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Betty Castor

From Academic Kids

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Betty Castor (born Elizabeth Bowe on May 11, 1941) is an American politician and educator who has served as Florida Education Commissioner and President of the University of South Florida. In 2004, she faced Republican Mel Martinez as the Democratic candidate for the open U.S. Senate seat of retiring Senator Bob Graham and was defeated by him.

Contents

Background

Castor was born in Glassboro, New Jersey, where her father, Joseph Bowe, was the mayor. She attended Glassboro State College (now Rowan University), earning her bachelor's degree. Castor later attended the Teachers College of Columbia University, where she was active in organizing a drive to support education in Uganda. Following her graduation, in 1962, she traveled to East Africa, where she became a teacher.

After being appointed to a diplomatic mission by President John F. Kennedy, Castor led two dozen African women and girls to the summit of Kenya's Mount Kilimanjaro, the first all-female expedition to accomplish this. When Uganda gained independence in 1962, Castor flew on Air Force One with Kennedy to the Ugandan independence celebrations. Castor also played on the Ugandan national field hockey team.

While returning to the U.S. in 1965, she met Don Castor, a lawyer who worked in New York City. They married, settling in Dade County, Florida (now known as Miami-Dade County), where Castor was a teacher while studying for her Master of Education degree at the University of Miami. While living in Miami, Castor also gave birth to her first child.

After graduating in 1968, Castor moved to Tampa, where she became one of the founding members of the League of Women Voters's Tampa chapter. In 1972, she was elected to the Hillsborough County Commission, becoming its chair in 1976. Later that year, Castor was elected to the Florida State Senate. She resigned and unsuccessfully ran for lieutenant governor in 1978, losing the primary election to Wayne Mixson and Bob Graham (who went into a runoff). Castor was reelected in 1982 and became president pro tempore of the Florida State Senate in 1985, the first woman to hold the post.

In 1986, Castor left the Florida State Senate again to become Florida Education Commissioner under then-Governor Bob Martinez, overseeing the state's public schools. In 1994, Castor became president of the University of South Florida.

In 1995, while Castor was president of the University of South Florida, the FBI began investigating suspected terrorist Sami Al-Arian and two other USF professors. In 1996, USF officials received information on the investigation, leading Castor to suspend Al-Arian.

In 1999, Castor left USF to become president of the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards.

Divorced to Don Castor, she is currently married to former state legislator Sam Bell III. She has six children.

Senate campaign, 2004

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In the 2004 Senate campaign, Castor faced two Democratic candidates, Miami mayor Alex Penelas and Hollywood congressman Peter Deutsch, in the Democratic primary election.

Until the spring of 2004, Castor's fundraising was much slower than her Democratic and Republican rivals. In the spring, the campaign hired fundraising staff from the defunct presidential campaigns of Howard Dean and Bob Graham, and subsequently posted much higher fundraising numbers over the summer. Online grassroots techniques devised for the Dean campaign (Castor became a Dean Dozen candidate in August) were one contributing factor: another was the support of EMILY's List, which named Castor as its highest-rated candidate for the 2004 election cycle. The latter was a source of criticism during the August primary heat, when Deutsch accused "an out of state interest group" for "trying to buy the election," and alleged illegal collaboration between EMILY's List and the Castor campaign in their TV commercial shoots.

Castor's handling of Sami Al-Arian became another source of criticism during the campaign. In June, American Democracy Project, a 527 group founded by Bernie Friedman, began attacking Castor's handling of the incident, alleging that she had sufficient evidence to fire Al-Arian in the mid-1990s. Castor responded by stating that she never had sufficient evidence to fire Al-Arian, who was a tenured professor at the time, and by pointing out connections between ADP and the Deutsch campaign. On June 29, Senator Graham, who had previously remained outside of the Al-Arian controversy, released a statement that "Betty Castor acted appropriately as President of the University of South Florida to deal with Sami Al-Arian": later, Graham and Senator Bill Nelson brokered an agreement between the Democratic candidates to refrain from negative campaigning against each other, although this agreement appeared to break down in the final weeks of the race, when Castor and Deutsch both launched attack ads on television.

Despite these controversies, Castor won the Democratic nomination on August 31. She was defeated, however, by Republican candidate Mel Martinez in a close race on November 2, 2004. The overwhelming support for Martinez among Latinos effectively counterbalanced Castor's relatively high popularity among swing voters throughout the state.

There has been some speculation that Castor may run for Governor of Florida in 2006 to replace Jeb Bush, who will be ineligible for re-election due to term limits. Although Castor carries the baggage of having lost a statewide election, she is now one of the most well-known Democrats in Florida and carries significantly higher name recognition than other potential Democratic candidates, such as Jim Davis, Rod Smith, and Scott Maddox, who will face entrenched Republican figures such as Toni Jennings, Tom Gallagher, and Charlie Crist. Castor has yet to announce her intentions on the 2006 gubernatorial race.

Positions

  • Abortion: Generally pro-choice, but opposes partial-birth abortion.
  • Civil rights: Supports affirmative action; supports special funding for historically black colleges; advocates allowing children of immigrants to apply for college at in-state tuition rates.
  • Economy: Supports free trade generally; advocates federal tax incentives and education subsidies to boost growth of high-tech industries; supports progressive taxation and a balanced budget; advocates closing corporate tax law loopholes and enforcing American intellectual property overseas; supports raising the minimum wage to $6.75/hour.
  • Education: Opposes No Child Left Behind Act.
  • Environment: Opposes offshore oil drilling in Florida; advocates Everglades restoration and expansion of the Superfund.
  • Foreign policy: Generally internationalist; advocates closer alliances with foreign powers and "internationalization" of peacekeeping in Iraq and Afghanistan; supports Israeli self-determination and a U.S. role in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process; opposes travel restrictions to Cuba.
  • Health care: Advocates free health insurance for uninsured children and their families; supports re-importation of drugs from Canada; opposes privatization of Social Security.
  • Homeland security: Supports provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act pertaining to counterterrorism intelligence; opposes military base closures in Florida; advocates stronger port security.
  • Religion: Did not express an opinion on "Permit prayer in public schools" on a recent poll, in which she did answer many other questions [1] (http://www.issues2000.org/Senate/Betty_Castor.htm).
  • Same-sex marriage: Opposes same-sex marriage; supports civil unions.
  • Second Amendment: Supports the Right to Bear Arms for protection and for sports; does not support and new legislation on gun laws; supports enforcement by federal government of existing gun laws.

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