One of the first things Jane Castor did after winning the race for Tampa Mayor Tuesday night was thanking her partner - Ana Cruz. But the fact that Castor is becoming the first openly gay mayor in Tampa's history didn't come up much during the campaign.
The lack of a spotlight on her orientation was not much of a surprise, said Joe Saunders, of the advocacy group Equality Florida. He said Tampa has a long history of inclusion and equality, including the banning of "conversion therapy" of gays and lesbians in 2017.
"Many people saw the diversity of experience that Jane brought into this race and into the mayor's office as a net positive. As something that will help to keep Tampa on track as a beacon of inclusion and diversity into the southern U.S.," he said.
Saunders said this is a growing trend across the country, including the election of the first gay mayor of Chicago just a few weeks ago.
"Lori Lightfoot in Chicago became the first LBGT mayor of the city of Chicago, and the first African-American woman to lead that city," he said. "So there is something special, I think, that is happening in cities across the country."
Saunders also said Castor's election invigorated the LGBT voter base. Equality Florida reached out to 30,000 city residents in their database, and he says many became actively engaged in the campaign.
"The way that our community engaged really mattered," he said. "And I think it has a lot to do with the margins in which Jane won. So I think it proves that we are a sophisticated, engaged voting bloc, and a part of the fabric of the democratic process in Tampa."
The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer civil rights organization — released a statement celebrating her victory.
“Today, Tampa voters made history by electing Jane Castor as the city’s first openly LGBTQ mayor,” the statement read. "We congratulate Jane Castor on her victory and look forward to working closely with her to ensure the city continues to move forward as an inclusive and welcoming place for everyone.”