Tampa Mayor Jane Castor officially launched her re-election campaign at Hotel Haya in Ybor City with a strong coalition of support from local elected officials, community leaders, residents, friends and family.
Castor launched with more than 45 Chairs on her host committee, including big names in Tampa politics such as U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, former state Sen. Janet Cruz, Hillsborough County Commissioners Harry Cohen and Pat Kemp, Tax Collector Nancy Millan, state Rep. Michele Rayner-, and more.
Mayor Castor also boasts bipartisan support, including host committee Chairs Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister and Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan, both Republicans.
She also courted more than 100 supporters at the “host” level supporting her launch, including former Hillsborough County Commissioner Kimberly Overman, Kiran Patel, David Pizzo, Richard Gonzmart, Tom Pepin and others. Also on board were nearly 20 “friends” on the host committee.
Speaking at the event, Castor boasted an aggressive first-term agenda, including the city’s P.I.P.E.S. program, the most funding ever put into a Tampa infrastructure project, which Castor noted typically was a politically unpopular move because “you’ve never seen a ribbon cutting for new sewage pipes.”
She also touted work on the city’s transportation network, with a new commitment to correct problems such as potholes within 48 hours, and a new grant to expand the city’s Riverwalk to the west side of the Hillsborough River. And she highlighted the city’s streetcar, noting that it has gone from “tourist attraction to a viable form of transit,” while becoming second in the nation for ridership behind only Kansas City.
Castor also spotlighted work on improving parks, including with the planned creation of the East Tampa Recreation Complex to provide expanded recreation opportunities in the community.
Castor boasted about work on affordable housing, while acknowledging the ongoing affordability crisis, that has led to more than $100 million in investment since 2019. That includes Tampa Hope, a program that provides wrap-around services for up to 300 residents suffering from homelessness. Since its launch, the program has put 20% of participating individuals into permanent housing and helped them find gainful employment.
Sustainability and resilience efforts and public safety were also on the agenda.
Before being elected in 2019, Castor served three decades with the Tampa Police Department, including as Police Chief.
“I got to know our residents. I got to know what the issues were. I got to see people at the best of times and I got to see them at some of the worst of their particular times,” Castor said. “Fundamentally, what everyone wants is to be happy, healthy and successful in our community and I work every day to make sure that that is true for our community.”
Castor called her service as Mayor an “opportunity of a lifetime.”
“I ran for Mayor because I had no doubt that this city was going to change more in the next few years than it had in my entire 63 years,” she added.
The campaign launch party came as Castor also celebrated her 63rd birthday.
Castor, asking for four more years, also looked toward the future.
“Tampa has dreamed of being America’s next great city. Well I’ve got news for you, Tampa has arrived,” she said to a roar of cheers. “We’ve got a long way to go and the way that we’re going to get where we want to be is by working together.”
In addition to host committee members, others also attended the kickoff, including former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, Tampa City Council Chair Joe Citro, who also faces re-election this cycle, state Sen. Darryl Rouson, Public Defender Julianne Holt, Property Appraiser Bob Henriquez and former Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman.
Castor’s longtime partner, Ana Cruz, was also on hand and helped introduce the incumbent Mayor, noting support from Castor’s predecessor, Bob Buckhorn.
“Jane is going to continue what he has thoughtfully built and we are so grateful for his support and friendship,” Cruz said.
Castor filed for re-election Nov. 28. She is already facing two Republican challengers, Jeff Godsell and Belinda Noah.
Castor was first elected in 2019, defeating the late philanthropist David Straz in Tampa’s costliest mayoral contest. Straz spent nearly $5 million, most of it his own money, while Castor ran a $1.2 million campaign.
Tampa’s municipal elections will be held on March 7.