Rick Baker’s 2017 makeover was a fashion fail and earned him ridicule. The original favorite according to polls, Baker got waxed in the St. Pete’s mayoral race. Could Jane Castor’s new softer look make voters forget her awful tenure as Tampa police chief?
By Tom Rask, Tampa Bay Guardian
with Jim Bleyer
Does a candidate who feels she needs to reset her public image in a multitude of aspects deserve the public trust?
Jane Castor, who served a tumultuous term as Tampa’s police chief, will find out what voters think of her assorted epiphanies in 11 months. The former Republican is running for Tampa mayor as a Democrat, aligning herself in registration, if not in philosophy, with a solid majority of voters.
Castor was the only mayoral candidate at the “Spring Fling,” the Hillsborough County Democratic Party gala, to exit amid introductions and speeches by Democratic statewide candidates. Finding an escape hatch while well-known Democrats elaborated on pertinent political issues indicates how heartfelt Castor’s party switch was from Republican to Democrat.
Her canpaign finance reports are just as perplexing.
Reports for the month of April show Castor raised $33,540 in April from 89 donors. A political action committee called “Tampa Strong,” which is likely to support the same issues Castor does, raised $15,250 in April, with $10,000 of that from four corporations writing checks for $2,500 each.
The amount reported was low, given that Castor’s campaign three days ago claimed on Facebook (see below) to “have raised over $250,000 to date.” Their post linked to an article on FloridaPolitics.Com that emphasized that this feat had been accomplished “in just two weeks!”
The article stated that the funds were raised from “more than 300 donors” and the feat had been accomplished “since she announced her run for Tampa Mayor in mid-April.” Therefore, additional funds in excess of $216,460 must have been raised during the first six and a half days in May for her “over $250,000” claim to be true.
That scenario is so unlikely that it can be safely dismissed. The Tampa Bay Times reported Castor’s campaign said it and an associated committee have raised about $250,000 so far.” Given that a total of $224,962 had been raised through the end of April and the campaign’s claim of “over $250,000” on May 7th, it can be deduced that approximately $30,000 was raised in the first week of May.
By saying “we have raised” in a campaign Facebook post, Castor appears to be equating campaign funds with PAC funds in her messaging to voters. The campaign doesn’t mention her PAC other than platitudinally as #TampaStrong and “we are Tampa Strong.”
In April Castor told a Tampa Bay Times’ columnist that her police department’s 2015 highly criticized “biking while black” citations “were a mistake.” Castor’s change in position came one week before announcing her run for mayor.
In 2015, Castor defended the citations while refusing interview requests from the Times about the matter. More recently, she and her campaign also refused interview requests from Tampa Bay Guardian and Tampa Bay Beat.
Castor’s disdain for the media is about the only thread that carries through from her police chief days to the present. The rest of her persona is part of her mayoral bid makeover.
Castor’s designated campaign staff didn’t respond to the Guardian’s April 26th request for an interview or answer questions about her May 3rd fundraiser at the private Tampa Yacht & Country Club. That event was not announced on her campaign Facebook or Twitter pages, while events in fundraising events in Seminole Heights and at Ulele Restaurant were announced through those channels.
Tampa Bay Beat approached Castor with contact information at the Spring Fling about an interview. No response from her or her campaign.
The host committee for the yacht club fundraiser invitation listed 16 people, of which four are lobbyists. The Seminole Heights event listed a different group of people, and a “suggested contribution” of $250, compared to $500 at the yacht club event.
The presence of lobbyist Patrick Baskette on Castor’s host committee may signal that Castor is willing to spend public funds on a new Rays stadium in Ybor City. Baskette and Ron Christaldi are both lobbyists at Shumaker, Loop and Kendrick, and Christaldi has taken a leading role in trying to bring baseball to Ybor.
More Castor confusion: her campaign appears to be trying to soften her previous “tough cop with arms crossed” image in favor of bright colors and approachability. Former St. Pete mayor Rick Baker’s makeover last year didn’t bring him victory in that city’s mayoral race, and even earned him ridicule.
Her opponents view Castor as current mayor Bob Buckhorn’s puppet and she will certainly get his endorsement in due course. Some fear that Castor will only serve four years and then step aside in order for Buckhorn to return as mayor. That prospect is appalling to many that saw The City of Tampa’s reputation tarnished in the national media under Buckhorn’s stewardship.
In addition to DOJ admonitions regarding racial profiling, other national headlines included Buckhorn’s denial of manmade climate change, his transformation of downtown into an armed camp during the 2012 Republican National Conveniton, his creepy proclamation from a machine gun turret that he would relish killing journalists, his outrageous defense of gender discrimination within the Tampa Fire Department, and his declaration that he owed no apology to people of color—to name a few.
Buckhorn’s seven plus years as mayor have produced the image of Tampa as a neanderthal outpost in an area containing enlightened cities such as Sarasota, St. Petersburg, and Orlando.
And Tampa was the city that had the temerity to submit a bid for Amazon HQ2. There is nothing to suggest Castor is capable of lifting Tampa from laughingstock status.
One of Castor’s opponents, former county commissioner Ed Turanchik, raised $22,145 in April from 85 donors with overall fundraising at $102,100. Castor is averaging $376 per donor and Turanchik $361.
There are six announced candidates, with Turanchik and Castor viewed by many as the candidates with the best chance of winning. However, unforced errors like this week’s misleading claims about its own fundraising and superficial resets have created vicious headwinds for the Castor campaign even before hurricane season begins June 1.