Castor may seek seat in U.S. Senate

Former USF president Betty Castor could find herself in a political race with national power implications next year. But first, she needs to catch a few breaks, political science professor Susan MacManus said Wednesday.

In a Tampa Tribune report last week, Castor expressed interest in U.S. Sen. Bob Graham’s seat, should he vacate it during his candidacy for president.

Castor couldn’t be reached for comment.

Graham, who is a former Florida governor, announced last week he would seek the Democratic nomination for the 2004 presidential election.

In order for Castor to stand a chance in becoming a U.S. senator, Graham first must overcome some obstacles of his own, MacManus said.

“Everybody is sort of casting him as a long shot,” MacManus said. “But never say never when it comes to Bob Graham, the proof’s in the pudding. He wins when he’s not supposed to.”

MacManus said Graham probably won’t decide if he’ll leave behind his position in the Senate until he has determined if he has garnered enough financial support to make a realistic run for the nomination.

Currently, there are eight other potential candidates looking to take on George W. Bush in 2004. They include former vice presidential candidate, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Conn., Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, Sen. John Edwards, North Carolina, U.S. Rep. Dick Gephardt, Sen. John Kerry, Mass., Rep. Dennis Kucinich, Ohio , former Illinois Sen. Carol Moseley Braun and Rev. Al Sharpton of New York.

Critics have argued that Graham, former head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, does not have the name recognition outside Florida to gain the support needed to win the nomination.

But if he overcomes his long-shot status, MacManus said it would set the stage for a highly-coveted open seat in the Senate.

Castor, MacManus said, wouldn’t necessarily have a marked advantage against other candidates, but she would be the only one of the group who have thus far expressed interest that has won a statewide election.

Six others have expressed interest, including Alex Sink, wife of former Florida gubernatorial candidate Bill McBride.

Castor was president of USF from 1994 to 1999. Before then she was a state senator for three terms, and also served as the states commissioner of education from 1986 to 1993. She was also the first woman elected to the Hillsborough County Commission.