In a historic election Tampa voters elected by a wide margin a former police chief and openly-gay woman to be their mayor.
The 59-year-old Jane Castor trounced in the Tuesday runoff 76-year-old David Straz, a retired banker and philanthropist worth $426 million.
With 97 precincts reporting, Castor held a lead of about 24,500 votes — 73.31% to 26.69%.
Castor said her victory “sends a resounding message to our community — no, it sends a resounding message to the nation — that Tampa celebrates its diversity and lifts everyone up in a positive way.”
“We don’t tear people down with negativity,” Castor said to a crowd of supporters, “so thank you all for believing in that message. I have never been more hopeful or more excited about our city’s future.”
Jane Castor ran up an overwhelming lead in early voting despite Straz’ record spending: nearly $5 million during the campaign, much of his own money, according to campaign finance reports.
At her watch party Castor mostly thanked supporters, including outgoing Mayor Bob Buckhorn and political consultant Ana Cruz, Castor’s partner, whom she dubbed “invincible.”
Born, raised and educated in Tampa, Jane served 31 years at the Tampa Police Department as a beat cop, working her way up to be the first woman Police Chief.
Castor will be the first openly-gay mayor in the history of Tampa and the region.
The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer civil rights organization, praised Castor in a statement.
“Today, Tampa voters made history by electing Jane Castor as the city’s first openly LGBTQ mayor,” said HRC Senior Vice President for Policy and Political Affairs JoDee Winterhof. “We congratulate Jane Castor on her victory and look forward to working closely with her to ensure the city continues to move forward as an inclusive and welcoming place for everyone.”
The senior political director of Equality Florida, Joe Saunders, had said in a news release backing Castor, “Representation matters, especially for LGBTQ families. When Jane wins, she will be Tampa’s first LGBTQ mayor, the first LGBTQ woman to lead one of Florida’s largest cities and the only LGBTQ woman leading a major U.S. city in the southeast United States.”
Openly Gay Woman Elected Tampa’s New Mayor