Tampa native Kathy Castor is almost always on the right side of history on many issues

Best of the Bay 2020: 16 people or places that've undoubtedly changed Tampa Bay for the better.

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click to enlarge Kathy Castor on January 31, 2019. - cityofstpete/Flickr
Kathy Castor on January 31, 2019.

If you’ve ever wondering whether you’re on the right side of history on an issue, just compare your views to those of Kathy Castor, the Democrat who represents Florida’s 14th U.S. Congressional District. The daughter of beloved former Florida Education Commissioner Betty Castor (and no relation to Tampa Mayor Jane), she’s the kind of elected official who stands up for what’s right regardless of whether doing so is in vogue.

Take LGBTQ equality. Years before even the likes of Barack Obama were publicly “evolving” on same-sex marriage, Castor was going against the grain. There was that fateful Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners meeting in 2005 that has since become the stuff of local legend. Castor was one of two Democrats on the board, which was set to vote to ban any kind of county support or promotion of Gay Pride. The ordinance stemmed from Republican Commissioner Ronda Storms (Remember her? Egad.), who was apparently offended by a Pride Month display at a library in Town ‘n’ Country. Storms read the ordinance, famously adding “little g, little p” for emphasis. Of the six commissioners at the dais (one of the seven wasn’t in the room), Castor was the sole vote against it.

Months later, Castor sought to reinstate a ban on workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Then-Commissioner Thomas Scott, the other Democrat on the board, was the only commissioner to side with Castor. Ultimately, that ordinance unanimously passed—but not until 2014.

Castor was then elected to Congress in 2006, where she’s easily held onto her seat, which covers a heavily Democratic swath of Tampa and suburban outcrops.

Castor may not make national headlines with fiery proclamations like her colleagues in the Squad, but she’s demonstrated her leadership in Democratic circles in other ways. She serves alongside former Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Rep. from New York Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (hello, Squad) on Democratic Presidential Nominee Joe Biden’s climate change task force. She does, after all, chair the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. Castor said she was “humbled” at the appointment to the task force in May.

Making national headlines doesn’t seem as important to her as showing up and advocating for her district on issues like the environment, gun safety and transportation. Whatever the disaster—and from Deepwater Horizon to Pulse, there sure as hell have been many since she started—she shows up in the immediate aftermath to rally for reform and offer words of comfort to her constituents (and the greater Tampa Bay media market). In the age of COVID-19, that translates to cosponsoring legislation supporting the U.S. Postal Service as well as advocating everything from low-cost testing to financial help to those hardest-hit by the pandemic.

Castor has long been an outspoken opponent of oil-drilling off of Florida’s shores. While it’s not grabbing many headlines, drilling off our coasts is still a threat that still looms to this day as a ban on drilling in the gulf is set to expire soon. The outcome of the 2020 election will obviously determine what happens.

While she probably doesn’t worry too much about reelection, she typically draws one GOP challenger or another. This year, it’s once again Christine Quinn, who challenged Castor in 2016. Democratic consultant Victor DeMaio told the Tampa Bay Times’ Charlie Frago that the match-up is “going to be a slaughter.” Even if the election isn’t some blue tsunami, he’s probably right

See all winners from Best of the Bay 2020.

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