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Castor charging ahead for open seat

Moving along with her campaign for the U.S. Senate in 2004, former USF President Betty Castor filed an official statement of candidacy Monday with the Federal Elections Commission based in Washington D.C.

Castor, 62, is the only woman running for the seat now held by Bob Graham and has the most political experience along Florida’s West Coast.

Castor said running for a national political seat requires more time to make personal contacts. According to the FEC, Castor said candidates running for office nationally must operate under stricter rules and regulations when campaigning.

“I can only fund raise money from federal political action committees (PACs) or personal contributors,” she said.

Castor added that PACs could only contribute up to $5,000, while individuals can contribute up to $2,000 to her campaign.

“It is very much different from state because you can’t take money from businesses or firms,” she said. “(Running for the Senate) means I have to go out and make more personal contacts.”

In the near future, Castor said she is making efforts to raise money and get her recognized. But like other democratic candidates, Castor would drop out of the race if Graham , who now holds the seat, abandons his presidential campaign to seek re-election.

However, Castor said she thinks Graham will continue his campaign for president, considering he is in the third term of his seat as a senator.

“To me, he is showing indications that his entire focus is on being president,” she said.

Castor noted that she is the only candidate who has won a statewide race as a state senator from 1976-86 and was elected as the state education commissioner in 1986, followed by a re-election in 1990.

Castor, however, must play some catch-up in fund raising. The two other democratic candidates vying for Graham’s seat are from South Florida; U.S. Rep. Peter Deutsch of Fort Lauderdale and Miami-Dade County mayor Alex Penelas have already spent the past few months raising money.

There are also two Republican candidates ,which include U.S. Rep. Mark Foley of West Palm Beach and former U.S. Rep. Bill McCollum of Orlando.

Castor said it was in her best interest to file papers before fund raising, instead of having an exploratory committee.

“Once you start raising money you act like, smell like and walk like a candidate, and it is a much more honest and open approach when fund raising,” she said. “People want to hear that I am a candidate before contributing money.”

In 1990, when Castor ran for the education commissioner, she received more than 2.2 million votes, which was more than any other Democrat on the ticket to win re-election over former Gov. Claude Kirk.

Castor said she has begun forming a fund-raising committee at a Tampa office.

“My family is 1,000 percent supportive of me and my campaign,” she said. “And we are taking it day by day.”