misconduct.

Judge cited a Judiciary Committee fact sheet saying the bill “reprograms existing funds for law enforcement to invest in transformative community-based policing programs” and will “change the culture of law enforcement.”

But that fact sheet also contains no reference to cutting police budgets.

Judge said Castor “co-sponsored legislation to handcuff our men and women in law enforcement.”

Via an email statement, Castor responded by pointing to her work in securing funding for law enforcement, including $382,000 this year to improve Tampa Police Department body-worn cameras, $7 million to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and the new Sulphur Springs emergency rescue station.

“James Judge is an extreme MAGA Republican who is not being truthful and is far out of step with our Tampa Bay neighbors,” she said.

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