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Castor talks weed, guns and politics on National Public Radio

TAMPA — The national spotlight continues to shine on Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, this time in the form of an interview Thursday on National Public Radio.

Castor appeared on NPR's "On Point" show and fielded questions for the better part of an hour from listeners and host Meghna Chakrabarti. She talked about becoming the first gay woman to lead a major city in the Southeast. She covered her decision to leave the Republican party in 2015 and hinted that she might use her star power in the Democratic Party as leverage for Tampa in the coming presidential election.

The 59-year-old former police chief also had some words of advice for the national Democratic party.

"It just seems that in the Democratic Party there needs to be more organization and a clear focus on issues," she replied when pressed by Chakrabarti, adding: "I think there is room for more of that."

Castor said she left the GOP because it tilted too far right, citing the rise of the Tea Party.

SUE CARLTON: Tampa's gay, former cop, not-from-South-Tampa mayor: That's a lot of firsts for Jane Castor

And when Chakrabarti suggested that Castor could leverage her clout as the mayor of Florida's third-largest city to get federal funding to combat climate change, Castor replied: "Exactly."

In office for a week, Castor also made a point of praising St. Petersburg for its work on climate change, saying the Sunshine City was far ahead of Tampa in its resiliency and sustainability efforts. She pledged again to hire a sustainability officer, a full-time position that St. Petersburg and Clearwater have already filled.

Castor also answered questions from listeners from around the country who prompted her to speak about issues that rarely, if ever, arose on the campaign trail.

A Shreveport, La. caller asked about her position on recreational marijuana. Castor said it was "interesting," noting that she had been opposed to it. She then gave a meandering answer touching on her support of civil citations for juveniles caught with small amounts of marijuana, emphasizing that she pushed for a component to the alternative sentencing program that included education about the drug's harmful effects.

Chakrabarti noted that Castor hadn't actually said if she was in support of recreational marijuana before moving into a break.

ALSO READ: Jane Castor at odds with Justice Department over her oversight of Miami police

Castor was asked by a Tampa caller if her 31-year career in the city's police department would make her too soft on police abuses.

She said her record as chief showed she was tough with bad officers and drummed them out of the department.

"Trust me, the police department is doing a very, very good job, but there will be no slack given in that area," she said.

Another caller asked about her position on a living wage for residents, an issue that Straz raised repeatedly in the campaign.

Castor said she supported a $15 an hour wage as a goal, but that it would have to be approached slowly. She said her focus would be on workforce development to create highly-skilled workers.

An Omaha, Neb. man asked her about gun control.

Castor said she saw too many victims of gun violence as a police officer. She noted that guns don't make people safer. And while she supports the 2nd Amendment, she said she would have no problem registering her firearms. She blamed the Florida Legislature for bucking the will of the people on sensible gun control.

The show can be heard in its entirety by visiting the show's NPR website.

Contact Charlie Frago at cfrago@tampabay.com

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