This year promises a lot of political activity at USF despite this year’s elections being mid-term. Several people already have their campaigns rolling, including many with very close ties to the campus. Kathy Castor, Les Miller, Scott Farrell, Al Fox Jr. and Michael Steinberg have all announced their candidacy and are looking to win the Democratic primary this September.
Jim Davis has been representing USF’s congressional district, U.S. District 11, for nearly 10 years. Davis has announced that he will be running for governor this year, thus abdicating his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. U.S. District 11 is a historically Democratic district, which essentially means that whichever candidate wins the primary is almost guaranteed to win in November.
“Most of the political analysts do regard (U.S. District 11) as a Democratic district,” political science professor Susan MacManus said. “So then the primary in September becomes absolutely essential.”
Having five separate active campaigns focused in the Bay area has opened up many opportunities for students to become politically active. All five candidates have said they want students for their campaigns.
“The campaigns rely heavily upon volunteers and they rely upon interns, and in both instances students at USF come to their mind,” MacManus said.
The College Democrats plan on taking advantage of the congressional race for the school’s home district.
“We’re going to contact all of (the candidates) and try to get them out,” College Democrats President Maja Lacevic said. “We want to give everybody the opportunity to hear them.” She added that meetings are open to anyone interested in hearing the candidates, not just members of the College Democrats.
Farrell, a Bay area business lawyer, has already scheduled a speaking engagement for next Wednesday’s College Democrats meeting at 7 p.m. in CTR 296. Thus far, he is the only one with an event scheduled at USF. Students may see him around town campaigning in his RV, which was converted to run on vegetable oil by a former USF graduate student.
Farrell’s most direct connection to USF is his position as a member of USF’s Medical Institutional Review Board, which reviews the safety of pharmaceutical trials at USF, the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Tampa General Hospital.
The only USF graduate running is Florida Senate Minority Leader Les Miller. He represents State District 18 in Tallahassee, which includes USF. Miller was active in Student Government in his time at USF and was elected student body president in 1977. He is credited with fostering the friendly relationship SG has with the administration that remains in place today.
He sits on the Education Appropriations Committee in the state Senate, where he said he has worked to ensure USF is not overlooked and gets the money it deserves rather than the majority of funds being allocated to UF and FSU.
Most students probably recognize Castor’s name from Castor Hall on campus, which is named after her mother, former USF President Betty Castor. Kathy Castor is a Hillsborough County Commissioner for County District 1, which includes areas to the south and southwest of USF.She has contacted Lacevic about meeting with the College Democrats, but no date has been officially set.
Steinberg is a Social Security lawyer in the Bay area and said that both his wife and mother graduated from USF.
He said his focuses lean more toward the older voting bloc rather than USF students. He said he planned to focus on using his older clients to further his campaign and that students weren’t a primary target.
“Students don’t vote, especially in primaries,” Steinberg said.
He added that he has participated in events on campus in past years and would be interested in visiting USF if he was invited.
Fox was born and raised in Ybor City, which also falls in U.S. District 11. He has been in the Washington, D.C., area and involved in politics for 40 years.
His specialty is U.S.-Cuban relations, but student loans are another issue that he deemed important.
“I think it is unconscionable today that a young person who goes to school (for) four years, and if their father’s not Bill Gates, then when they graduate they can owe $75,000 (or) $100,000 or more,” Fox said. “I think there has to be a better system.”
Money is a big part of any campaign, and according to the most recent Federal Election Commission reports, all five candidates have done a lot of fund-raising.
Castor leads the pack, having raised $349,969.
The next closest candidate is Miller, who has raised $168,198.
Both Miller and Castor’s USF ties show in their donations. They have both received several donations from USF employees.
H. Lee Moffitt, the namesake of the Moffitt Cancer Center, donated to Miller’s campaign. Gus A. Stavros, after whom the Gus A. Stavros Center for Free Enterprise and Economic Education was named, donated to Castor’s campaign.
Fox is third in funds, having raised $143,692. Farrell is next with $106,130. Steinberg has raised the least, with $15,605. Of that, he personally donated $10,479.
Steinberg said that he plans to overcome the money gap with his law firm’s name recognition and said his name would reach the public through his firm’s advertising.
Fox said he isn’t worried about raising the most money.
“I’ve been around long enough to know that the political graveyards are filled with people that had huge name recognition and buckets of money,” Fox said. “If money and name were the only things that mattered, then Ross Perot would be president of the United States and Lee Iacocca would be the senator from New Jersey.”
The Democratic primary elections will be held on Sept. 5, 2006. The winner will face Jim Greenwald, the only non-Democrat on the ballot so far, in the general election in November.