Tampa Mayor Jane Castor makes it official, filing for reelection

The mayor has yet to draw a big-name opponent.
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, a Democrat, told the Tampa Bay Times in January that she planned to a run for a second term.
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, a Democrat, told the Tampa Bay Times in January that she planned to a run for a second term. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]
Published Nov. 28, 2022|Updated Nov. 29, 2022

TAMPA — She said in January she would do it. On Monday, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor made it official, filing for reelection for mayor at the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections office.

Castor, a Democrat, told the Tampa Bay Times in January that she planned to run for a second term. The former police chief, who will turn 63 in December, has not yet drawn a well-known opponent, which is not unusual in Florida’s third-largest city, where incumbent mayors rarely face a tough challenge.

In a news release, the campaign described the mayor’s accomplishments as follows:

“Even while guiding Tampa through a pandemic, Mayor Castor implemented an ambitious strategy to Transform Tampa’s Tomorrow by upgrading long-neglected infrastructure, increasing access to affordable housing, enhancing workforce development, improving government services, and making resiliency and sustainability a central focus for Tampa. Tampa has become one of the most desirable cities in America.”

Later, the campaign issued another release, quoting Castor:

“As a police officer for over 30 years, I’ve walked every neighborhood in Tampa, talked with neighbors, and developed lasting relationships. As your Mayor, I’ve seen firsthand the needs of this community, worked to solve problems, and delivered results for the City of Tampa,” she said. “Tampa is on a roll. We are the envy of communities across the country — but we still have work to do.”

Republican political consultant Anthony Pedicini, who informally advised the Castor campaign in 2019, isn’t on the team this time around. He said it’s no surprise that the mayor made it official Monday.

Pedicini pointed to state and national politics as possible warning signs for the mayor.

“I think you have to ask how (Gov. Ron) DeSantis’ better performance in the city coupled with Biden’s low favorability ratings and the economy beginning to contract will affect her run,” Pedicini texted Monday. “Big question is, will anyone step up for a challenge?”

Hillsborough County Property Appraiser Bob Henriquez, a Democrat, has said he will not run against Castor, though his name has been floated in political circles. Same with Tampa City Council member Bill Carlson, a frequent Castor critic who is also a Democrat. Candidates have until January to make up their minds. The election is March 7. If no one gets a majority, a runoff will be held in April.

Castor has clashed with City Council members since being elected in 2019 in a landslide over the late Tampa philanthropist David Straz Jr. The council’s more progressive wing, including Carslon, Orlando Gudes and former council member John Dingfelder, have said the mayor and her staff have retaliated against them politically because they have opposed some of her policies on police oversight and mayoral powers. The mayor and her staff have dismissed the claims.

Castor has overseen a construction boom and continued development along the Hillsborough River. That has included a project at the city’s former Rome Yard truck lot, which came under scrutiny over relations between the mayor’s partner and nephew, as well as a city review committee member, with players involved in the winning bid.

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East Tampa, long neglected, has also seen development, although the bidding process on a major city project at Hanna Avenue also angered Black contractors and activists. They criticized Castor’s decision not to rebid the contract after it ballooned more than ten times in value and said an early proposal was lacking in opportunities for minority firms to do some of the work.

Transportation, affordable housing, workforce development and sustainability are her highest priorities, the mayor has said repeatedly.

Her transportation goals have been hampered by a vote defeating a penny sales tax to address them, although the city has moved ahead with making sidewalks safer near schools and creating or enhancing bike lanes.

The mayor hasn’t put enough money into affordable housing to satisfy tenant advocates and other housing activists, but the $5 million in the current budget is the most in years.

The city has also developed an ambitious climate action plan under her watch. But her efforts to push forward a project that would divert more than 50 million gallons a day of highly treated reclaimed water currently dumped into Tampa Bay into either Sulphur Springs or the Hillsborough River, where it could mix with the city’s drinking water supply, have been stymied by council opposition.

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Castor, the city’s first openly gay mayor, is the partner of Ana Cruz, a lobbyist and consultant, and has two adult sons.

She has drawn two little-known opponents who have filed initial paperwork to qualify for the nonpartisan race for a four-year term.

Jeff Goodsell didn’t return a phone call seeking comment Monday. He hasn’t reported raising any money yet.

Belinda Noah, who ran unsuccessfully for Hillsborough Circuit Court Judge this year, said she wants to “enhance and elevate the lives of people in Tampa.”

Noah, a lawyer, said she is concerned about Castor’s role in “two investigations,” but said she didn’t know the details about those probes. The city is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice for a controversial program in which Tampa police warned landlords about people who got arrested, many of whom were never convicted. The mayor ended the program after a public outcry earlier this year. Noah couldn’t identify a second investigation.

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Tampa should be a “beacon on the hill,” said Noah, who declined to give her age. Her campaign hasn’t reported raising any money yet, either.

Castor’s political committee, Tampa Strong, has roughly $100,000 cash on hand, according to the latest filings with the state Division of Elections.

Editor’s Note: The original version of this story wasn’t clear on Anthony Pedicini’s role with Jane Castor’s 2019 mayoral campaign. It has been updated to clarify that he was an informal adviser.