Castor stumps for votes in area

Published: Friday, January 16, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 16, 2004 at 1:28 a.m.
Florida's former Commissioner of Education Betty Castor, who's seeking Bob Graham's U.S. Senate seat, stumped in Gainesville on Thursday seeking to distinguish herself from her two other Democratic competitors and a host of Republican rivals.
With more than 30 years of public service, Castor said she considers her breadth of experience and knowledge of the state something that sets her above the rest of the pack.
U.S. Rep. Peter Deutsch of Fort Lauderdale and Miami-Dade County Mayor Alex Penelas of Miami round out the field of Democratic candidates. Six Republicans from Central and South Florida also are in the race.
Castor, 62, served three terms in the state Senate, two terms as education commissioner and most recently held the position of president at the University of South Florida.
The various governmental experiences give her "enlightened leadership," she said. She also said she would be a "Florida first" senator.
"People really want someone who's familiar with Florida," Castor said.
Her itinerary included stops at radio stations, newspapers, City Hall, the Alachua County Administration Building, the Civil Courthouse and Shands at the University of Florida.
Escorting her around the city were former state Rep. Perry McGriff, Alachua County Commissioner Cynthia Chestnut and political consultant Louis Kalivoda.
Overall, she said she places education and the economy as her No. 1 priorities. An investment in education can stimulate the economy, she said.
"We have got to get to a point where we reinvest in higher education," Castor said.
On the federal budget, Castor was critical of some of President George Bush's tax cuts, which she said are contributing to a budget deficit exceeding $500 billion and climbing.
"You certainly don't give tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans," Castor said. "Who's going to pay for that? It's going to be our kids who are going to have to pay that. We need to be a lot more conservative. It makes me mad."
She favors an international approach to solving America's occupation of Iraq, although she acknowledged her experience in the international arena is limited.
A who's who list of Gainesville leaders endorsed Castor on the steps of City Hall. Among them were Hawthorne City Commissioner John Martin; Jimmy Carnes, former executive director of the Governor's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports; former Alachua County Commissioner Robert "Hutch" Hutchinson; and Alachua County School Board member Barbara Sharpe.
Chestnut, a former state representative who has a strong record in support of education, said she's for Castor because of her commitment to education. Castor was instrumental in establishing the state's pre-kindergarten program.
"She believes in building a good foundation before starting school," Chestnut said. "If she can do half as much in the Senate as she did as commissioner of education, this state will be well served."
Janine Young Sikes can be reached at 337-0327 or

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