Kathy Castor is the Tampa Bay area's voice in the U.S. Congress. She is serving her sixth term and represents Florida's 14th Congressional district, which includes Tampa and parts of Hillsborough County. She was originally elected in 2006 and re-elected by voters in 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016. Castor is the first woman to represent Hillsborough and Pinellas counties in the U.S. Congress.
Castor is an outspoken advocate on behalf of the hardworking families, students and seniors of the Tampa Bay region. She has successfully worked to raise the minimum wage, cut taxes for middle-class families, increase the amount of Pell grants for students and improve Medicare. During the housing downturn, she hosted numerous foreclosure prevention workshops designed to help homeowners stay in their homes. And, during the economic recovery, Castor has hosted job fairs to connect neighbors to hundreds of job opportunities. Most recently, she has fought to protect our health care and for the safety of our neighbors, including protecting our communities from gun violence as well as the public's health as it faced the threat of a Zika virus outbreak.
Jobs for Tampa Bay is Castor's No. 1 priority. Castor has successfully fought to bring new jobs to the Tampa Bay area by championing federal funding to support the Encore redevelopment in downtown Tampa and the I-4/ Selmon Crosstown Connector initiative. Castor worked to capture every job and investment dollar for our area under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Castor led the way for new collaborative health initiatives at the University of South Florida, the Haley VA Hospital and the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute. She has sponsored job-creating research efforts for Moffitt, Tampa General Hospital, BayCare and All Children's Hospital. In 2009, Castor helped secure a Medicaid waiver on behalf of the State of Florida and hospitals throughout the state from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that brought $4.3 billion to Florida. She has also worked with Florida universities and authored provisions to remedy the doctor shortage, bring new medical residencies to the state and expand scholarships for the medical professions at Florida colleges and universities.
Castor serves as vice ranking member of the influential House Energy and Commerce Committee. As a member of the Health Subcommittee, Castor is instrumental in ensuring that health care reform worked for Florida families, businesses, and university medical and nursing colleges. Since the Affordable Care Act passed, she has worked tirelessly to educate neighbors about new patient protections and health insurance enrollment in the new marketplace exchange.
Castor is also dedicated to improving the lives of Cuban Americans. She successfully advocated to ease travel and spending restrictions on Cuban-Americans visiting relatives in Cuba. In January 2011, President Obama announced that Tampa International Airport's eligibility to resume direct flights to and from Cuba after more than two years of a Castor-led lobbying effort. TIA is now one of the busiest airports in the nation for direct flights to Cuba. In 2013, Castor went on a fact-finding visit to Cuba and has advocated more engagement with the island nation to promote modernization. The Center for Democracy in the Americas presented Castor with the 2013 award for Courage in Congress for her advocacy in changing U.S. policy towards Cuba. The Tampa Bay community, including business and education leaders, have stood with Rep. Castor in developing ties and establishing Tampa as a Gateway to Cuba, and boosting cultural and educational exchanges.
Castor fights to protect Florida beaches from offshore drilling. She is the author of the Florida Coastal Protection Act to make the 235-mile drilling ban off of Florida's west coast permanent. Castor was active and outspoken in 2010 in her criticism of BP during the Deepwater Horizon oil blowout disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, which impacted Florida's beaches, economy and small businesses. In June 2010, she secured $10 million from BP to support Florida college and university marine research, including the University of South Florida and Sarasota's Mote Marine Laboratory. As member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, in 2010, Castor requested a report on BP's enormous advertising budget in the wake of the blowout and questioned the oil company's actions to spend more money "polishing its corporate image" than on helping Gulf Coast states recover from the April 2010 disaster.
Castor introduced the Gulf of Mexico Economic and Environmental Restoration Act to fund long-term economic recovery, environmental restoration and research with the fines and penalties to be paid by BP for its pollution under the Clean Water Act. Extensive bipartisan efforts continued on this legislation in 2011, and in June 2012, Gulf Coast states and the Gulf of Mexico achieved a major victory when the RESTORE Act was passed by Congress.
Before her election to Congress, Castor served as a Hillsborough County Commissioner and chair of the Hillsborough County Environmental Protection Commission. As County Commissioner in 2005, she was the sole vote against a gay pride ban; this ban was finally repealed unanimously by the Hillsborough County Commission in 2013. In 2005, Castor was named as the Tampa Bay Business Journal's Woman of the Year in government.
Castor is a graduate of Tampa's Chamberlain High School, Emory University and Florida State University College of Law. Castor and her husband have two daughters. She is the daughter of former Hillsborough County Judge Don Castor and former University of South Florida President and statewide-elected Education Commissioner Betty Castor. She is the former President of the Florida Association of Women Lawyers and partner in a statewide law firm.