Kathy Castor Archives - Page 7 of 29 - Florida Politics

Kathy Castor warns of ‘Alt-Right’ surge in hailing opening of African-American history museum this week

This coming Saturday morning, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C. will open to the world, and Tampa area Congresswoman Kathy Castor said Monday that Dr. Samuel Wright will be her special guest at the opening ceremonies. Until he retired in 2013 after 27 years, Wright served as associate dean of student and parent relations, director of multicultural affairs, and student ombudsman at the University of South Florida, where he also taught as an adjunct professor in its Department of Africana Studies.

“This is going to be a remarkable moment,” Castor said at a news conference Monday morning at the Robert W. Saunders, Sr. Public Library in Tampa. The library, which opened last year, contains a historical archive of the black Central Avenue district in Tampa before integration took hold.

Carrie Hurst, principal librarian and branch manager of the library, said that in association with the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), the Saunders Library will host a live watch party of the opening of the museum this Saturday morning at 10 a.m.

The Smithsonian’s new museum — the last to be built on the National Mall — follows the African-American experience through slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, and the Civil Rights era. Castor said its opening comes at a unique time in our country’s history, specifically mentioning the “alt-right,” the political movement that has become increasingly tied to the Donald Trump campaign.

“There is a kind of a new wave of racism in this country,” the Tampa Democrat told reporters, as she was flanked by Wright and Hurst. “Something is going on that has made it acceptable to lash out at your neighbors who are different than you are, whether it’s how they look, or their religion, or where they come from.”

The congresswoman went on to say that while Americans have much more in common that in what divides them, something is happening this year to disrupt racial relations.

“The rise of the alt-right movement — which is really a term of white supremacy — and we’ve all got to work together to battle back and say,’that’s not OK, it’s not acceptable to condemn your neighbor because they’re different than you,'” Castor said.

The 63-year-old Wright says there’s been tremendous progress in civil rights, but thinks it’s been stalled in recent years, citing what he said was the lack of respect that Barack Obama has received as president. “Is that because of color? I think those are the things that we have to give consideration to,” he said.

And Wright said the opening of the new Smithsonian is important for everyone, but especially for our youth. “It’s important for our young people to understand, many people had to pay a great price for the freedom in America, and you have to understand the importance of voting,” he said. “You’ve got to be able to understand your history, to be able to appreciate all these things.”

Although admission to the National Museum of African-American History and Culture will be free, Castor said that members of the public are asked to register with the museum in advance so they can be given a specific time to visit. She advises those considering visiting the museum in its first few months to contact her office if they need help in getting that scheduled time.

“There are going to be displays inside that are going to be uncomfortable,” she warned. “A KKK robe, shackles from the era of slavery. Some of this is going to be very difficult, and I understand there’s signage that warns people about how harsh it can be. But this is an important chapter of American history, it explains in a lot of ways why we still must focus on fighting for equal rights all across this country.”

Bob Buesing says he’s a better fit for Senate District 18

Bob Buesing says, based on the issues, he’s a better fit for those who reside in the newly created state Senate District 18 in Hillsborough County.

Senate District 18 is considered a swing district that leans Democratic, and was created out of the Supreme Court-mandated redistricting of all Senate districts last year.

“Let’s have conversations in a general election in front of all the electorate, instead of just the closed primaries in gerrymandered districts. That’s healthier for the state,” Buesing said in praising the 2010 Fair Districts Amendments, which ultimately led to the newly drawn up Senate districts in 2015.

In an appearance at the weekly “Cafe Con Tampa” series at Hugo’s Restaurant in South Tampa, Buesing laid out his ideological differences with Republican Dana Young, and said her views are out of the mainstream of the district.

“I believe I represent the commonsense, moderate values of this district,” he said. “My opponent, I believe, represents extreme values that are not consistent with this district.”

To back up his point, he mentioned Young’s support for the two major gun bills that were thwarted in the Senate last session — one allowing guns on Florida colleges and universities, the other allowing for the open carry of firearms.

Like most Florida Democrats, Buesing supports expanding Medicaid, and chastised Young for opposing that proposal in recent years. Buesing mentioned how the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Florida Medical Association and various other advocacy groups also support Medicaid expansion.

“So everybody’s in favor of it, you’d think, but not my opponent. And that decision alone is part of the motivation of me running,” he said.

Buesing also chided Young for supporting a bill (HB 191) in the Florida House that authorized hydraulic fracking, and also prevented local governments from banning the controversial practice (the bill failed in the Senate). “I think that’s dead wrong,” Buesing said. “My opponent and I have a complete disagreement on that. I think local control of that type of decision … we should get to judge this.”

The 61-year-old Buesing has been an attorney and advocate of early childhood learning for a long time in Tampa, but he said it was only after local Democrats asked him to consider running for the newly created Senate District 18 seat that he thought of becoming a lawmaker in Tallahassee.

Former state Sen. Sam Bell was the first to ask him, he said, followed by Betty Castor, Kathy Castor, Jim Davis, and Alex Sink. “I surrender,” he joked about succumbing to the world of politics.

To the casual observer, Young would seem to be the favorite in the race, with her considerable financial resources and her higher name recognition factor, since she’s been on the ballot in HD 60 (whose lines are similar to SD 18 in South Tampa and western Hillsborough County) three previous times. But Buesing says, actually, her name recognition is not that formidable, saying an internal poll his campaign conducted early on gave her only 11 percent name recognition, versus his nine percent.

Buesing attributed that low number to the fact that after Young defeated the late Stacy Frank in 2010, the Democrats haven’t fielded a candidate against her in the past two election cycles, generating less news about her.

“The way a less-funded candidate beats a better-funded candidate is grassroots, walking, by presenting something different … and in my case, emphasizing the clear differences that we have on some of these critical issues. I think I’m a better match for the district.”

The Young campaign did not return our request for comment.

Officials with “Cafe Con Tampa” say they are working on having Young speak before the group sometime before the Nov. 8 election.


Mitch Perry Report for 9.9.16 — Will we see more NFL protests on 9/11?

Good morning, and welcome to the upcoming 15th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks, which will be observed in America at the same time the National Football League kicks off its regular season on Sunday.

Technically the season began last night, with a rematch of Super Bowl 50 in Denver, where the Broncos defeated Cam Newton‘s Carolina Panthers, 21-20.

Incidentally, Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall knelt in protest during the national anthem, following the lead of his college teammate Colin Kaepernick, whose refusal to stand for the anthem triggered a national controversy and discussion (you can hear The Nation magazine’s Dave Zirin‘s take on my radio show by listening here).

So, who do you like this year? We’re writing here in the Cigar City, where there are actually high expectations that the Buccaneers, under new coach Dirk Koetter and second-year star quarterback Jameis Winston, can get a winning season under their belt. The team was 6-6 last year in Winston’s outstanding rookie season, before completely collapsing in December, finishing 6-10.

Some people think Jacksonville will be improved, but like my Oakland Raiders (another sexy pick to be a surprise team), until it happens, be skeptical. Very skeptical.

And then you have the Miami Dolphins, who were hailed last summer as the next up-and-coming team, before they crapped out at 6-10.

By the way, one of the negative things as a football fan living in Tampa is how many unattractive Dolphin and Jaguar games are televised in this market by CBS, though actually it is nice that the Dolphin-Seattle Seahawk game will be shown locally here at 4:05 p.m. on Sunday.

And what about the Seahawks, who some experts believe are poised for a return to the Super Bowl? Several Seahawk players say they may “do a Kaepernick” and refuse to stand during the anthem on Sunday — again on the anniversary of 9/11.

Then again, the Hawks are coached by Pete Carroll, who has been called a “9-11 truther.”

In other news …

A Quinnipiac poll released Thursday shows a dead heat between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in Florida. 

Clinton endorsed Patrick Murphy for Senate, which shouldn’t be news, but was.

David Jolly goes up on the air with a bit of an unconventional television ad featuring himself with his dog.

Jolly is accusing Charlie Crist of making another misstatement regarding his congressional record.

Tampa Firefighters are backing Eric Seidel for Hillsborough clerk of the courts.

Florida Conservation Voters is backing Bob Buesing in the Senate District 18 race.

Kathy Castor files a bill to address the FDA regulation preventing Tampa companies from sending cigars overseas to U.S. troops.

David Jolly accuses Charlie Crist of lying about his stance on student debt

For the second time in a little over a week, the David Jolly campaign is accusing Charlie Crist of lying about Jolly’s record.

At issue on Thursday was a tweet by Crist, in which he said Jolly opposed the refinancing of student debt.

Not true, countered the Jolly campaign. They responded by providing a link to a videotape of Jolly’s debate against Alan Grayson April 25, where he said, “There are some simple things we can do right now by allowing student loans to be refinanced, by making them eligible for reorganization in bankruptcy cases — those are two initiatives I have supported …”

Jolly added he would also like to create additional flexibility for accelerating and expanding Pell Grants, and would also like to tie the performance of longterm student loans to what the universities receive in federal funding.

Jolly is also one of just two Republican co-sponsors on a bill (H.R. 449) that would make student loan debt eligible for reorganization in bankruptcy and other relief provisions. Congresswoman Kathy Castor is a co-sponsor of the same bill.

Jolly does not support the “Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act” (SB 2432) first introduced in the Senate by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren in 2014. The bill has more than 170 co-sponsors, including Castor.

“Then why hasn’t he co-sponsored the bill?” Crist spokesman Kevin Cate responded. “Actions speak louder than words.” The Crist camp also says they’d like to know any other examples in which Jolly has come out in support of refinancing student debt.

According to the Jolly campaign, this is Crist’s second misstatement, or lie, of the campaign. On Election Night last week, Crist said Jolly was supporting Donald Trump‘s agenda. The Jolly camp took offense to that, saying the GOP congressman has not endorsed Trump for president.

The Crist campaign responds their candidate never said Jolly had endorsed Trump, but that he supported Trump’s agenda.

“This Republican primary season has been pretty frightening,” Crist said in that statement. “It saddens me to think that anyone who supports Donald Trump’s agenda could ever represent Pinellas County. And I look forward to sharing our vision for seniors, veterans, women, students, and our environment in the weeks ahead.”


Kathy Castor files bill to restore charitable contributions of premium cigars to U.S. troops

Hillsborough County Democratic Rep. Kathy Castor has filed legislation to reinstate the tradition of donating cigars to U.S. military members who are deployed overseas.

The bill, titled “Restore Charitable Contributions of Premium Cigars to the Troops Act,” is a response to regulations on cigars, e-cigarettes and other products that took effect Aug. 8. Those regulations also include what has been understood to be a ban on the charitable donation of tobacco products.

Two weeks ago, the Tampa Bay Times reported the new regulations had prompted Tampa cigar retailers like J.C. Newman and Thompson Cigar to stop donating their products to U.S. troops based overseas, which led Castor to promise to take action when she returned to Washington after the congressional summer break.

“Charitable contributions of traditional, premium cigars to members of the U.S. Armed Forces — a time-honored tradition that dates back to World War I — were recently swept up and disallowed in the Food and Drug Administration’s regulation of a broad range of tobacco products that took effect Aug. 8,” Castor said in a statement Thursday.

“I strongly disagree with the FDA’s ban on premium cigars as charitable gifts to our troops and as donations to nonprofit organizations that in turn use these donations to support our troops.”

Castor also says she supports the Traditional Cigar Manufacturing and Small Business Jobs Preservation Act, which would exempt individually rolled, premium cigars from regulation by FDA because, unlike other tobacco products brought under the jurisdiction of FDA by the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, premium cigars are not marketed to children.

One of those affected by the new regulations was Mark Van Trees of Support the Troops, a Wesley Chapel-based organization that sends items like toiletries and snacks to troops overseas.

“We are the Cigar Capital and cigars are the second-most-requested item by our deployed troops,” said Van Trees, who now only has about a two-month supply to fulfill the 40-pound care packages the organization sends out every day to troops located where they can’t otherwise obtain cigars. “It’s a small way we can show our troops that we’re still thinking about them.

“It’s a nice release, and we receive thank-you letters and pictures.”

Patrick Murphy and David Jolly ask Congressional leaders to pass Zika funding bill now

After an eight-week break, Congress has returned to Washington this week, and the matter mostly on the minds of Florida’s delegation is to somehow finding a way to break the logjam regarding funding for the Zika virus.

On Wednesday, Jupiter Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy and Pinellas County Republican Congressman David Jolly penned a letter to the leaders in the House and Senate — Speaker Paul Ryan, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Harry Reid — calling on them to take immediate action to pass emergency funding to combat the Zika virus.

“Seven months have passed since the administration submitted its $1.9 billion request for Zika response efforts, and nearly four months since initial legislative action in the House. Emergency funding is needed now for vital vaccine research and diagnostic development, mosquito surveillance and control efforts, and education initiatives to warn of the serious risk the virus poses, particularly for fetal development in pregnant women,” the authors wrote in the letter, which also was signed by Democrats Kathy Castor, Gwen Graham, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Ted Deutch as well as Republicans Illeana Ros-Lehtinen, Carlos Curbelo, and Dennis Ross.  

“With federal funding for Zika response set to expire at the end of the fiscal year, Congress’ continued failure to act will halt federally funded vaccine research, mosquito control, testing, and surveillance.”

The inability of Congress to come up with funding plan that pleases both sides of the aisle is clearly becoming a problem here in Florida. Eight days ago, Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned that federal funds to fight the Zika virus were nearly exhausted, and that if Congress did not replenish them soon, there would be no money to fight a new outbreak. Frieden said that the CDC had spent $194 million of the $222 million it was allocated to fight the virus.

“As Floridians we are proud of our beautiful tropical community, but Zika has the potential to pose a public health crisis that could threaten our tourism industry and impact the well-being of our friends, families and neighbors,” said Jolly. “It is time to pass a comprehensive bipartisan funding package that will give health officials what they need to protect Floridians and others from the spread of Zika before this threat becomes a crisis.”

“It is clear to us in Florida that Zika is not a partisan issue — it’s about protecting our families and our children,” Murphy said in a statement. “As the number of Zika cases across the nation continues to grow, including more than 50 local transmissions in Florida alone, this prolonged inaction is unacceptable. We hope Congress will come together to take immediate action on a clean funding bill to provide the critical resources needed for this fight.”

But it certainly seemed partisan when it comes to Murphy arguing with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio about Zika funding. On Tuesday, the two U.S. Senate candidates feuded about who was more culpable for the fact that a legislation package hasn’t been funded. Murphy said Rubio should be working harder to convince his party’s leadership to put reasonable legislation before lawmakers. Rubio says Murphy should have voted for previous bills that included Zika funding.

Here’s the letter in full:

September 8, 2016

Dear Speaker Ryan, Leader Pelosi, Leader McConnell, and Leader Reid:

As Members of the Florida delegation, it is our hope that Congress take immediate action to pass emergency funding to combat the Zika virus.

Seven months have passed since the Administration submitted its $1.9 billion request for Zika response efforts, and nearly four months since initial legislative action in the House.  Emergency funding is needed now for vital vaccine research and diagnostic development, mosquito surveillance and control efforts, and education initiatives to warn of the serious risk the virus poses, particularly for fetal development in pregnant women.

In that time, the virus has taken hold in the continental United States, hitting our home state of Florida especially hard.  To date, more than 16,000 Americans have been infected with the Zika virus, of which more than 1,600 are pregnant women.   The spread of this disease has now resulted in 17 babies being born in the U.S. with Zika-related birth defects.

With federal funding for Zika response set to expire at the end of the Fiscal Year, Congress’ continued failure to act will halt federally funded vaccine research, mosquito control, testing, and surveillance.

Our most fundamental responsibility is protecting the health and safety of Americans.  Please present a clean funding package to fight the Zika virus as soon as possible.


It’s (virtually) official: Darryl Rouson has won the SD 19 Dem primary over Ed Narain

With machine and manual recounts now finished in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, Darryl Rouson is the winner in the Democratic primary for Senate District 19.

He defeated Ed Narain by a mere 66 votes (that’s what the Rouson campaign told us. The Florida Division of Elections website shows the difference to be 77 votes. The Tampa Bay Times reports that Rouson received 73 more votes than Narain).

The results will not be certified until Thursday, September 8, but the vote tally will not change.

Early polling in the Senate District 19 race that encompasses both parts of both Hillsborough and Pinellas County showed that while nearly three-quarters of the district was situated in Hillsborough, the quarter of voters in Pinellas County were more likely to go to the polls. And that’s what happened in Tuesday’s election that for now has given St. Petersburg-based Darryl Rouson an extremely narrow lead over Tampa’s Ed Narain, with a recount scheduled to take place on Friday. The two candidates remain just 75 votes apart on Thursday night, after more than 37,000 ballots were cast in the two counties.

Although only 26.4 percent of the district is in Pinellas, 42 percent of the total vote in the contest came from Pinellas County, says Barry Edwards, Rouson’s campaign manager, who says flatly, “We had the best field operation in the state of Florida in any Senate race, and that’s why he won.”

There were four candidates in the race, two based in Hillsborough (Narain and former state Representative Betty Reed), and two in Pinellas (Rouson and civil justice attorney Augie Ribeiro).  Although Narain went after Ribeiro in some of his advertising materials, the fact is that Ribeiro’s late entry into the race split up some of that Pinellas vote that was clearly destined for Rouson. Of the 15,809 people who voted in the SD 19 race in Pinellas, 12,683 went to either Rouson or Ribeiro, with Rouson getting twice as many votes in Pinellas than Ribeiro did.

The conventional wisdom was that Narain and Betty Reed would share a bulk of the Hillsborough vote, and that’s exactly what happened in the early vote and on Tuesday night. Narain and Reed combined for more than 52 percent of the Hillsborough vote, while Rouson and Ribeiro took 28 percent of it. Ribeiro actually received nearly 1,000 more votes in Hillsborough than did Rouson.

Redistricting expert Matthew Isbell says that, “Narain was hurt by Reed’s entry into the race,” which is accurate, though Reed supporters would take issue that comment, since Reed had in fact declared for the seat months before Narain had entered into it. The Reed camp (and others in the district) were angered when Narain entered the race back in March, considering that Reed’s endorsement of Narain might have been the key factor in his winning his House District 61 seat over Sean Shaw back in 2014. As Florida Politics reported earlier this year, a meeting was held last December with the idea of Reed and Narain “trading seats,” with Narain entering the Senate 19 race and Reed going back to running for HD 61, a seat that she held from 2004-2012. Reed rejected the proposal.

What also shouldn’t be overlooked is the power that still resides with the region’s only major newspaper in town, the Tampa Bay Times, who endorsed Rouson in the race.

And while Narain had major endorsements from Kathy Castor and Bob Buckhorn in Hillsborough County, Rouson won the backing of the entire St. Petersburg City Council (including Republican Ed Montanari), Gulfport officials like Mayor Sam Henderson and Councilwoman Yolanda Roman, and all of the Democrats on the Pinellas County Commission.

An early poll that showed Rouson leading and Narain in third received huge criticism after it’s release, but Edwards says it was prescient. When it was released, St. Pete Polls pollster Matt Florell said that, “The geographical split is interesting in Senate District 19, with 25 percent of the population residing in Pinellas County and 75 percent in Hillsborough County,” Florell said. “But when it comes to the active Democratic primary voting population, Pinellas County jumps to a 41 percent share. Our poll had 43 percent of the respondents from Pinellas County, so it is a fairly accurate representation of who will vote in this primary race.”

Rouson himself said on Thursday that it was too soon to analyze how he (apparently) won the contest, but did share that “we are focused.”

“We had a strategy,” he said. “We did out best not to let other campaign’s take us off our game. The people came out all over the district. Hillsborough to Pinellas, From Riverview to East Tampa, from Midtown to downtown, and they expressed themselves.”

Gwen Graham says she gets part of Donald Trump’s appeal

Gwen Graham cut short her trip to Tampa Thursday, returning to Tallahassee to contend with Tropical Storm Hermine, which is expected to make landfall as a hurricane by early Friday in North Florida.

The Tallahassee-based Democratic representative, already considered a leading candidate to run for governor in 2018, has been hobnobbing around the state this week. She appeared at a campaign phone bank with New Port Richey state Rep. Amanda Murphy on Wednesday before attending a house party for Hillary Clinton supporters at a private residence in Tampa. She had been scheduled to visit MacDill Air Force Base on Thursday with Kathy Castor, as well as meet up with Rod Smith in Gainesville. Both of those events were canceled, however, with the storm approaching.

Ideologically speaking, Graham is considered a centrist, and she definitely made a statement shortly after she was elected to serve in Washington in early 2015 when Graham voted against Nancy Pelosi’s election as House Minority Leader, a promise she made while campaigning against Republican Steve Southerland. Graham paints that vote as less a statement against Pelosi, and more for a change of leadership Washington.

“I believe — and this has been confirmed — that we need new leadership in the House of Representatives for Democrats and Republicans,” Graham said on Wednesday.

“The Republicans have brought in Paul Ryan, and I think it would be a very positive effect, not only on the Democrats in Congress but also in encouraging other people to want to enter into elected office, to have new, fresh leadership for the House of Representatives,” Graham said, adding that she never intended it to be criticism of the San Francisco Democrat, who she praised for becoming the first female Speaker of the House.

And while Graham’s an ardent Democrat supporting Clinton for president, she says she understands part of the appeal of Donald Trump, who remains extremely competitive in Florida, despite the fact that he has had only one campaign office in the entire state (and despite reports that he would soon open up two dozen offices, which has yet to happen).

“Mr. Trump has been able to tap into a frustration and disappointment in some areas in the way that our government is functioning, and in that respect, I don’t disagree with him,” she says. “He is a symptom of what I see at times, which is that people don’t put those that you’re elected to serve first, and when you allow partisanship to stand in the way of getting things done, then people have a rightful reason and a rightful frustration about government. I hope this is a wake-up call to those who take more of an ideological position when they’re making decisions that it’s time to get back to really governing again.”

Graham’s Democratic Party bonafides are most prominent when talking about the environment, as she rains down criticism on Rick Scott’s leadership — or lack thereof. She says if she ran the state government, she would add scientists and conservationists to water management boards around the state, and not political appointees.

On Monday, Scott announced he had selected Miami attorney and Bacardi Family Foundation board member Federico Fernandez to fill a space on the Southwest Florida Water Management District. Fernandez would replace Sandy Batchelor, a Charlie Crist appointee in 2010 who was reappointed by Scott to a four-year term in 2012. Batchelor has a master’s degree in forest conservation, and was coincidentally the lone board member this year to oppose tax cuts advocated by Scott.

“I don’t think that’s someone who actually has the expertise to be making water quality decisions,” Graham, said, adding that she agrees with recent comments by Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam that water was Florida’s most important element of its economy, but didn’t believe that his, nor Governor’s Scott’s, actual water policies indicate that’s really the case.

“I don’t think you can say in one breath that you believe that water is most important for the economy in Florida, and then support something that does the complete opposite,” she said, referring specifically to the state’s Environmental Regulation Commission vote to approve a proposal by state regulators that would impose new standards on 39 chemicals not currently regulated by the state, and change the regulations on 43 other chemicals.

In July, Graham called on Scott to hold a special session to deal with the toxic algae bloom that had just then begun to engulf South Florida. In that letter, she said that in her discussions with local stakeholders, she learned the problem was the nutrient-rich stormwater runoff that flows from central Florida into Lake Okeechobee.

Scott will be coming to Washington next week, and Graham says she wants to work with him in addressing water quality in Florida as well as the growing issues with the Zika virus.

“I look forward to working hand-in-hand from a federal perspective, in building the bridges and relationships with those in the federal government that would allow us to hopefully move forward and get additional funding” for Zika.

Mitch Perry Report for 8.30.16 — Election Day questions

Primary Election Day is here, finally, for those of us who care. Because that isn’t close to the majority of registered voters in Florida.

Going into today, the turnout by percentage via early and absentee voting here in Hillsborough County where I’m located was lower than it turned out to be in 2012, which Congresswoman Kathy Castor says is disappointing.

We’re talking below 20 percent, folks. Whether that percentage might increase if the election weren’t held in the last week of August is something really not worth contemplating, since tradition has kept it at this time for, well, ever since I came to this state back in 2000. Then again, we still had runoff primary elections in the state at that time.

So, what will I be looking at tonight? In my neighborhood of V.M. Ybor in Tampa, there are open seats for the House (between Sean Shaw, Dianne Hart, and Walter Smith) and Senate (Ed Narain, Augie Ribeiro, Darryl Rouson, and Betty Reed). Both are too close to call in my opinion at this time.

The House District 68 seat is up for grabs as well between Ben Diamond and Eric Lynn.

I suppose the most competitive congressional race in the Tampa Bay area is probably in CD 11, where first-time Republican candidate Justin Grabelle will try to defeat Daniel Webster, a well-known name in Florida Republican politics who has never run in the district, which encompasses Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Marion, and Sumter counties.

But there isn’t any drama in our U.S. Senate races. The Alan GraysonPatrick Murphy matchup had the potential to be one of the greats, but it’s devolved. Will underdog Pam Keith get into the high single digits after her endorsement from the Miami Herald?

At least Murphy is talking substance as he likely moves on the general. Yesterday, in Tampa, he told me he’ll push for a public option to be added to the Affordable Care Act if elected in November. He has to win tonight first, though.

And tonight we have the Pat FrankKevin Beckner campaign mercifully comes to an end. Despite criticism for running what has been dubbed by some as a negative campaign, Beckner says he has no regrets.

Victory seems assured for Debbie Wasserman Schultz in her bid for re-election against Tim Canova in Florida’s 23rd Congressional District, but by what margin? Does she win by double digits, and if so, how much?

Stay tuned to this site later tonight, where we’ll have complete coverage throughout the state of the primary results.

On eve of primary election, Kathy Castor laments low turnout so far in Hillsborough County

Tampa Bay Democratic U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor expressed disappointment Monday that only 13 percent of eligible voters in Hillsborough County have voted by mail or at the polls heading into Election Day on Tuesday, the last day to vote in this year’s primary election.

“We can do a lot better,” said Castor, who will face Republican Christine Quinn when she runs for her seat in Florida’s 14th Congressional District this November. “People need to value their right to vote, and they need to get out there tomorrow and exercise it. Thirteen percent is pretty dismal, so we can do better.”

Castor spoke at a press conference held at the Hillsborough County NAACP branch in Tampa. Dr. Bennie Small, local NAACP chairman, attributed the paltry voting participation rate to apathy, as well as the fact that a primary election in late August doesn’t excite voters like a November general election.

Of course, there are also more than 1.5 million people in Florida who aren’t legally allowed to vote, thanks to the state’s outlier status when it comes to denying the automatic restoration of voting rights to ex-felons, or what Castor dubbed “the largest voter suppression effort in the entire country.”

Florida Democrats continue to talk about growing momentum to change that law, with Small saying, “we understand the attorney general is going to take another look it.” The law could change if Gov. Rick Scott and two of the three members of the Cabinet follow his lead. However, Scott has shown no inclination to do so.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi told the Miami Herald recently she was open to reducing the wait time for ex-felons (now numbering over 10,000) to three years, but she still does not support automatic restoration for non-violent felons. Fellow Cabinet members Jeff Atwater and Adam Putnam did say they were prepared to revisit the current law.

However, most of the energy on trying to change that law is a ballot initiative being pushed by the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition.

“We’re not going to make it in 2016, but the petition drive is very close to the number of signatures needed to have the Florida Supreme Court approve the ballot language,” said Adam Tebrugge, a staff attorney with the ACLU. “Once it’s approved, that really should give a lot of impetus this campaign. “

Another barrier to full voter participation in this year’s elections, Castor said, is the fact that for the first time in a presidential election in 50 years, the Voting Rights Act has been stripped of some its protections. In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative majority struck down the formula used in the 1965 Voting Rights Act to determine which states and localities must “preclear” voting procedures with the Justice Department or a federal court. Nine states, most in the South, and parts of Florida and five other states were subject to the law. Hillsborough, Monroe, Collier, Hardee and Hendry counties were the ones under the VRA.

That change means that changes by local officials — say, moving a polling site — no longer has to be “pre-cleared” by the U.S. Department of Justice. “Instead, you have to go a very expensive and time-consuming route to court,” Castor said. She added that Democrats in the House will again try to pass legislation through the GOP-led House to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act and restore protections removed by the high court’s decision.

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