Castor ends speculation: She’s running to be Tampa’s next mayor

Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor speaks to reporters during a news conference Friday, Sept. 27, 2013 in Tampa. Castor announced that two Tampa Police officers had been fired, Detective Jeanette Hevel and Sergeant Ray Fernandez. CHRIS URSO/STAFF

TAMPA — For months, Tampa political aficionados have speculated: Will she or won’t she?

Does Jane Castor, the city’s first woman police chief and presumed heavyweight mayoral candidate, really want the job?

Asked and answered. Castor filed paperwork Thursday at the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections office.

“Many Tampa residents know me as their police chief, where for six years I led the largest department with the largest budget in our City,” Castor said in a statement. “Others know me as their neighbor and community advocate who has stood alongside them for the betterment of Tampa. We have accomplished so much, but there is still work to be done.”

Castor, 58, joins a growing field that includes former Hillsborough County Commissioner Ed Turanchik, Tampa City Council member Harry Cohen, businessman Topher Morrison, and Michael Hazard.

Council member Mike Suarez is expected to announce soon, as is philanthropist David Straz. Downtown Partnership chairman Mickey Jacob is a possibility, too.

The election is in March 2019.

Cohen declined comment Thursday, but Turanchik said Castor’s entry was no surprise.

“We all run on our past and our future,” Turanchik said. “I have a long-term vision for Tampa. I’m going to bring it to fruition.”

Morrison said he welcomed Castor’s entry into the race.

“Diversity of thought is one of the pillars of our democracy,” Morrison said. After voters weigh their options, he said, they’ll decide he’s the best pick.

Castor topped a 2017 poll of potential mayoral contenders. Shortly after, advisers formed a political action committee — Tampa Strong — that has raised $176,172 through March.

Ashley Walker, a Broward County political consultant who ran President Barack Obama’s 2012 Florida campaign, will run Castor’s campaign.

Walker’s access to deep pockets and her top-shelf political team will help, but a big field of candidates for an open seat can offer unexpected surprises, said Darryl Paulson, professor emeritus of political science at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.

“It provides a unique opportunity for someone to sneak in the background,” Paulson said.

Mayor Bob Buckhorn, leaving office after eight years because of term limits, kept Castor as his police chief. She was appointed by his predecessor, Pam Iorio.

That puts the mayor in a potentially awkward position, Paulson said. On one hand, if he doesn’t back Castor, some might wonder why she was good enough to be his chief but not mayor. On the other, Buckhorn has his own political future to consider and supporting any candidate carries risks.

“I don’t necessarily see the plus side of him endorsing any of these candidates,” Paulson said.

In the statement, Castor touted her record as police chief from 2009 to 2015.

Under her watch, crime was cut by 70 percent. She oversaw security at the 2012 Republican National Convention and Super Bowl XLIII, the statement noted.

Her platform for mayor lists three main points: “strong foundation,” “stronger neighborhoods” and “strong economy,” centered on the principles of public safety, fiscal prudence, efficient services, neighborhood development, affordable housing and better transportation.

She highlights her 31-year police career, including a reorganization and streamlining of the department, community outreach efforts and working with youth.

But Castor’s record hasn’t been free of blemish.

She moved last week to defuse what will likely be a line of attack against her: a program to tackle bigger crimes by citing black bicyclists for minor violations. The Tampa Bay Times explored the program in a 2015 series.

The policy was a mistake, Castor told the Times last week.

But she said she is focused now on what lies ahead.

Contact Charlie Frago at cfrago@tampabay.com or (727)893-8459. Follow@CharlieFrago.

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