Jane Castor, a retired police chief, was handily elected Tampa’s next mayor on Tuesday, becoming the city’s first openly gay leader.
Castor, 59, won more than 73% of the vote, according to unofficial results posted by Florida’s election board. Her opponent, multimillionaire businessman David Straz, garnered just under 27%.
“How exciting is this!” Castor told supporters in a victory speech on Tuesday evening.
During the event, Castor thanked her sons for their support during the seven-week runoff election and expressed gratitude for her “invincible” partner, Ana Cruz.
“I would not be standing here today if it were not for her,” Castor said of Cruz, a political consultant. “Everything that you have done has brought me to this point here. Mostly I thank you for your friendship, and I thank you for your love.”
Castor served in the Tampa Bay Police Department for more than 30 years and became the city’s first female and openly lesbian police chief in 2009. She told the Advocate in an interview this week that, although she didn’t want to make her sexual orientation a core component of her campaign, “There is a responsibility, and I fully understand that.”
“You want to be a role model for young people in the community,” she told the Advocate. “I want my tenure to be a statement that if you have the qualifications, work ethic and motivation, then you can do anything.”
Although the mayoral race is nonpartisan, both Castor and Straz identified as Democrats. On Tuesday night, Democratic and civil rights groups hailed the victory.
“[Castor’s] historic victory is a clear win for Tampa and cements her status as a rising star in the Democratic Party,” Florida Democrats wrote in a message posted to Twitter. “Her big victory is just the latest sign that Tampa has become a vibrant, welcoming city where everyone has a shot to succeed, no matter who you love.”
Castor was heavily outspent by Straz, who leveraged his $426 million fortune to partially self-fund his campaign. Financial disclosure forms show he spent nearly $5 million during the failed bid, much of it from his own pocket. He declined to appear at most debates and spent millions on negative campaign ads, the Tampa Bay Times noted.
Straz conceded shortly after results started to come in, however, saying he would support Castor when she eventually steps into the mayor’s office.
“If you want the best for Tampa, you want Jane Castor to succeed as mayor,” he said, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
She will replace outgoing Mayor Bob Buckhorn, a popular two-term leader who could not run again due to term limits. Buckhorn endorsed Castor earlier this month, calling it a “passing of the torch.”