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k’s ttle o o Ba B n Ro ghest Tou A Publication


Lobbying Avengers Foley & Lardner, Greenberg Traurig and the Rise of the Legal-Lobbying Firms

Meet the 2016 Rising Stars Lenny Curry: Florida Politician of the Year Winners + Losers From the Strangest Elections Ever Josh Cooper in the kitchen

Richard Corcoran shakes up the system

Rochelle Koff’s top dining trends

The Workers’ Comp food fight

CREATE A SAFER FLORIDA WITH THE COMBINED POWER OF P25 RADIO AND PUBLIC SAFETY LTE PUBLIC SAFETY BECOMES MORE OF A CHALLENGE ON A DAILY BASIS. Outside threats continue to evolve at an accelerated pace. Florida’s First Responders need new capabilities that will empower them to work cohesively, while giving them the ability to access and share information instantaneously.













Source: 1. Accenture Citizen Pulse Survey on Policing 2014 2. 3. 2014 Public Safety Industry Survey, Motorola Solutions


Just as the Project 25 (P25) Digital Radio is the indispensable voice and data network for mission critical communications, Public Safety LTE will be for broadband data and auxiliary voice. Both are critical components of next-generation policing technologies being developed in Plantation, Florida, and are powerful in their own right. But their true potential will be realized, when they converge.









THE IMPORTANCE OF CONVERGENCE Public safety agencies must continue to seek funding for Land Mobile Radio (LMR) systems, equipment, and enhancements in order to sustain and improve mission-critical voice communications among public safety responders. Without continued investment in LMR systems to sustain mission-critical voice communications, capabilities could be compromised during response operations. Source: Department of Homeland Security - LMR for Decision Makers


MOTOROLA’S MISSION CRITICAL VOICE COMMUNICATIONS THE POWERFUL PLATFORM THAT WILL FUEL AND SUPPORT PUBLIC SAFETY LTE. For more information about Motorola’s Convergence Suite, visit us at: MOTOROLA, MOTO, MOTOROLA SOLUTIONS and the Stylized M Logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of Motorola Trademark Holdings, LLC and are used under license. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners. © 2016 Motorola Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved.


@ SaintPetersBlog

A Paean to the Superheroes of The Process


es, we did it. Yes, we based the cover of this quarter’s INFLUENCE Magazine on the poster from a comic book movie, “Captain America: Civil War.” Because why can’t lobbyists be superheroes? Actually, the perception lately of lobbyists seems to be anything BUT super. Upon taking the gavel of the Florida House, Speaker Richard Corcoran promulgated new rules designed to rein in the power of the influence industry. To extend the superhero metaphor, it’s as if Corcoran is serving up a healthy dose of Kryptonite to Florida lobbyists. But will the new rules have the impact Corcoran — whose brother Michael is a lobbyist and actually was in the very first edition of INFLUENCE Magazine — seeks? Our Jim Rosica explores the issue beginning on page 82. Whatever impact Speaker Corcoran’s new rules have on The Process, the consensus among many of the most successful lobbyists is that they will quickly abide by and adapt to the changes. In fact, INFLUENCE Magazine’s 2015 Lobbying Firm of the Year — Capital City Consulting —was the first to register with the House under the new guidelines. Also ready to embrace the new day: Ron Book, perhaps the most well-known

lobbyist walking Florida’s halls of power. In an in-depth interview, Book talks about the privilege of working in the people’s Capitol, while also opening up about the toughest battle he’s had to face — his fight against prostate cancer. It’s simply mustread stuff. Anchoring this edition of INFLUENCE are two major features. The first is a look at the re-emergence of the legal-lobbying firms, like Foley & Lardner and Greenberg Traurig. If the last decade saw the decline of the one-man (or woman) shops and the rise of the networked mega-firms, the end of this decade is seeing this other trend, where major legal firms are also major players in the governmental affairs industry. For the first time in some time, one of these firms (GT) is in the Top 5 for compensation, while several other law firms, like GrayRobinson and Gunster, are seeing increased revenues. The second big feature in this edition is the debut of the 2016 class of Rising Stars in the governmental affairs industry. One thing we’ve prided ourselves on is identifying early on the fresh faces to watch … people like Katie Ballard and Sydney Ridley, who we took notice of quickly and are now watching as they bloom into power players.

Do yourself a favor and get to know the 2016 class. These are the men and women who could be your next big hire — or competition. A housekeeping note: Instead of publishing the INFLUENCE 100 every year, we’ve decided to alternate it with the list of Rising Stars. The truth is, the INFLUENCE 100 ebbs and flows with the election cycle and there’s just not enough movement within a year to publish it annually. So, for those looking to see who made that list — or are angling to get on it — you have 12 more months. All of this leads me to say goodbye to 2016, a truly annus horribilis, although not entirely so for the influence industry. It seems even in difficult years, the governmental affairs business prospers. Perhaps this says something about the essential nature of the work done by those in “The Process.”

Peter Schorsch Publisher

PHOTO: Via Marvel





Peter Schorsch Phil Ammann




CONTRIBUTORS Blake Dowling Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster A.G. Gancarski Tisha Keller Rochelle Koff



Benjamin Todd Mary Beth Tyson


Harold Hedrick


Rosanne Dunkelberger Tisha Keller Rich Bard

Michael Moline Mitch Perry Scott Powers Jim Rosica

Fred Piccolo

Thomas Kiernan

SUBSCRIPTIONS One year (4 issues) is $25. Subscribe at

INFLUENCE Magazine is published quarterly by Florida Politics, LLC, a subsidiary of Extensive Enterprises Media, LLC. 204 37th Avenue North, St. Petersburg, Florida 33704. INFLUENCE Magazine and Extensive Enterprises Media are not responsible for unsolicited manuscripts, photography or artwork. Editorial contributions are welcomed and encouraged, but will not be returned. INFLUENCE Magazine reserves the right to publish any letters to the editor. Copyright December 2016, Extensive Enterprises, LLC. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is prohibited.


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Over the past year, the folks who bring you INFLUENCE Magazine have been VERY good. Here’s what they’re asking for this Christmas.

Santa, are you listening? Mitch Perry

Two tickets to the Golden State Warriors game against the Orlando Magic in January.

Blake Dowling

A safer world for us all to live in, and an iPad Pro.

Jim Rosica

For my 5-month-old daughter to sleep through the night. Sleep, baby. Shhhh.

Scott Powers

A ‘71 Plymouth Road Runner with the 440-big block, Mag wheels, and shifter on the floor. Yellow, please.

A.G. Gancarski

For 2017 to be as interesting as 2016 has been.

Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster A hippopotamus.


Mark Wallheiser

Peace on earth, goodwill toward men … or the correct six numbers for the lottery. They both have the same odds.

Noreen Fenner

Snow in Tallahassee, but ONLY for Christmas day.

Rochelle Koff An end to hunger.

Mary Beth Tyson

Donald Trump’s password to Twitter.

Tisha Keller

An extra week of Christmas break.

Rosanne Dunkelberger

A housekeeper/chef/personal assistant/masseuse/therapist. In other words, a wife.


L I B E RT Y PA RT N E R S of Tallahassee, LLC

Jennifer J. Green, CAE, DPL President

Melanie S. Bostick, DPL Vice President

Timothy “Tim” Parson, DPL

Director of Government Relations



(850) 841-1726 |



PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson


104 Meet INFLUENCE’s Rising Stars They may be new to The Process, but these 22 young professionals are on the fast track to stratospheric success. BY JENNA BUZZACCO-FOERSTER

82 Superfirms

121 Winners and Losers

Look, up in Tallahassee! It’s a law firm! It’s a lobby shop! More and more, hybrid firms are doing both, with great results for their clients. BY JIM ROSICA

In a wild and crazy election cycle, INFLUENCE sorts out the victors from the vanquished. PLUS, a graphic look at the members of the Florida House Class of 2016. BY PETER SCHORSCH

92 Supreme Disappointment Florida’s business interests grapple with worker’s compensation premium increases after a pair of high court rulings favor injured workers. BY MICHAEL MOLINE

124 2016’s Politician of the Year Jacksonville’s Lenny Curry tackles big issues and wins big in the start of his mayoral term. PLUS, Peter Schorsch takes a look at other pols who had a pretty good year, too. BY A.G. GANCARSKI

143 In Defense of Lobbyists Justin Day shares his legacy in politics and why he thinks advocates are getting a bum rap. BY MITCH PERRY

142 What I’ve Learned with Ron Book If you want to achieve like one of Florida’s most successful lobbyists, you’ve got to act like him. And it starts with wearing a tie. BY JIM ROSICA







17 75

Political Aficionado’s Guide Last-minute stocking stuffers, Sally Bradshaw’s new independent bookstore, the presidential campaign’s best TV moments, and why TV and movie production is deserting the Sunshine State.


75 Plug In and Recharge NOREEN FENNER wonders, the 2016 election is over. Now what?

What We Ate

ROCHELLE KOFF lists 2016’s top food trends. PLUS, political consultant Josh Cooper shares tips for a show-stopping dinner featuring Beef Wellington.


Insider’s Advice

Fourth Floor Files

Top lobbyists answer questions both serious and slightly silly.


77 Polls Post Mortem STEVE VANCORE explains how pollsters got the presidential election wrong, but not that wrong.

On the Move Briefings from the Rotunda


79 Merry Tech-Mas

Social Scene


BLAKE DOWLING curates a list of holiday gifts sure to please the gadget lover in your life.

The Big Question 144

PHOTOS: Via NASA (Orion); Fred Piccolo (House); Benjamin Todd (Skyer);


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the Political BEST STUFF



Aficionado’s  Guide to ... |






Bipartisan Swag Whether you’re still depressed — or still elated — about the 2016 elections, these swanky gifts will lighten any mood. BY TISHA CREWS KELLER

Bipartisan Handshakes


What the world needs now is some bipartisanship and we’re sure politicos feel the same! has Republican, Democrat and bipartisan cufflinks at a couple of price points, but this pair is definitely our favorite. Show your patriotic stars and stripes with one donkey and one elephant in this mixed pair of sleek Stainless Steel Bipartisan Cufflinks by Ox and Bull Trading Co. Approximately 3/4" x 3/4", stainless steel and enamel with swivel back closure. $105;


LOST ART Punkpost is a service that lets you send beautifully handwritten cards from your phone. You decide what encouraging, inspiring or funny words you would like sent, and expert Scriptists will beautifully transcribe your words into a hand letterpress card, artistically decorate an envelope, and put it in the mail. First card is free, after that they are $6;

HAUTE NOSH Delicious, handmade cookies delivered to your doorstep each month. Talk about the perfect gift that keeps on giving and that no one will want to return! With the gift of The Noshy Box, your friends and family will get a tin of fresh cookies for 3, 6 or 12 months

PARTY ON! IN STYLE Perfect for a Bloody Mary, a Tom Collins, or anything else you’re thirsty for, these cocktail glasses call for raising a toast to America every single time. Available in your choice of Republican elephant, Democrat donkey — or both — this highball glass is ready to cross party lines. $25; 18 | INFLUENCE WINTER 2016

VEGGIE LOVER Lucky Iron Fish is a carefully formulated and tested cast-iron fish that gives an entire family up to 90 percent of the amount of iron they need daily. Simply boil rice, stews, broths and other liquid-based meals with the Fish for ten minutes, adding a few drops of citrus. The Buy 1 Give 1 program matches your purchase with a donation to a family in need. $25;

PHOTOS:; Punkpost; Common Ground; ThinOPTICS;; Lucy Iron Fish; Frywall; Get Noshy; zer0s

POLITICAL UPCYCLE zerOz wallets are super thin, handcrafted wallets from the middle of the political firestorm of Ohio. This is a very special collection of custom wallets made from recycled yard signs that survived the months of storm. $45;

SIGHT SAVER These state-of-the-art stemless readers are incredibly thin, remarkably durable and conveniently compact, which makes them perfect for anyone who’s ever asked “where are my reading glasses?!” Whether you stash them in your pocket, suitcase, briefcase or on your keyring, these readers are nearly indestructible with their bulletproof-strong polycarbonate lenses and ultra-flexible nosepiece. Starting at $19.95;

ECO-INDULGENCE Light as a feather and just as soft, Zink’s 100 percent fine cotton “plant cashmere” wraps are the ultimate in effortless sophistication. Dyed by hand in an assortment of tones that range from jeweled to earthen, these wraps can be tossed into your carry-on bag for a last-minute flight. Versatile, luxurious, and vegan, this wrap takes the timeless accessory to another level. $48;

SPATTER-LESS Wiping spills and oil splatter might be the most tiresome part of making food, and until now there hadn’t been a good solution for it. Frywall keeps the sizzle in the pan and the mess off your stovetop. $21.95;

COLOR ME PRETTY Inspired by the Adult Coloring Books trend, Haute Art set out to create a celebrity-worthy DIY color-your-own home décor accent pillow cover. Available in 10 fine art designs so that anyone young or old can enjoy the post-election de-stress. $29.95;

STAND DOWN Each pair of Common Ground shoes uses two unique designs to highlight the different viewpoints about important social issues. The shoes are available in a host of different colors and four social issues: Gender Equality, Gun Violence, Immigration and Marriage Equality, as well as Progress (solid colors). $70;

WE DECIDE These handy, removable — and interesting — phone stickers discreetly cover the camera on your device to keep spying eyes at bay. Perfect for kids and businesspeople alike. $14.95 or 2/$20;


CARRY CHANGE Cotopaxi Nazca 24L Travel Pack is a suitcase-style travel backpack that stores a laptop, change of clothes, and other essentials — perfect for overnight trips, quick getaways, and carry-on convenience. Tuck-away backpack straps and a removable sling strap allow carrying versatility, and a zippered front pocket with fleece lining to keep your electronics or sunglasses scratch-free. Cotopaxi is a new outdoors gear company and benefit corporation that creates innovative outdoor products and experiences that fund sustainable poverty alleviation, move people to do good, and inspire adventure. $139; SWEET SURPRISE As delicious as it is stylish, this pure maple sugar cube is the preferred option for adding a touch of sweetness to your favorite snack. A perfect cube that can be used to sprinkle some shavings over the top of oatmeal, fruit, or ice cream for a sweet, delicate twist. 7oz. Available in Golden Delicate (buttery maple flavor) or Dark Robust (intense maple flavor). $16.99;

WAXING POETIC Politicos are often debating/defending their viewpoints while listening to others do the same. But how to identify good points from bad? Enter Ali Almossawi’s engaging and entertaining book. Here are cogent explanations of the straw man fallacy, the slippery slope argument, the ad hominem attack, and other common attempts at reasoning that actually fall short — plus a beautifully drawn menagerie of animals who (adorably) commit every logical faux pas. $14.95;


PHOTOS: Carey Nershi (Maple Cube); Cotopaxi; Elderflower Farmacy; The Experiment Publishing

HEARTS ON FIRE Peace is the first candle of its kind to use honey, natural fragrance, and essential oils to lift spirits and unite communities — and calm nerves. Blended using the world’s finest essential oils and absolutes, every candle gives light to a child in a developing country by sending that child to school. 100 percent soy wax and beeswax blend, paraffin and lead-free, fine essential oils and fragrance, cotton wick, free of dyes. Hand-poured in Austin. $16;



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of small businesses are not familiar with IT needs.3

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Isn’t it time for IT? 1-855-339-5319

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PHOTO: Mark Wallheiser Photography

SALLY BRADSHAW turns a new page after a hectic life in politics as the proprietor of Midtown Reader, a new independent bookstore in Tallahassee.

the Political

Aficionado’s  Guide to ... GOOD READS

For the Love of Books Sally Bradshaw opens a Tallahassee haven for reading … and thinking BY JENNA BUZZACCO-FOERSTER


ally Bradshaw has always been a book lover. Growing up, she spent her weekends browsing the shelves of bookstores in her Mississippi hometown. She even considered opening her own bookstore over the years, but politics — and her life and career in the thick of it — always seemed to get in the way. All that changed in 2016. With another campaign in her rearview mirror, Bradshaw decided to take a break from politics and dive headfirst into the literary world. In November, she opened Midtown Reader, a cozy shop in the heart of Midtown Tallahassee. “My hope is we really provide a safe haven for critical thinking,” said the Havana resident and top advisor to former Gov. Jeb Bush in an interview earlier this year. “I think independent bookstores are places where people can read and think before they speak, where book lovers can gather and celebrate the power of reading and learning.” While Midtown Reader is a general-interest bookstore, Bradshaw has stocked the shelves with Florida authors and books about the Sunshine State. In fact, the first in-store event featured an appearance by the crown prince of weird Florida: Craig Pittman, author of “Oh, Florida!: How America’s Weirdest State Influences the Rest of the Country.” About a third of the store is dedicated to books for children — from baby books to young adult — to encourage the next generation of readers. But what would a bookstore in the heart of the capital city be without a robust selection of political and historical books? Have no fear, Bradshaw has you covered. The store opened just one week before Election Day, and Bradshaw said she knew she had to have a display featuring books geared toward the election. Rather than curate the display herself, she reached out to her vast network of contacts and asked them to recommend a few books to help readers survive the 2016 election and beyond. What she got was a mix of serious and fun, and a few cocktail and cookbooks thrown in to be safe. “Everyone was incredibly generous,” she said. “Books are something that seem to bring everyone together.” >>

Want to be in the know? Here’s a look at some of the books suggested by the “Friends of Midtown Reader:” “What it Takes” by Richard Ben Cramer Recommended by Gloria Borger, CNN chief political analyst. Why she recommended it: “A reminder of days gone by …” 26 | INFLUENCE WINTER 2016

“Tequila Mockingbird” by Tim Federle Recommended by Brandi Brown, former director of scheduling and events for Jeb Bush for President. Why she recommended it: “Because we’re going to need cocktails ...”

“Presidential Command” by Peter W. Rodman Recommended by Jeb Bush Jr.

“Thirty Tomorrows: The Next Three Decades of Globalization, Demographics and How We Will Live” by Milton Ezrati Recommended by David Johnson, former executive director of the Republican Party of Florida. Why he recommended it: “This guide to the future says the Fountain of Youth will be in India, China, and Brazil. The Fountain of Geritol? Europe, Japan, and North America.”

PHOTOS: Mark Wallheiser Photography and courtesy individual publishers



“The Pioneer Woman Cooks” by Ree Drummond Recommended by Neil Newhouse, partner at Public Opinion Strategies in Alexandria, Virginia. Why he recommended it: “Because we’re going to need comfort food …”

“A Moveable Feast” by Ernest Hemingway Recommended by Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. Why he recommended it: “This underrated classic is a man’s man guide to being the consummate expat. The semi-autobiography of Hemingway and his running buddies is a buffet of wine, women, and song based in Paris…. It strikes me as the perfect book for all those who said, “if (insert Hillary/Donald) manages to win this thing, I’m leaving the country”. If you’re going to the effort, do it like Papa, Hadley, F. Scott, and Zelda did ...”

“Alexander Hamilton” by Ron Chernow

And here’s a few more books you can pick up at Midtown Reader: “100 Skills You’ll Need for the End of the World,” by Ana Maria Spagna and Brian Cronin “The Old Farmer’s Almanac Comfort Food,” by Ken Haedrich “The Essential New York Times Book of Cocktails,” by Steve Reddicliffe “The Foxfire Book: Hog Dressing, Log Cabin Making, Mountain Crafts and Foods, Planting by the Signs, Snake Lore, Hunting Tales, Faith Healing,” by Eliot Wigginton “The Road to Character,” by David Brooks “Tweeter’s Composition Notebook: Think Before You Tweet,” by Potter Style “The Year of Voting Dangerously,” by Maureen Dowd

Recommended by Screven Watson, former executive director of the Florida Democratic Party. Why he recommended it: “To remind us that cutthroat negative campaigning is nothing new…”

“Abraham Lincoln” by Lord Charnwood Inside Midtown Reader

“The Righteous Mind” by Jonathan Haidt Recommended by Liz Joyner, executive director of The Village Square. Why she recommended it: “Turns out human nature + our increasingly siloed society combine predictably to create the mess we found ourselves in this election season. If we’re going to sleuth our way out, Jonathan Haidt’s (book) is as good a road map as exists. Along the way, you might just find yourself liking ‘them’ a little more than you thought you did.”

Recommended by Pete Wehner, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. Why he recommended it: “Published in 1916, this remains the best biography of America’s greatest President. A statesman of the highest order, Lincoln dedicated his life to justice, embodied grace, and helped reconcile a riven nation. He personified the qualities we hope to find in a president.”

“How to Move to Canada: A Primer for Americans” by Therese Loeb Kreuzer Recommended by Matt Williams, partner at Creative Direct, a national political direct mail firm in Richmond, Virginia. Why he recommended it: “Does this really need an explanation?” WINTER 2016 INFLUENCE | 27

Private companies such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX are leasing old facilities at Cape Canaveral to launch their commercial spaceflight endeavors.


the Political

Aficionado’s  Guide to ... T E C H N O LO G Y

Space Coast Relaunch Commercial industries migrate to the place where spaceflight began BY SCOTT POWERS

PHOTO: Courtesy NASA


lorida’s ambitious dream to be the world leader in space industry begins with a cold, hard fact that would surprise most Floridians. Florida has never really had much space industry, just America’s launch site. Like all government-financed industries, America’s space business over its first half-century went where power was centered: the states and districts of leaders of key congressional committees. Space vehicle and components factories, and their jobs, gravitated to states like Alabama, Texas, California, Virginia, and Maryland. The smaller, supply-chain companies and technology consulting firms followed. Local universities hired their retirees and started major space science and technology research programs. Before long, those were the states defining the space industry, and they had the jobs. Sure, the rocket launches mostly came to Cape Canaveral, Florida. But that was like Hollywood making the movies, and then holding their big premieres in New York City. “The history here has always been largely federal, and largely launch,” said Frank DiBello, president and CEO of Space Florida, the state’s chartered company tasked with bringing space industry to Florida. Today, the business is rapidly evolving. Now a spunky, entrepreneurial industry — where it seems anyone with a few billion dollars can start a space company — is emerging. SpaceX Founder Elon Musk has spent hundreds of millions of dollars leasing and redeveloping old launch complexes at Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station to create 21st-century launching and landing platforms. Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos is building a rocket factory at SpaceFlorida’s Exploration Park, just outside the launch centers’ gates, and is redeveloping his own launch site at an old launch complex. OneWeb Satellites founder Greg Wyler, backed by Airbus, is set to begin construction on a satellite factory across the street. Old-guard companies Lockheed Martin and Boeing are assembling spacecraft at Kennedy Space Center. SpaceFlorida leased the old shuttle landing facility at Kennedy, intending to turn it into a multi-use, three-mile-long runway for an industrial park. And notwithstanding delays caused by industry “anomalies” (usually rockets that blow up), Kennedy and the adjacent Cape Canaveral are hosting more rocket launches now than ever. Rockets are blasting off one or two a month now, and that pace is only expected to increase over the next several years. >>


None of it might have happened were it not for a tragedy that led to an economic calamity. After the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated over Texas killing its seven astronauts in 2003, the accident investigation reached a conclusion everyone knew was coming: the program, the orbiters, and their technologies were approaching dangerous obsolescence. Congress pulled the plug, and NASA accepted the fate. As the program wound down over the next eight years, as many as 10,000 space shuttle jobs drained away from Florida. Worse, it was clear: there would never be another NASA program like it. Ever. The gravy days of launch-support operations appeared to be over. NASA, too, had a problem. Billions of dollars worth of Kennedy Space Center assets were headed into mothballs, and prospects were bleak that future government space programs would need much of them ever again. “Following the retirement of the shuttle we set a goal to diversify the industry,” DiBello said. “Essentially, the industry was so severely impacted by yet another cancellation of a large federal program. We suffered several times in our history, especially in the Space Coast area. We had to diversify.” That meant space business couldn’t be just about launching. NASA, never previously known for flexibility, decided to play along. Under Administrator Charlie Bolden and Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana, NASA agreed to turn Kennedy into a public-private space industry center. Almost anything was available. Using Space Florida’s expanded corporate powers to offer complex financial deals that include state and local incentive money and creative banking, NASA’s willingness to lease out Kennedy facilities, and the aggressive outreach of the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast, they’ve managed to start building a new space industry. Lockheed Martin and Boeing agreed to assemble spacecraft at Kennedy. Musk, Bezos, Wyler, and the others brought in new operations. A handful of small, start-up space companies began appearing on the coast, in Orlando, and elsewhere in Florida. “We are no longer just launching rockets,” DiBello said. “Now we are building the rockets that we launch.” Yet those businesses are adding jobs by the dozens, or the hundreds, while the retirement of the space shuttle took them away by the many thousands. There still are long stretches of boarded-up old space facilities, not to mention the houses, shops, and restaurants that served them, up and down Florida’s Space Coast. There still are many former Florida space workers now living in California or Virginia, or, still in Brevard


PHOTOS: Via Blue Origin; Scott Powers (Weatherman and DiBellow); Lockheed Martin

Clockwise from top left: Jeff Bezos of Amazon fame founded the “New Space” company Blue Origin, which has manufacturing facilities in the area. Avid advocates for encouraging space-related industries in the region are Lynda Weatherman of the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast and Frank DiBello of Space Florida. Lockheed Martin will be assembling and testing NASA’s next-generation Orion spacecraft at Kennedy Space Center.

County, flipping burgers. And Florida still may have too many competitive disadvantages, critics point out. “It’s an optical illusion,” Mark Soskin, a University of Central Florida associate professor of economics who studies the space industry, said of Florida’s prospects to win the big space industry opportunities. First, the space industry is well entrenched where it’s already at, he said. Legacy companies like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Orbital-ATK, or Aerojet Rocketdyne aren’t moving their engineering, technology, or big factories to Florida, let alone their headquarters. Nor are the “New Space” companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin, Sierra Nevada, or Bigelow Aerospace. Typically, those companies’ principal centers are surrounded by top research universities with ready pools of the best and brightest. Such companies, he argued, give heavy measure to quality of life matters like excellent public school systems, and tax-supported government services, yet Florida remains mired in the bottom of such rankings. Technology companies want to be in savvy communities. “Florida is not just a low-wage state, it has a labor force which is extremely uneducated,” Soskin said. “There’s not enough money in the world to bribe a business to relocate; there is no business relocation.” Florida’s space industry advocates don’t deny the disadvantages, but insist time will see emerging improvements. They see the biggest challenge as preparing for, finding, and going after the new-facility opportunities when they do arise. The industry is evolving. More will come the way of Blue Origin. “No. 1, there was something to go after,” said Lynda Weatherman, president and CEO of the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast. “If you don’t have an industry that’s growing, that’s looking for a site to do work, you can have all the great tools, but you have nothing to capture.”

For them, Cape Canaveral, Space Florida, the EDC, and Kennedy are finding they have something to offer that no other place can match. The history. The allure. The legendary images of John Glenn awkwardly climbing aboard Friendship 7; Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins blasting off to another heavenly body in Apollo 11; or John Young coming down the space shuttle stairs onto the Kennedy Space Center landing strip after commanding Columbia through that program’s gloriously promising maiden mission. Giants walked their red carpets here. At a recent event announcing that the Swiss company RUAG Space would set up shop at Cape Canaveral to build satellite parts, that company’s officials had the same little-kids’ glints in their eyes that Musk, Bezos, and Wyler had shown in previous visits. “This is the birthplace of human spaceflight,” RUAG senior vice president Holger Wentscher said. “This is the area you think about when you think about spaceflight in general. To be here, to be part of that … it’s really so amazing.” The RUAG deal signals a next phase, which is attracting the supply-line companies that provide components, materials, fuels, and ancillary technologies to serve the spacecraft and rocket companies, DiBello said. Next would be adding software and digital technologies for the space industry, something already centered in Orlando, with the national Research Center for Modeling and Simulation. Florida’s first victory set the precedents that have evolved into the blueprint for Florida’s solicitation of space business. In 2006 Space Florida, Lockheed Martin, and NASA struck a three-way deal that had the Florida agency lease the part of the Operations and Checkout Building at Kennedy, and then sublease it to Lockheed Martin. Florida provided $35 million for Lockheed Martin to transform the building into a factory, to assemble and test the Orion capsule, the next-generation spacecraft being developed as NASA’s deep-space vehicle. NASA got its first KSC commercial tenant for the post-shuttle era. Florida got the jobs. Lockheed Martin got an assembly site that eliminated the costly and risky transportation of large, expensive, critical spacecraft from some other state to the cape. And more. “You cannot hire people off the street anywhere in the country that have the skills that we need to build Orion,” said Jules Schneider, Lockheed Martin Operations senior manager for Orion at Kennedy. “But the people here, due to the fact of the shuttle processing, and all the other spacecraft here, have those skills.”


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the Political

Aficionado’s  Guide to ... PRIME TIME

Despite the crowded stage, now-President-elect Donald Trump managed to stand out and create controversy during the first Republican Debate in August 2015.

Political Reality TV From debates to conventions to the election night shocker, the presidential campaign was appointment watching in 2016 BY MITCH PERRY It was one of the all-time unique political years ever, mostly because of the phenomenon known as Donald J. Trump. His presence alone made the 2016 election campaign Must See TV. Here’s a subjective list of some of our favorite TV moments of the campaign that wouldn’t end.



Cleveland, Ohio > 8/06/15 This debate generated monster ratings for Fox, with a record 24 million viewers, nearly eight times larger than Fox’s audience for the first GOP primary debate four years earlier. The debate will be remembered for two classic exchanges the Fox moderators had with Trump. The first demonstrated (if someone still wasn’t clear) that like Frank Sinatra, Trump would do it his way. Brett Baier asked if

anyone on stage was unwilling to pledge their support for the eventual GOP nominee, or not commit to running as an independent against the nominee. Clearly not concerned with the sort of peer pressure that those questions always seem to pose, Trump raised his hand. “To be clear,” Baier intoned. “I fully understand,” Trump said, cutting him off. The second explosive exchange came about 10 minutes into the contest, when Megyn Kelly brought up a series of insults

Trump had said about women over the years. “Only about Rosie O’Donnell,” Trump suggested. “It was well beyond Rosie O’Donnell,” Kelly said intently. “Your Twitter account has several disparaging comments about women’s looks. You once told a contestant on ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ it would be a pretty picture to see her on her knees. Does that sound to you like the temperament of a man we should elect as president?” Kelly asked Trump. Trump responded by saying he wasn’t politically correct. >>


Scene from the GOP debate (left) in New Hampshire, and (right) Laura Ingraham delivers a stem-winder at the Republican National Convention.

Manchester, New Hampshire > 2/07/16 This debate will forever be remembered by those who care as Chris Christie’s finest hour in an otherwise desultory campaign. The New Jersey governor and former federal prosecutor was relentless in attempting to expose Marco Rubio as someone who delivers a great speech but never made a consequential decision as a U.S. senator. “Marco, the thing is this,” Christie said at the ABC debate at St. Anselm’s College. “When you’re president of the United States, when you’re a governor of a state, the memorized 30-second speech where you talk about how great America is at the end of it doesn’t solve one problem for one person,” Christie said. Christie also slammed Rubio’s poor attendance record in the Senate. “That’s not leadership, that’s truancy,” Christie sneered. Rubio countered by blasting Christie for having been forced to leave the campaign trail to deal with a major snowstorm that hit New Jersey. And then he went back into talking about how Barack Obama “knows exactly what he’s doing.” “There it is. There it is. The memorized 25-second speech. There it is, everybody,” Christie charged. It was labeled at the time as a defining moment for Rubio, and not a good one. But the Florida senator ultimately stayed in the race longer than Christie did before ultimately bowing out after being trounced by Trump after the Florida primary in March.


LAURA INGRAHAM SPEECH AT THE REPUBLICAN NATIONAL CONVENTION > Cleveland, Ohio > 7/20/16 The RNC had been a relatively low-key event for the first two nights, but the darling of conservative talk radio blew off the roof of the Quicken Loans Arena during her 8 p.m. speech on Wednesday. It was classic red meat, and the crowd ate it up. Speaking of the Democratic nominee, Ingraham said with expert timing, “She believes that there’s a government solution to every problem. No, Hillary, you’re the problem! She chastised Republicans with the #NeverTrump movement.

“Even you boys with wounded feelings and bruised egos, and we love you, but you must honor your pledge to support Donald Trump now. Tonight! Tonight!” And she captured the alienation with the national press felt strongly by Trump supporters. “To my friends in the press, hello! You all know why in your heart Donald Trump won the Republican nomination. You know it. You know why he won it, because he dared to call out the phony, the frauds, and the corruption that has gone unexposed and uncovered for too long. “Do your job!”

TED CRUZ GETTING JEERED AT THE RNC > 7/20/16 The way the Republican primary campaign season unfolded, the only candidate who appeared to have a chance of knocking out Trump was Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. The two became bitter rivals, with Trump at one point accusing Cruz’s father of being involved in the assassination of President Kennedy. The two met in Washington D.C. in early July to announce Cruz would be getting a speaking spot at the RNC, but no official endorsement was attached to that statement. Still, most thought that’s what Cruz would do when he took his spot on the primetime stage on the Wednesday night of the convention. But that’s not what happened. After bashing Hillary Clinton and celebrating the Brexit vote by the UK to exit from the European Union for over 20 minutes, it then became clear Cruz wasn’t going to be endorsing the GOP nominee. “Please don’t stay home in November,” Cruz said. “Stand and speak, and vote your conscience, vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend our freedom and to be faithful to the Constitution.” And then the boos began crashing down on him. “I appreciate the enthusiasm of the New York delegation,” Cruz said, trying to shake off the humiliation. Of course, all was forgotten a few months later, and as this story went to press, Cruz was said to be in the mix as a possible Trump appointee to the U.S. Supreme Court.

PHOTOS: Via (top) and (bottom)


Gold star parent and Muslim Khizr Kahn (left) would present one of the most powerful speeches at the Democratic National Convention, while Ted Cruz’s non-endorsement (right) elicited boos at the RNC.

PHOTOS: Via (top left); (top right this page);

KHIZR KHAN SPEECH AT THE DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CONVENTION > Philadelphia, Pennsylvania > 7/28/16 There were several outstanding speeches given during the Democrats’ four-day convention, which was a much better show that what the Republicans had put on a week earlier. Michelle Obama, Joe Biden, and Michael Bloomberg all gave memorable speeches, but the single most explosive moment occurred when Khizr and Ghazala Khan came to the stage on the convention’s final night. The couple had been invited by the Clinton campaign to speak about their late son, Humayun Khan, a soldier who died in combat in Iraq in 2004. He also happened to be Muslim. Trump’s statement in December of 2015 calling for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the U.S. was a statement that continues to this day to be amongst the most controversial of his time as a candidate. He’s since slightly pulled back from that exact sentiment, but its potential ramifications still resonate.

BRIANNA KEILAR AND MICHAEL COHEN ON CNN > 8/17/16 At the time it was seen as a case of how befuddled the Trump campaign was and, in retrospect, well, who won the election? CNN’s Brianna Keilar was interviewing Michael Cohen, executive vice president of the Trump Organization and a special counsel to Trump, about the campaign shakeup that resulted in the hiring of Kellyanne Conway and Steve Bannon to the Trump team.

Keiler told Cohen that, “You say it’s not a shakeup, but you guys are down.” That’s where it got a bit weird. Cohen: Says who? Keilar: Polls. Most of them. All of them? Cohen: Says who? Keilar: Polls, I just told you. I answered your question. Cohen: OK. Which polls? Keilar: All of them. Cohen: OK, and your question is? >>

“Donald Trump, you are asking Americans to trust you with their future. Let me ask you: Have you even read the United States Constitution?” Reaching slowly into his jacket, Khan then removed a small booklet and held it aloft, saying, “I will gladly lend you

my copy.”

It was a “who’s on first?” moment between CNN’s Brianna Keilar and Trump operative Michael Cohen.


Cohen had the last laugh Nov. 9. He later told The Washington Post, “I believe the polls were off once he became the nominee,” adding that “there was a concerted effort by the liberal mainstream media to disparage Mr. Trump at every turn. Despite their attempts, the American people saw through their ploy and elected the person that they knew would put America first.”

HILLARY CLINTON AT 9/11 MEMORIAL > New York City > 9/11/16

The Zapruder film moment of the 2016 campaign: When video of Mrs. Clinton appearing to collapse before entering a car, it confirmed the wild remarks made by Rudy Giuliani, Matt Drudge, and others in conservative media that Hillary was hiding an illness from us all. It was later revealed to be nothing more significant than a case of pneumonia, and she was ordered off the campaign trail for a few days. But cable went wild in replaying this on the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attacks.




Although seemingly few Democratic leaders came out of their debacle of an election with their reputations enhanced, the one exception to that was First Lady Michelle Obama. Her statement at the DNC that “when they go low, we go high,” was adopted by Hillary Clinton and other Democrats when the tough got going. But six days after the Access Hollywood tape dropped, Mrs. Obama took to the stage to address Trump, without ever mentioning his name. “I can’t stop thinking about this,” she began, almost on the verge of tears. “It has shaken me to my core in a way that I couldn’t have predicted.” She went on to describe what it’s like to

PHOTOS: (top to bottom);; Sydsvenskan.

Top to bottom: Hillary Clinton’s collapse at the 9/11 Memorial caused widespread theories about her health. A hotmic captured “locker room talk” between Donald Trump and Billy Bush, which prompted a moving speech by first lady Michelle Obama.

Of all the self-inflicted errors or revelations that were part of the Trump campaign, none seemed more damaging than the Washington Post’s scoop that went up on their website at approximately 4 p.m. on a Friday. The blockbuster story revealed Trump could be heard on a videotape from 2005 bragging about groping, kissing, and trying to have sex with women to Access Hollywood’s Billy Bush. The video was then shown nonstop all over the airwaves for that entire weekend. The new week, Trump began getting hit with an onslaught of allegations of sexual misconduct — 12 in all. He threatened to sue them after the election, but as of press time, he seemed to be concerned with more pressing affairs.


In the wee hours of Nov. 9, Donald Trump addresses the nation after his surprising victory in the presidential race.

be walking down the street when “some guy yells out vulgar words about your body.” “Or when you see that guy at work that stands just a little too close, stares a little too long, and makes you feel uncomfortable in your own skin. It’s a feeling of terror and violation that too many women have felt when someone has grabbed them, or forced himself on them and they’ve said no but he didn’t listen — something that we know happens on college campuses and countless other places every single day. “


11/8-9/16 It was a long night that ended much differently than was the sentiment when the networks went live at 7 p.m. Eastern time. “Don’t forget to enjoy the moment, whatever it is,” MSNBC’s Chuck Todd told Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, in what seemed like a consolation sendoff.

But as the night went on, the “Blue Wall” that was the Rust Belt states began to peel away from Clinton and over to Trump, and it was slowly becoming apparent an epic upset was very possible. At about 9:15 p.m. on Fox, as the returns from Florida appear to be going towards Trump, Megyn Kelly said, “This race could be turning right now.” She’s followed by Karl Rove saying, “My gut tells me that it might be him.” Early into the next morning, with the results not called but the election clearly going to Trump, CNN’s Van Jones laments, “This was a whitelash against a country. A whitelash against a black president.” At 2 a.m. on Election Night, Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta told well-wishers at the Javits Center in Manhattan it was time to go home. “Several states are too close to call,” he told the already grief-stricken audience, “so

we’re not going to have anything more to say tonight. So, listen, listen to me. Everybody should head home. You should get some sleep. We’ll have more to say tomorrow.” “It really is like covering a wake,” said a reporter from ABC. Shortly afterward, Hillary Clinton called Donald Trump to concede the election. At 2:49 a.m. from Trump Tower, the impossible had become reality, as Donald Trump took to the microphone, with Mike Pence to his right and his 10-year-old son Barron in the picture frame on the left. “Working together, we will begin the urgent task of rebuilding our nation and renewing the American dream. I’ve spent my entire life and business looking at the untapped potential in projects and in people all over the world. That is now what I want to do for our country,” he said. And it was all over.

WINTER 2016 INFLUENCE | 37 | 200 West College Avenue, Suite 210 | Tallahassee, FL 32301 | 850.391.5040

the Political

Aficionado’s  Guide to ... BIG SCREEN

No Pay, No Play Productions head for greener pastures as Florida’s film and TV incentives dry up BY JENNA BUZZACCO-FOERSTER

PHOTO: Courtesy HBO

The next time you see Florida on film, consider this: Those scenes of palm trees and sandy beaches might not have been shot in the Sunshine State. South Florida could be a sound stage in Maryland; Ybor City and Daytona Beach might really be Georgia; and the shores of California might just be a fine substitute for Florida’s sunny beaches. Once a top destination for the television and film industry, Florida has been losing projects for years. The reason? Experts say lawmakers’ refusal to extend an incentive program means the industry is taking its business elsewhere. “Florida is the only state in the Southeast that doesn’t offer a program,” said John Lux, the executive director of Film Florida. “When Florida is the only state in the region, and one of only 15 states without a program, it’s a tough sell to companies, projects, and industry workers that Florida values this industry.” The state’s Entertainment Industry Financial Program sunset June 30, after the Legislature failed to extend it or create a new one. It put an end to a years-long battle to save something proponents said had “a proven track record of creating jobs and bringing new money to local economies.” The state first began offering an incentive program in 2004. What started as a rebate later morphed into a tax credit, giving qualified projects credits once the project was completed. Projects needed to submit paperwork and financial statements and undergo two audits. That incentive helped to lure several projects


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Where Government meets Business.

PHOTOS: Courtesy respective studios and Film Florida (Lux(

over the years. “Burn Notice,” “Magic City,” and “The Glades” were filmed here. So was “Dolphin Tale,” “Rock of Ages,” and “Moonlight.” And the popular Netflix series “Bloodline” and HBO’s “Ballers” even called Florida home. But as the incentive pot began to dry up, so did the number Lux of projects coming to Florida. In the last three years, Lux said the state has lost nearly 50 film and TV projects that wanted to come to Florida but couldn’t “because of the lack of a funded program.” Film Florida estimates the state has lost out on more than $650 million in projects during the three-year period. And that number is about to rise. Variety, a film and TV industry trade publication, reported in November that “Ballers,” the HBO series starring Dwayne Johnson, is moving to California from Florida for its third season. The first two seasons of the show were filmed in Miami. The publication reported the series is scheduled to shoot its next 10 episodes in the Golden State, employing 135 cast, 209 base crew, and 5,700 extras. The reason? Variety reported conditional approval for $8.3 million in tax credits from the state. And while “Bloodline” initially said it would continue production in Florida, Netflix announced in September it was cancelling the show after its 2017 run. Variety and other trade publications, including The Hollywood Reporter, cited the end of the tax credit program — and the high costs associated with filming — as reasons for why the show might have been cancelled. Filmed in the Florida Keys, the Florida Keys & Key West Tourist Development Council has said the first season of the show generated $65 million in new travel spending, 1,738 jobs and $9.4 million in state and local tax revenue. “Our industry is a business, and business will go where they get the most value. If a project can spend $10 million in another state and get a tax credit back for a small percentage, as opposed to coming to Florida and getting nothing back, most will go where they can get a better deal,” said Lux. “The people that suffer most are Floridians, the thousands of industry professionals that work on films and television series. If less projects come to Florida, there is less work, which means people can’t earn a living,” he continued. “That means families suffer, industry workers may file for unemployment, or eventually leave the state. And it’s not just people in the film, TV, and digital media industry, but also hotels, restaurants, hardware stores, dry cleaners, etc., because those

industries do work on film and television projects.” While Lux said Film Florida’s top priority during the 2017 legislative session will be to work with lawmakers “to find a solution,” the trade association could face an uphill battle. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has led the fight against incentive programs, using his position as the House Appropriations chairman to block measures in the past. And as speaker, the Land O’Lakes Republican has all but declared a war on incentives, calling similar incentive programs “corporate welfare.” “It is a horrible, horrible use of taxpayers’ dollars, and there is no return on investment,” Corcoran told the Capitol News Service in November. “And as a person who is finally charged with protecting the taxpayers’ money, I’m not going to waste it by giving it to Hollywood producers. They can go elsewhere if they want to, but the reality is Florida is Florida.” The film industry isn’t just up against the Florida House; it will also have to battle Americans for Prosperity if it wants to revive an incentive program. The conservative organization has railed against film and sports incentives in the past, even launching a direct mail campaign in 2016 to call out lawmakers who supported the incentive program. “As an organization, we want all industries in Florida to thrive. We want government to get out of the way so that all Florida families and entrepreneurs can succeed without unnecessary roadblocks or dependency on special carve-outs,” said Chris Hudson, the state director of Americans for Prosperity-Florida. “Historically, the film industry has been solely focused on pushing for special favors, by way of lucrative handouts — that’s not in the best interest of taxpayers. Instead of pushing for taxpayer handouts, we should work together to find areas where regulatory reform could benefit the various industries within Florida’s Hollywood enterprises to help these businesses grow and continue showcasing all that Florida has to offer.” Film Florida isn’t deterred by the prospect of a tough fight. Lux said all the organization can ask for “is open dialogue about different options.” “Whether there is a program in place or not, our industry will continue to fight to be successful,” he said. “If Florida struggles to get TV series and feature films to come to the state, we will focus our efforts on commercials and independent films. Those may not spend as much money and may not hire as many people, but our industry is flexible and resilient so many will do what is needed to do.”



2016’s Top 10

Food and Beverage Trends From exotic grains and spices to the humble beet, here’s a look at what’s hot to eat and drink BY ROCHELLE KOFF

THE YEAR 2016 may have been rough politically — some would even say toxic — but there were some bright spots in Florida. Home cooks and diners celebrated fun and healthy trends in the world of food and spirits. We were more concerned about eating food that is truly locally sourced. We embraced more global flavors. We experimented with flours and grains. And we sipped tea and tequila with a degree of sophistication. Here’s a look at 10 food and beverage trends that emerged during the past year.

1. CAN’T BEET IT Hot or cold, beets are a culinary powerhouse packed with nutrients. They’re so healthy we’re now sipping beet juice and beet-infused sports drinks. The University of Southern California basketball team, for instance, was chugging beet juice before workouts, practices, and games, according to the Los Angeles Times. Beets are touted for their high levels of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory benefits, plus they’re rich in potassium, magnesium, folate, and betaine, an amino acid important to heart health.

2. CHICKPEA FLOUR RISES It’s naturally gluten-free, versatile, and flavorful enough that some restaurants are featuring fries made with chickpea flour instead of potatoes. More cooks and chefs turned to whole grains like amaranth,

farro, quinoa, and teff in 2016 and replaced white rice and pasta with whole wheat versions.

3. SOME LIKE IT COLD Cold brew isn’t just iced coffee. It’s a way of brewing coffee without heat over a 12to 24-hour period. The cold brew market is giving the industry a jolt, with big brands like Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts as well as smaller coffee companies like Tallahassee-based Lucky Goat Coffee expanding the market.

4. EXOTIC FLAVORS Moroccan, Middle Eastern, and African spices are joining Indian, Chinese, Latin, and European herbs in American kitchens. Turmeric, the spice that gives curry its yellow hue, is now recognized for myriad health benefits. The superstar of the spice



world, turmeric can have even more benefits when paired with black pepper. Gaining attention: India’s ghost pepper; Korea’s gochujang, a fermented hot pepper paste; Indonesia’s sam-bal hot sauce; and the North African paste harissa.

5. CONSIDER THE SOURCE Local sourcing of produce, meat, and seafood is still a top priority for consumers. It was listed among the top restaurant trends for 2016, according to the National Restaurant Association’s What’s Hot culinary forecast. Diners want to know where their food is coming from and they’re concerned about sustainable seafood. Some restaurants have been known to embellish the amount of local food on their menu, so more diners are doing their homework and confirming sources.

than typically steeped green tea. Sipping the tea purportedly gives one a feeling of well-being, something we all can use.

10. VEGGIES WITH A TWIST Home cooks have embraced this kitchen contraption. You can turn vegetables into a spaghetti-like noodle using a spiralizer or “zoodle,” decreasing carbs while making it fun to eat foods like zucchini, jicama, parsnips, and squash. Top with your favorite sauce and keep twirling.


6. RAW POWER Poké has been a longtime staple in Hawaii, but it’s turning into one of the hottest new trends on the mainland. Poké is a serving of raw cubes of tuna or other seafood in a soy or ponzu marinade, often served with sesame seeds and other garnishes. Poké bowls are becoming a big thing in fast-casual Asian restaurants, but the dish also is appearing on appetizer lists of fine restaurants.



7. TACOS TRIUMPH The taco craze shows no sign of slowing down. Taco shops are now nearly as ubiquitous as burger joints, though they’re not always aiming for authentic ingredients. Some taco chefs are experimenting with more unusual fillings like quinoa, pork belly, and pan-fried tofu to make their restaurants stand out.


6 7 2

9. TRENDY TEA The popularity of matcha, the emerald-green tea powder, is still going strong. Made with the whole tea leaf, matcha is said to be a more potent source of nutrients



PHOTOS: Courtesy Universal Orlando Resort

Tequila keeps flowing at Florida bars and now, mezcal is more in demand. What’s the difference between the two? The website Mezcal PhD explains it this way: “Tequila and mezcal are produced in different states of Mexico (though there is overlap). Tequila can only be made, by law, with one variety of agave: the Blue Agave. Mezcal can be made with upwards of 30 varieties of agave, though most are made with the Agave Espadin. The production process for mezcal is different from tequila, which leads to a distinctly different flavor profile for mezcal.”

Josh Cooper

In the Kitchen with ...

Josh Cooper Creates a ShowStopping Entrée Just in Time for the Holidays Imagine, if you will, a holiday dinner party at your house. Wine flows, conversation is lively and the table is set to perfection. Guests are seated around the table when you present them with the pièce de résistance: a perfectly plated Beef Wellington — a medium-rare tenderloin, coated in a creamy mushroom mélange and encased in puff pastry. Political consultant — now food blogger — Josh Cooper believes you can make this culinary fantasy a reality that will wow friends and family at your next gathering. First, Cooper says, do not be intimidated by this classic gourmet recipe. “It’s time consuming; it’s not hard. There are a lot of steps,” he says. The 37-year-old played college football at Furman University, and got his start in politics volunteering on the presidential primary campaign of John McCain in 2000. He would follow political clients for the next several years and came to Florida in 2010 working on Gov. Rick Scott’s first election campaign. Today, he owns two companies. Strategic Information Consultants conducts opposition research nationwide and Next Generation Strategies provides more traditional campaign services including strategy, grassroots outreach, media relations, and communications. In the most recent campaign cycle, Cooper said his work was more focused on super PACs rather than individual candidates. Cooper’s culinary adventure began when, early in his career, he lived in Memphis and joined a barbecue group known as the Swinos. He still joins them for competitions throughout the country. Now, his favored barbecuing method is the Big Green Egg, which looks just like its name and has a nationwide following, with several cooking events and forums for devotees, including a Facebook group. It was via Facebook that Cooper engaged in his first “throwdown” — a cooking challenge where participants are required to make a dish featuring a specific ingredient; in this competition, mushrooms. He decided to attempt a Beef Wellington using duxelles — a mixture featuring finely chopped mushrooms — to coat the beef, rather than the even more traditional foie gras. He won. That was about a year and a half ago and, since then, Cooper has taken a deep dive into cooking, culminating in his most recent endeavor, a food blog launched this December called The goal of his site, which will feature recipes, reviews and videos, is to help home cooks elevate their kitchen skills. Like this: “Here are your traditional recipes. Here’s how we take it to the next level. And here’s how you get that pow pow.” Part of his Beef Wellington “pow pow” are elegant, flavorful side dishes and creative plating. Before dishing out the “colorful, Christmas-y” carrot puree and roasted root vegetables, Cooper sat down and sketched plating ideas. “I’m such a nerd,” he confessed. While Beef Wellington is a bit complicated, Cooper insists everyday meals don’t have to be an ordeal. “When I get home at night … I like to come in here and see what’s in my fridge, pour myself a bourbon and figure out what I can make and try different things. It’s my therapy,” he explains. “People think it takes forever to cook stuff, but really, you can make some pretty nice dishes in 30 or 45 minutes. You don’t need hours and hours. It helps, but you don’t need it.” 46 | INFLUENCE WINTER 2016

Beef Wellington Beef tenderloin filet (about 3 pounds) Meat Church Holy Cow beef rub or your favorite steak seasoning Olive or grapeseed oil 4 tablespoons unsalted butter 2 tablespoons spicy mustard 8 ounces Baby Bella Mushrooms, chopped fine 2 tablespoons minced shallot 1 tablespoon minced garlic 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped 1 teaspoon soy sauce 2 large eggs 4 ounces cream cheese, softened 1 tablespoon water 2 sheets puff pastry Brush the filet with olive oil and season liberally with your favorite rub. Heat a cast iron skillet on high heat. Add a little grapeseed or olive oil to the pan until it begins to smoke. Quickly sear all sides of the filet to make a nice brown crust. Let the steak cool. In another pan, heat butter, finely chopped mushrooms, shallots, garlic, thyme, and soy sauce and cook over medium heat until all the liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat and stir in parsley and let it cool in the fridge. Once cooled, mix in one egg and cream cheese. Roll out the thawed puff pastry over a lightly floured mat. Leaving a 2-inch border on the edges, apply the mushroom mixture over half of the rolled-out puff pastry. Brush the filet with spicy mustard and place in the middle of the mushroom mixture. Roll up the tenderloin half way and then brush the exposed borders with egg wash (egg and water mixed). Continue rolling the tenderloin and seal by tucking the ends under the pastry. Brush the entire pastry with egg wash. Cook at 425 for about 30 minutes. The Wellington will be finished when the internal temperature of the meat hits 130. Allow the Wellington to rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

PHOTOS: Mark Wallheiser Photography


Is there bourbon in that cup, Josh? Cooper in his kitchen, where cooking is his “therapy.”




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Briefings from the Rotunda

Nick Iarossi signs on with bestbet to add slots in Jacksonville


ith the state of gambling in Florida in flux, Nick Iarossi of Capital City Consulting has picked up Jacksonville Greyhound Racing as a client. Iarossi knows the industry. He represented Las Vegas Sands Corp. as it tried for years to get a destination casino resort in Florida, finally giving up last year. His new client — better known as bestbet Jacksonville — offers live dog racing, a card room, and simulcast wagering. But the pari-mutuel also wants slot machines, and poured millions into supporting a Duval County voter referendum to allow it to offer slots to customers that passed in the General Election. The track also was in the news recently after state gambling regulators issued a final order against its designated player games. The Department of Business and Professional Regulation said the poker-style


games played too much like “banked card games” allowed only at the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s casinos. Iarossi told INFLUENCE he had hoped the department would have waited for an appeal of that order before enforcing it, but added his client would modify the card games to make sure they followed the new interpretation of the law. “We’re sure we can implement any changes necessary,” he said. In fact, one of his tasks is ensuring state government doesn’t chip any further at the lucrative card games, which bring millions into bestbet’s corporate coffers. Another job during the 2017 Legislative Session will be protecting the company’s overall interests as lawmakers again tee up consideration of a renewed Seminole Compact, which would extend the tribe’s ability to keep offering blackjack. The new compact was worth $3 billion

over seven years in revenue share to the state, but also contained key provisions that critics said would expand gambling in Florida, such as allowing the tribe to offer craps and roulette. But lawmakers trying to appease pari-​ mutuels, such as horse and dog tracks, added on even more measures to expand gambling, including slot machines and card games. That ensured its demise among legislators shy of seeming too cozy with gambling interests. At the same time, the Florida Supreme Court is now considering a case over whether a Gadsden County track, Gretna Racing, can have slot machines because voters there approved them in a local referendum in 2012. A favorable ruling could benefit Duval’s desire for slots, now that the referendum has passed, or help to kill it if the court rules against slots expansion. “If Gretna can’t have slots, the reality is the Legislature still has to pass a compact, and there will have to be some concessions for pari-mutuel operators,” Iarossi said. “They’re large employers and they’ve been around for decades,” he added. “It will be difficult politically to get enough votes without providing some sort of benefit to them.”


After voters approved a referendum, bestbet seeks to add slot machines to its gambling operations in Jacksonville.

RFB Florida Home Builders honor veteran lobbyist Richard Gentry

PHOTOS: Courtesy Florida Homebuilders Association, (Bowling)

Karen Bowling heads med-tech start-up with a focus on artificial intelligence RICHARD GENTRY, chief lobbyist for the Florida Home Builders Association (FHBA) from 1983-2006, was inducted into the association’s Florida Housing Hall of Fame this November. The honor is given to men and women who have made significant and lasting contributions to housing in Florida, the building industry, and the FHBA. The recognition, a tradition for 25 years, was presented to Gentry and three others during the FHBA Fall Leadership Conference at the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort and Spa in Miramar Beach. As the association’s head lobbyist, Gentry “championed legislative, regulatory, and political initiatives that to this day continue to result in millions of dollars in savings on development, operational, and construction costs for Florida developers and builders,” the group said. “His advocacy efforts fueled significant and ongoing funding for affordable workforce housing.” The Florida Home Builders Association, established in 1949, is affiliated with the National Association of Home Builders and Florida's local/regional homebuilder associations.

Karen Bowling, formerly a lobbyist with Foley & Lardner, now is CEO of Jacksonville-based WiseEye AI, a health care tech company developing artificial intelligence to read medical scans. Bowling, who has a lengthy background in health care, will be focusing on the startup’s business development. She joined the company this fall. It will use technology similar to that in “self-driving cars or (to) identify people on Facebook through photos posted on the site” to help physicians “diagnose disease earlier and faster,” a press release said. “These advances are called ‘deep learning’ and consist of training computers to identify the patterns found in pathology slides, X-rays, MRI's, and CT scans through many repetitions presented to the computer,” it said. Bowling is known for being the co-founder, with now-Gov. Rick Scott, of the Solantic walk-in urgent care centers. They sold the company in 2011. She later served as chief administrative officer for then-Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown before joining Foley & Lardner, where she lobbied in the areas of health care and transportation. Bowling was appointed by Gov. Scott to the board of Florida State College at Jacksonville through 2018. WINTER 2016 INFLUENCE | 51


Briefings from the Rotunda


ac Stipanovich says he’s not “particularly bothered” by House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s tough new rules that all but punch the capital’s lobby corps in the mouth. He might be the only one. With every change in leadership, each chamber revises the internal rules governing its conduct, but changes this sweeping — especially as they relate to lobbyists — haven’t been seen in decades. Plenty of professional influencers popped off, albeit anonymously, in text messages after the rules were released in November. “What I take major issue with is trashing ALL lobbyists and accusing us of being the reason legislators are out of control,” said one. Stipanovich, a lobbyist with Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, has this to say: Grow up. Take the House rule that increases the ban on former members lobbying their colleagues from two years to six years. “He shoulda made it 60 years,” says Stipanovich, a diehard Republican, #NeverTrump’er, and adviser to then-Secretary of State Katherine Harris during the 2000 presidential vote recount in Florida. What about the rule prohibiting state representatives from flying in aircraft owned, leased, or otherwise paid for by lobbyists? “I don’t own an airplane,” Stipanovich deadpans. “So I think that’s very wise.” 52 | INFLUENCE WINTER 2016

But he doesn’t see the need for another rule that requires lobbyists to file an individual disclosure for every bill, amendment, and individual appropriation they are trying to influence. As an example, “let’s say you go online to see that (a lobbyist for) U.S. Sugar is opposing an amendment to a water bill brought by the Sierra Club,” Stipanovich says. “So? I don’t know that there’s going to be much news there.” But several lobbyists, who didn’t want to be quoted by name, reacted in a range from miffed to irate. “How come no one has the b-lls to ask Corcoran if his House of Transparency is going to carry over to campaigns?” asked one. “... Is he willing to also require lobbyists to disclose every time a House members calls to solicit (a campaign contribution)?” Lobbyists have long served — grudgingly — as a conduit for campaign contributions to candidates, with some shops generating millions in donations from benefactors. Others questioned the effectiveness of another rule that prohibits lobbyists from sending text messages to House members while they sit in committee meetings or on the floor. Why not just “have your client text because they’re not a lobbyist” to get around the rule, a lobbyist asked. Or “firms could set up Twitter accounts and post messages there,” that per-

son added. For instance, “ ‘Amendment 12345 is bad! Vote no.’ ” “It is time that government embodies the very highest of standards and serve citizens and not self,” Corcoran said in a statement when the rules came out. They were endorsed by the incoming Democratic leader, Janet Cruz of Tampa, as well. “The Florida House, in adopting these rules, will take a transformational leap into a new era of accountability, professionalism, transparency, and fairness,” he added. “Those who cannot live up to the highest ethical and professional standards will find the Florida House a difficult place to work or visit.” Other rules would let House members refuse to consider bill amendments on the floor if they are issues of “first impression” that haven’t been vetted through the committee process, and require House members to file separate bills for each budget request they make, such as for hometown projects. Corcoran also has created a new Committee on Public Integrity and Ethics, which will “consider legislation and exercise oversight on matters relating to the conduct and ethics standards of House members, state and local public officials, public employees, lobbyists, and candidates for public office, the regulation of political fundraising and the constitutional prerogatives of the Legislature.” >> continued on pg 54

PHOTO: Mark Wallheiser Photography

Florida’s lobbying corps grouses about House Speaker’s new rules


Briefings from the Rotunda


Mike Sole moves up to NextEra Energy, John Holley replaces him as FPL’s top in-house lobbyist Mike Sole, who has been Florida Power & Light’s top in-house lobbyist in Tallahassee, has taken a new job with FPL’s parent company. Sole, also a former head of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, became NextEra Energy’s vice president of environmental services in November, replacing Randy LaBauve. The move was caused by the retirement of LaBauve, who spent 21 years with the company. “Since joining the company in 2010, Mike has done a terrific job of managing both legislative and executive branch matters in Tallahassee on behalf of the 54 | INFLUENCE WINTER 2016

company,” said Charlie Sieving, executive VP and general counsel of NextEra Energy, and Eric Silagy, FPL president and CEO, in a joint memo. Replacing Sole is John Holley, who moves from vice president of state legislative affairs to vice president of state government affairs. Holley was legislative affairs director and chief of staff for the Department of Management Services in 2003–07. “Please join us in wishing Randy the very best in his retirement, and congratulating Mike and John on their new roles and offering them your full support,” Sieving and Silagy wrote.

The new rules, an echo of President-elect Donald Trump’s drive to “drain the swamp,” should be no surprise to anyone paying attention to the Land O’ Lakes Republican since his rise through the leadership ranks. Corcoran, first elected in 2010, called the state’s lobby corps “Gucci-loafing, shoe-wearing special interest powers-thatbe” in his closing remarks on the 2015 state budget. In his speech following his designation as House speaker last September, he went further. “We must close the revolving door between the Legislature and the lobby corps,” said Corcoran, whose brother Michael is a prominent state lobbyist. “We need to restore the distance between those who seek to influence the laws and those of us who make the laws.” He called for a constitutional amendment banning “any state elected official from lobbying the legislative or executive branch for a period of six years.” Corcoran also said he wanted to toughen lobbyist registration rules by requiring lobbyists to specifically “disclose which bills, which amendments, and which appropriations they are trying to influence.” Sound familiar yet? “Other states require such disclosure,” he said during his remarks. “It’s time Florida does too.” Nearly all of these ideas came from an 86-page policy paper written by Corcoran and colleagues from his Class of 2010, titled “Blueprint Florida.” They called for a new “legislative culture of purpose” that included, among other things, a more transparent budget process. The paper called for members to pledge not to seek leadership positions until they serve two legislative sessions. For those who break the pledge, it means being frozen out, with current leadership “refus(ing) to meet” with them. Under the new conference rules — a separate rulebook governing only the GOP members of the chamber — members must “serve at least one full session before directly or indirectly soliciting pledges of support.” “All of the stuff we’ve been working on has been meant to say, at the end of the day, we’re the enemies, we’re the problem,” he told reporters after a November orientation for new members. “The only reason they” — the special interests — “have power is because we voluntarily abdicate and give to them what (power) is rightfully ours,” Corcoran said. “And what is rightfully ours belongs to the people.”

PHOTO: Courtesy NextEra Energy

>> Corcoran, from pg 52

RFB Michael Cantens opens practice Flagler Strategies


obbyist Michael Cantens tells INFLUENCE he has left the Corcoran & Johnston firm to strike out on his own, under the name Flagler Strategies LLC. He’ll be representing clients at the local level in Miami-Dade County and in Tallahassee. “I am grateful for the support I have received in this new venture,” Cantens says. “I am committed to building a firm from the ground up that can provide services in a personal manner with attention to each client’s individual needs.” He says he’s already been retained by Florida Power & Light and PBA Holdings. His experience in Tallahassee as an aide to the House Appropriations Committee, along with being legislative affairs director for the Department of Health has “given me good insight into the legislative process as well as experience within the executive agencies,” he adds. Cantens started out more than 10 years ago as an aide to Miami-Dade County Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz, and later went on to work for former state Rep. Marcelo Llorente. In 2010, he became a legislative analyst at Health, and was promoted to its director of legislative affairs, serving through 2013. Most recently, Cantens worked at Corcoran & Johnston, where he lobbied for the policy and budget interests of health care, hospitality, and local government clients.

PHOTO: Courtesy Gravis Marketing




Kaplan takes over pol site THE ORLANDO POLITICAL OBSERVER, a local political news site, has changed hands — it's now owned by Doug Kaplan, a Winter Park-based pollster and president of the market research firm Gravis Marketing. Kaplan purchased the Orlando Political Observer from founder Frank Torres, according to a story on the site written by Torres himself. Kaplan assured readers in the OPO story about the transition that the site wouldn't be changing much. Kaplan told that journalism was something he'd always wanted to foray into but never had the chance until Torres offered. “If you asked me a year ago if I'd be doing this, I would've laughed,” he said. He said part of the motivation was a desire to dig beyond the polling he's currently known for and hold elected officials accountable. “Some officials say they're anti-establishment, and then they get elected,” he said. “I want to see if they're keeping their campaign promises. I don't feel like anyone is covering Osceola County, Marion County, Lake County ... and Frank was looking to sell, and it just kind of came to me.” WINTER 2016 INFLUENCE | 55


Briefings from the Rotunda

Tyler Winik follows his heart back to court clerk position



Kevin Cleary now DEP’s top lobbyist

Kevin Cleary, formerly a lobbyist at P5 Group, is now the Department of Environmental Protection’s legislative affairs director. He started Oct. 24. The 31-year-old graduate of Florida State University will coordinate the department’s legislative issues, a spokeswoman said. Cleary was named one of the “30 Under 30” rising stars in Florida politics in 2014 by SaintPetersBlog. He’s worked for the Republican Party of Florida and state Rep. Ben Albritton as his campaign director and legislative assistant. “I learned a lot of lessons while working with Rep. Albritton, but the overarching lesson … is that this process should be about people,” he said. “... I am referring to a compassionate viewpoint where you invest time in understanding what an individual’s or group’s passions are. “Whether you are an elected official casting a vote, an advocate for an issue, or a person trying to debate with a friend at a water cooler, one is never effective if they only concern themselves with what they desire.” 56 | INFLUENCE WINTER 2016

Ben Wolf heads back to the private sector Ben Wolf has left the Florida Department of Management Services, where he had risen to chief of staff, for a job in the private sector. Wolf is now Client Partner at ISF, Inc., a national management consulting and information technology firm. He works in the Tallahassee office. He’ll “focus on business development, executive management and client relations,” the firm said in a press release. Wolf “has a unique understanding of government operations in Florida and an exceptional ability to absorb information, see the big picture, and drive to the right solutions for any given challenge,” said Jonathan Conrad, ISF senior director. At DMS, Wolf was responsible for the agency’s daily operations, including purchasing, real estate, public safety, health care, retirement, and human resources. He also had been the agency’s communications director. Wolf also worked in the Florida House of Representatives and the state Department of Education. Before that, he was a television news reporter for two local CBS affiliates, including WCTV in Tallahassee. He received an undergraduate degree from the University of Miami and a Master of Public Administration from Florida State University. ISF has corporate headquarters in Jacksonville and offices in Tallahassee and Austin, Texas.

PHOTOS: Mark Wallheiser (Clearly), courtesy T. Winik, Frank Mix Photography (Wolf)

Former blogger Tyler Winik had a brief sojourn into the nonprofit world this fall before coming back to the Brevard County Clerk of the Court. He had been deputy clerk for legal affairs and special projects for Clerk Scott Ellis, but left to become communications specialist for the progressive Florida Policy Institute, based in Lake Mary. “My heart was back with the state’s clerks and the judicial branch,” he said, explaining his return. Winik, who has an undergraduate degree in political science from the University of Central Florida, also has been a blogger on a variety of topics, from elections and natural disasters to state budgeting. And he applied recently to Chief Justice Jorge Labarga to be one of his three selections for the Constitution Revision Commission, a panel that meets every 20 years to review and recommend changes to the state’s governing document. Winik promises “some intriguing things” this session from the clerks, including ideas for a new funding model.


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toasting florida politics

Lobbyists Tipple in Tampa SOCIAL s cene



Florida’s top lobbyists mix and mingle during a reception at the Tampa Theatre to kick off the Florida Association of Professional Lobbyists’ annual conference. 1. Rep. Shawn Harrison; 2. Christie Pontis; 3. Mario Bailey, Yolanda Jackson, Sheela VanHoose; 4. Amanda Bowen, Larry Williams, Mariann Sabolic.


toasting florida politics

SOCIAL scene

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 6. Victoria Vangalis Zepp, Roberta Courtney Bailey, Lauren Calmet, Samantha Sexton, David Mica, Jeff Kottkamp; 7. Samantha Sexton, Amy Bisceglia, Mark Herron, Mario Bailey, Ian Cotner, Yolanda Jackson; 8. Jeff Ryan, Victoria Vangalis Zepp, Doug Wheeler, Wendy Dodge.


toasting florida politics

Lawmakers Get ‘Organized’ SOCIAL s cene



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Lawmakers met in Tallahassee Nov. 22 for an organization session to be sworn in and elect new leadership before the 2017 Legislative Session: 1. Senate President Joe Negron claps as he opens the organization session; 2. Sen. Oscar Braynon and family applaud as introductions are made in the chamber; 3. Sen. Lauren Book and family pose for a photo; 4. At center, Senate President pro tempore Anitere Flores greets Supreme Court Justice Ricky Polston; 5. A line of brand new House members are sworn in; 6. Members rise for the “presentation of colors” flag

toasting florida politics

SOCIAL scene

ceremony; 7. Guests begin arriving in the Capitol rotunda before the start of the organization session; 8. Outgoing Speaker Steve Crisafulli hugs his successor, Richard Corcoran; 9. Corcoran takes the oath of office as wife Ann holds the bible and his children look on.




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Stearns Weaver Miller Tallahassee Tailgate LAWYERS BREAK FOR SOME GRILLING ::

toasting florida politics


SOCIAL scene

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  The law firm’s Tallahassee office held its third annual tailgate party Oct. 28 at The Gathering, a unique event space with an industrial look, in the city’s CollegeTown section. 1. Sue and Bobby Dick, Ed Murray, Dan Parisi and Ella Schwartz; 2. Jeff Collier, Reggie Bouthillier, Jill Gran, Matt Puckett, Billy Sexton and Gene Stearns; 3. Jill Bowen, Kelly O’Keefe; 4. Jana McConnaughhay, Hetal Desai McGuire, Kelly O’Keefe, Corrine Porcher; 5. Tom Aubin, Alan Hooper, Reggie Bouthillier.


Research you can rely on, counsel you can trust.

“Steve Vancore produces some of the state’s best polls.” Marc Caputo, Politico

“In this writer’s estimation, Vancore is inarguably one of the Top 5 brightest minds in Florida politics.” Peter Schorsch, St. Petersblog

FOURTH FLOOR>FILES Significant other? Children? Grandkids? Cameron is my wife of 11 years, daughter McClaine (9), and son Grant (5). In 25 words or less, explain what you do. Educate Florida policymakers on the importance of a competitive insurance and business environment, raise money, and travel — a lot of travel. Without using the words Democrat, Independent or Republican; conservative or liberal, describe your political persuasion. Limited government. The free market is always the best option. ALWAYS be respectful of others’ opinions … even if they are wrong. If you have one, what is your motto? Work hard, play hard. During your career, have you had a favorite pro bono client? The Kearny Comprehensive Emergency Services Center in Tallahassee provides incredible services to our homeless population through a holistic approach. Three favorite charities. Boys’ Choir of Tallahassee, Big Bend Hospice, and Kidz1stFund. Any last-day-of-Session traditions? Time permitting, I enjoy getting away from the Capitol and having dinner with Cameron. That might not happen this year, though!

PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson

What are you most looking forward to during the Legislative Session? Notching a few wins for our members, and it being over.

Kyle Ulrich

If you could have another lobbyist’s client list, it would be … I am an association guy and independent insurance agents are great to work for. I have the best 20,000 clients in Florida. Professional accomplishment of which you are most proud? Playing a small role in helping members of the Florida Association of Insurance Agents get elected to the Florida Legislature. Someone has to provide an educated perspective on insurance issues, right?

Lobbyists are often accused of wearing Gucci loafers; do you own a pair of Gucci loafers? If not, why not? Nope. I am from Tallahassee, and have always thought Gucci was a brand for women. Who is your favorite Florida Capitol Press Corps reporter and why? No favorite … most of them try to do their best with the limited resources they have. Other than, your reading list includes … I don’t need to read anything else. What swear word do you use most often? I use them all regularly. Probably not my best trait, but I don’t trust people who don’t swear. What is your most treasured possession? Two … a watch my wife gave me when we got married, and my golf clubs. The best hotel in Florida is … There are so many great ones, but the Ponte Vedra Inn and Club is just my speed. Really nice, but not stuffy. You’ve just learned that you will be hosting a morning talk show about Florida politics. Who are the first four guests you’d invite to appear? Gov. Jeb Bush, Sen. Marco Rubio, Gov. Charlie Crist, and Sen. Jack Latvala. Favorite movie. I don’t watch many movies, but I can recite every word of “My Cousin Vinny.” When you pig out, what do you eat? I am generally a pretty healthy eater, but have no self-control when it comes to chicken wings … SO bad, but SO good. If you could have dinner with a historical figure no longer living, who would it be? Bobby Jones.



Here and now

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Significant other? Children? Momma, three Girls and the Boy. In 25 words or less, explain what you do. To help corporate clients navigate the legislative/regulatory morass one day at a time. Without using the words Democrat, Independent or Republican; conservative or liberal, describe your political persuasion. Moderate. If you have one, what is your motto? “Let the game come to you.” During your career, have you had a favorite pro bono client? The Ounce of Prevention Fund. Three favorite charities. United Way, Volunteer Florida, and the American Heart Association. Any last-day-of-Session traditions? Pink Jacket. Started wearing it with Marvin around 1990. Also, providing pink carnations for those who wish. What are you most looking forward to during the Legislative Session? All of it. Love the ebb and flow and the fact there are winners and losers. Most exhilarating 60 days of the year. If you could have another lobbyist’s client list, it would be … James Kotas.

PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson

Professional accomplishment of which you are most proud? In 1997 passed “Mutual Holding Company Act.” It was the first in the nation and paved the way for FCCI’s expansion. Lobbyists are often accused of wearing Gucci loafers; do you own a pair of Gucci loafers? If not, why not? No, I have yet to notice them marked down enough on Rue LaLa.

Who is your favorite Florida Capitol Press Corps reporter and why? I really miss Lucy Morgan. Dara Kam and Arek Sarkissian. Other than, your reading list includes … News from Twitterland, and the Grand Rapids Press. What swear word do you use most often? Shee-itt. What is your most treasured possession? Time. Specifically with family. The best hotel in Florida is … Besides the Buccaneer Inn on St. George, the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island. You’ve just learned that you will be hosting a morning talk show about Florida politics. Who are the first four guests you’d invite to appear? WD Childers, Betty Holzendorff, Jeff Stabins, and Jorge Rodriguez-Chomat. Favorite movie? The last one I saw — “Backdraft.” When you pig out, what do you eat? Ice cream. If you could have dinner with a historical figure no longer living, who would it be? Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., and Dino! Circa mid ’60s.



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Significant other? Children? Divorced with three children. One daughter and two sons. Grandchildren? Two girls. In 25 words or less, explain what you do. I represent both public and private sector clients before the Florida Legislature. This means I’m involved in all aspects of helping an idea become law, and explaining to lawmakers why a bill is important and the changes that we hope to bring about. And sometimes, it means sounding the alarm on legislation that would be harmful, and testifying as to why it needs to be defeated. Without using the words Democrat, Independent or Republican, conservative or liberal, describe your political persuasion. I think I represent the average American. I want the party or the candidate that remembers where they came from, that doesn’t play favorites, that values hard work and isn’t afraid to roll up their sleeves to get things done, and honors this unique nation built from a great melting pot of many. If you have one, what is your motto? Have no fear of perfection, you’ll never reach it. — Salvador Dali

PHOTO: Benjamin Todd

Karen Skyers

Three favorite charities. Salvation Army, Boys & Girls Clubs, Planned Parenthood. Any last-day-of-Session traditions? Eat a half dozen red velvet cupcakes specially made by Shirlynne Everett. What are you most looking forward to during the Legislative Session? The insight and wisdom of a moderate Senate.

If you could have another lobbyist’s client list, it would be … None. I’m proud of the client list I have. Professional accomplishment of which you are most proud? Passing the bar on the first try! Lobbyists are often accused of wearing Gucci loafers; do you own a pair of Gucci loafers? If not, why not? No, I don’t because I prefer Louboutins. Who is your favorite Florida Capitol Press Corps reporter and why? Let me get back to you on this one. Other than, your reading list includes … For news, the New York Times, USA Today and Tampa Bay Times. For novels, “Murder in the Courthouse” by Nancy Grace and “The Whistler” by John Grisham. What swear word do you use most often? MF What is your most treasured possession? My late father’s army dog tag. The best hotel in Florida is … The Ritz-Carlton Naples. You’ve just learned that you will be hosting a morning talk show about Florida politics. Who are the first four guests you’d invite to appear? Arthenia L. Joyner, Jack Latvala, Pat Frank, and Dan Gelber. Favorite movie. “Gladiator.” When you pig out, what do you eat? Petit Ecolier Cookies. If you could have dinner with a historical figure no longer living, who would it be? Muhammad Ali.


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noreen fenner wonders: the 2016 election is over. Now what?


hhhh … did you hear it? That collective sigh of relief rising up from Tallahassee and across the Sunshine State. Election season is over. Go ahead … exhale. But make it quick! The coffers were emptied to help old friends repel challengers, win elections to a new office, or assist new friends join the elite group that is the Florida Legislature. As introductions are made, and legislative issues dominate conversations again, government affairs consultants are already looking to the 2018 and 2020 election cycles, sizing up contests and calculating contribution dollars. The 2016 election cycle was very expensive thanks, in part, to numerous heated primary and general election battles. We continue to see political contributions rise with each election, and 2018 will be no different, especially with all of Florida’s Cabinet officers term-limited. If not a big fish in the political pond, how does an association or employee political committee (PC) raise funds for the next round of campaigns? It is never too early to start. At board and member meetings, explore legislative agendas and educate members on the benefits of a successful legislative plan.

Members are excited to be part of the political process, as proven by many well-attended Legislative Days at the Capitol every Legislative Session. Government affairs consultants play a key role in this education, bringing insight into the legislative and regulatory processes, and how association members are professionally and personally affected. Once excited, it is time to get members financially engaged to support the mission. Strategies such as including a voluntary PC contribution amount on association dues invoices, setting up recurring credit card contributions (ensure there is a limit set), or even instituting payroll deduction programs work well. Direct mail and email solicitations for PC contributions are effective, but are much more effective if they include discussions about upcoming legislative and regulatory initiatives. Harnessing online tools is essential in today’s digital campaign world, and that includes the power of plastic. When you have a member’s attention, seal the deal with a contribution to the PC by utilizing on-the-spot credit card readers or online contributions via your website. The ability to make an online donation is an important source that should not be overlooked.

Holding workshops at annual and quarterly meetings to educate members on the role campaign contributions and PCs play in the legislative process; and hosting fundraisers like silent auctions, golf tournaments, fishing tournaments, and PC-sponsored legislator meet-andgreets at annual and quarterly meetings are event-based ways to get your membership involved. No matter what you do, though, it’s important to engage and educate members and connect them with government affairs consultants to help build relationships with legislators and experience the process firsthand. By utilizing every available opportunity to connect with membership, association and employee PCs can use these two years to significantly increase bank balances in time for the next round of candidate contribution requests.

Noreen Fenner is the president of PAC Financial Management, a Tallahassee-based campaign finance management firm, specializing in establishing, maintaining, and reporting for Florida candidate campaigns and political committees of all sizes. For additional information, visit



FEARLESS FORTITUDE An instinctive and innate desire to achieve victory that escalates intensely when confronted with seemingly insurmountable odds.

Vaulting from #25 to #10” in a single quarter –

And there’s no end in sight. Our Tallahassee office doubled in size this year creating a venerable Who’s Who List of former state administrative department heads, governors’ chiefs of staff, agency heads and even presidential advisors. We counsel and lobby for clients in every major Florida city as well as nationally. F O RT L A U D E R D A L E | F O RT M Y E R S | J A C K S O N V I L L E | M I A M I | TA L L A H A S S E E | TA M PA Calif or n ia | Colorad o | Del aware | Flori da | N ew Jerse y | Ne w Yo r k | No r th Ca ro lina | Pe nnsylva nia | Virg inia | Wa shing to n, DC


{ insiders’ ADVICE

Polls Post Mortem

steve vancore explains how pollsters got the presidential election wrong, but not that wrong



hy were national polls so wrong? One supposes if Shakespeare were writing “Henry VI” following the 2016 presidential election, he might have penned, “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the pollsters.” Not since “Dewey Defeats Truman” have our nation’s political prophet-eers been so flat out wrong. Or were they? The rolling average, as posted on websites such as RealClear Politics,, Huffington Post, Associated Press and similar such sites, showed Clinton with a tightening +3.2-point lead heading into Election Day. She ended up with a final +2-point lead in the popular vote. So, combined, the published polls most of the polling aggregators from the above list were relying on were about a point off. That’s not that bad. But they were consistently off on the Electoral College counts (based on state-level polls) and that directly led to the tsunami of wrong predictions going into the election. They were consistently wrong, it turns out, for two very specific reasons. First, believe it or not, the actual

number of these polls was down significantly (by one account, over 40 percent since 2012) and the aggregators noted above were simply relying on scant data. Second, in key swing states — those states where the campaigns were engaged — the underlying predictive models were wrong. Without going into too much detail about rural/urban, income and education demographic changes, the simplest explanation is that Republicans ultimately voted in larger numbers and/or Democrats voted in lower numbers than most pollsters thought they would. In Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania most notably, the turnout differentials were enough to change the outcome of the election in those states. The polls — what few there were — were based on turnout predictions that simply turned out to be wrong. In Pennsylvania, for example, Democrats turned out about 5 points lower than they did in 2012 and Republicans turned out nearly 9 points higher. Most pollsters who worked in that state AND published their responses, simply did not see that coming. (We simply do not know what the private pollsters were doing because they did not publish their polls.)

Does this mean polling is dead? Should you have less trust in your pollster? No and no. Remember, the vast majority of polls you saw or read about leading up to the election were created for public consumption. They were most often produced by media outlets or universities who, due to budget reductions, were more likely to use cheaper methodologies to create their “made-for-prime-time” polls. That alone can, and seemingly did, compromise the final products. But, you should be more careful. Ask more questions. Be an educated consumer of the polls that you commission. Make sure your pollster uses good modeling techniques, invests time and energy understanding your audience and — now more than ever — doesn’t cut corners. Save the killing for another day. Steven Vancore is president of ClearView Research, a political polling and research firm in Tallahassee. Steve has been conducting polls, focus groups and related research projects in Florida for nearly three decades. He can be reached at


{ insiders’ ADVICE

Merry Tech-mas! blake dowling curates a list of holiday gifts sure to please the gadget lover in your life

PHOTO: Via Function, Polaroid,, and Amazon


he Elections are over and the social media political rants are fading like Bernie’s hopes and dreams. What can this mean? Christmas season is here. The 25th of December is not only the birthday of Jesus, but also the day presents are passed out like pardons at the end of a presidential term. Gift giving can be tricky, so I thought I would throw some ideas at you — some in jest and some legit. On Santa’s naughty list this year is most certainly Colin Kaepernick. He will be getting a CD of various versions of the national anthem, polka, country-fied, etc., or maybe a voter registration card. Bravo to State Sen. Jack Latvala for calling out Mike Evans from the Bucs for refusing to stand. These two NFL players mentioned didn’t bother to vote in the election, by the way. Free speech, protest, volunteer … YES please, but don’t insult the USA. One thing we can agree on is that we are all on Team America. OK, moving on … For presidential runner-up Hillary Clinton, how about a subscription to MICROSOFT 365 SECURE CLOUD email service, no bleach required. For Donald, some Legos for his wall? OK, now that I have my snarky comments out of the way, we can dive into the coolest new tech gadgets for your loved ones, young and old. Right wing or left,

we can all agree that no one wants fruitcake from Auntie Helen or cat socks from Grandma (well, maybe CAT SOCKS if they are super cool) so tell the people in your life what’s on your list. Here are some ideas to get you thinking: The QUAD LOCK BIKE MOUNT is perfect for those bicyclers in your life. The device makes it super easy to mount your smart phone to your handlebars and off you go on your “smart bike.” You will be less likely to crash while using your navigation, fitness or music apps. However, if you do crash, your smart phone is going >>


to be toast … so buy insurance. Did you know there is such a thing as a smart toothbrush? Yes, this is a thing — but no one wants one for Christmas. Next on the list, Polaroid is back in the video/photo game with the all new POLAROID CUBE, a waterproof mini camera going after the Go Pro space. This item is great for kids of all ages, ‘cause everyone needs underwater movies these days. Amiright? The U.S Air Force needs drones and so do you. The SYMA X5C EXPLORERS DRONE has a built-in camera and is the perfect gift for the stalker, I mean drone enthusiast, in your life. Best part, this hot little item is under $100. There is also a Star Wars Millennium Falcon drone out there, but there’s no camera — or Chewbacca — included. So that’s a bummer, but still cool, though. If you want to go super techy with your shopping list, check out the SAMSUNG GEAR VR. Take your Samsung Galaxy phone and slap it in the headset and, prepare to immerse yourself into a complete world of virtual reality. This is very cool, but I would wait a couple more years for this technology to really come of age. There are soooo many choices this holiday season, it’s hard to list just a few items, but here are two more for you:

Finally, this item is for the elected official in your life. It is called the EXECUTIVE DECISION MAKER and will make serving the people a breeze. Just spin and go on to the next committee meeting — no texting required. Available at Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies in Tallahassee and he writes columns for several organizations. Contact him at:



Ladies and gents, the AMAZON ECHO DOT, second generation. They take the power of the virtual assistant, Alexa, and combine it with their smart speaker for a cool package that is very affordable. This item also falls into the under $100 category and you can ask it questions while it plays your fave holiday jams. Think “Christmas in Hollis” by Run DMC. Love that tune.



By the Numbers


63 of 67


By registered voters to put medical marijuana on the 2016 ballot

Supported Medical Marijuana With Over 60% of the Vote

27 of 27

18 of 23


Endorsed Amendment 2



Voted “Yes” on Amendment 2




In Favor of Amendment 2


Supported Medical Marijuana With Over 60% of the Vote

40 of 40


Supported Medical Marijuana With Over 60% of the Vote

118 of 120


Supported Medical Marijuana With Over 60% of the Vote

SICK & SUFFERING FLORIDIANS Who Will Benefit from the Passage of Amendment 2, according to estimates from the Florida Department of Health

Florida For Care’s Team for the 2017 Legislative Session ben pollara, executive director · dan rogers, policy director frank & tracy mayernick, lobbyists, the mayernick group brecht heuchan, lobbyist, the labrador company

Lobbying Avengers




t shouldn’t be surprising that more law firms in the capital are beefing up their lobbying practices. “As lawyers, we have a deeper understanding of the laws, as they exist and which changes to them will work,” says Hayden Dempsey, a lawyer-lobbyist with Greenberg Traurig in Tallahassee. He should know. Dempsey has worked for four governors, most recently as special counsel to Gov. Rick Scott. The influence community also took note of a recent merger: Former House Speaker Dean Cannon’s governmental affairs firm combined with Orlando-based law firm GrayRobinson, creating the third-largest influence shop in Florida. That made GrayRobinson, as previously reported, “even more of a competitor to top lobbying heavyweights for well-heeled, A-list clients needing representation before the Legislature and state agencies.” And while the pure-play lobbying firms still rake in the biggest bucks, law-firm based shops are moving up. Take Greenberg Traurig’s coming in fifth place in third-quarter 2016 earnings, at a median of $1.03 million. The Florida Bar, which regulates

the state’s 104,000 attorneys, has taken notice. There’s been a rise in lawyers starting “purely government relations firms and not the typical law firms,” says Nikki Fried, a lawyer and medical marijuana lobbyist. The Bar now has a “Governmental and Public Policy Advocacy Committee,” and Fried is its vice chair. The section’s membership list, with 66 members as of July, reads like a who’s who of Tallahassee influencers. “There wasn’t a voice for lawyer-lobbyists,” Fried says. “We’re in a unique position. We’re not traditional practitioners. We don’t file motions; we don’t go into court.” But as attorneys, “we’re trained to think differently,” she adds. “We’re trained to know all the moving parts in statute and how they work together.” In this feature section, INFLUENCE is taking a long look at two lobbying law firms, Foley & Lardner and Greenberg Traurig, to show how their lobbying sets them apart. The story package also includes mini-profiles of Florida’s most successful lawyer/lobby shops and an introduction to Liz Dudek, who’s trading in a long career in state government for advocacy in health-related topics. >>



Foley & Lardner....

PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson



Legal know-how plus political ‘muscle’ add up to success for a breadth of blue chip clients BY JIM ROSICA



eflecting on their governmental practice, Jonathan Kilman is proud of the team he has helped build with Foley & Lardner. Kilman, who co-chairs the practice, especially likes what one might call the quiet successes they’re able to achieve, the ones “that are drama free and publicity free.” “We often measure optimal success when we deliver client results without our clients showing up in the blogs or news publications around the state,” Kilman says. Of course, he’ll take some good press too. One recent story from a prominent Florida political news site described the practice as being involved in nearly every major issue in the policymaking process — and for good reason. As Foley & Lardner has focused on talent-building in its government practice, it’s become a think tank with political muscle to deliver results. “We lead with our people and their passion to deliver results for our clients,” said Robert Hosay, the practice’s other co-chair. “Our mantra is to operate in the highest professional manner, using trusted relationships and protecting client confidences.” Hosay is a good example. The top-tier procurement lawyer and lobbyist was a former interim secretary of the Florida Department of Management Services under Gov. Jeb Bush. He recently represented St. John & Partners, a Jacksonville-based advertising and PR firm. It protested a five-year services contract worth $125 million with the Florida Lottery that went to PP&K, a Tampa-based advertising agency. Rather than St. John walking away with nothing, the protest resulted in an undisclosed but “amicable agreement,” according to a joint statement from both firms this August. Other high-profile clients offer their own endorsements, including Craig Hagen, head of global WINTER 2016 INFLUENCE | 85



government affairs for Electronic Arts, Inc., the California-based video game company behind hits like “The Sims” and “Madden NFL.” “In my role overseeing global government affairs for a multinational Fortune 500 corporation, I seek advocacy and counsel from those whose competence and ability to deliver are of the highest caliber,” Hagen said. “Foley’s government practice has provided that to me in Florida, and at the national and international levels,” he added. “Our reputation for achievement in the political, policy, and public arenas are due to the diversified backgrounds and ‘knowledge capital’ housed in our government affairs practice,” Kilman said. Take Kilman himself, a Harvard-trained lawyer. He first came to Florida as outside counsel to the Florida House in redistricting litigation, and from there he was hooked. Since then, he’s represented and advised key political interests in the state,


including a former governor and numerous legislators. As a lawyer and lobbyist, Kilman’s particular passions are health care issues and “market disruption.” His health care work ranges from frequently representing regulated entities before the Agency for Healthcare Administration to the development of a Medicaid managed care plan and advising on telehealth matters. But he also represents some of Silicon Valley’s most recognizable names, such as Lyft, the ride-hailing company. With 15 years of experience around Florida’s Capitol, he also has had a hand in developing high-stakes policy in insurance, transportation, and gaming. Kilman’s work ethic and perpetual presence has resulted in significant wins for many companies in the Fortune 500. “My work with Jonathan Kilman has been a trusted partnership, and I believe that’s precisely what clients want from their law firms and lobbyists,” Hagen said.

Hosay is one of the state’s top “go to” procurement lawyers and lobbyists with his command of Florida’s procurement process. He served as the state’s purchasing director and deputy secretary of operations at DMS before becoming interim secretary. Hosay has racked up wins for clients pursuing Medicaid contracts, Florida’s proprietary and dedicated MFN2 (MyFloridaNet) communications network, technology consulting, software and hardware contracts, corrections services deals, and transportation contracts. The team also boasts Herschel Vinyard, the immediate past secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection under Gov. Rick Scott. Vinyard’s folksy voice and demeanor, tipping one off to his Texas and Louisiana roots, has won him friends and admirers throughout the Capitol, Kilman said. Before entering state government, the environmental lawyer directed business operations for a division of BAE Systems, one of the world’s largest defense contractors. “Herschel’s demeanor has proven to be directly related to the success of his clients,” Kilman said. “Consistent with the Foley mantra and mission, Herschel operates quietly by utilizing his trusted relationships and command of substantive details.” Another high-profile “get” was Jesse Panuccio, former head of the Department of Economic Opportunity under Scott. He works out of Foley’s Miami and Washington, D.C. offices. The magna cum laude Harvard Law grad doesn’t lobby, Kilman said, “but I can promise you he will make his presence felt in Tallahassee.” Panuccio, picked by Scott to run Florida’s jobs agency in 2013, is now a firm

PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson and Mark Wallheiser Photography (Kise)

Panuccio, Kilman and Hosay


AKERMAN The Miami-based law firm is now a juggernaut, with offices around the country. It boasts “significant strength in regulatory, governmental and appellate matters” in Tallahassee on its website. One of its faces in the Capitol every session is Richard Pinsky, the firm’s public policy manager. He’s not a lawyer, but has over three decades of lobbying experience, particularly in appropriations. And though not a lobbyist, state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, a Miami-Dade Republican, is of counsel with the firm, handling zoning, land use, and code issues, among others. In terms of Tallahassee connections, the firm also has attorney Joseph Hatchett, the first African-American appointed to the Florida Supreme Court. He went on to become a judge and then chief judge of the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

COLODNY FASS With a 40-year history and a year-round office directly across from

partner with a practice consisting of “highstakes litigation” and appeals, including complex regulatory matters, Kilman said. “I’m excited to return to the private sector,” Panuccio said in a June interview. “That was the plan all the time, but the governor kept giving me great opportunities, and I kept taking them. “Now I’m going to apply everything I learned about government and our economy in Florida to help clients with difficult issues.” Other members are: PAUL LOWELL. He may be a quieter member of Foley’s government practice, but he’s the technical whiz behind Foley’s Capitol efforts. A former senior staff member in the Florida House who oversaw a variety of policy areas including education, government operations, and health care, Lowell was also Bush’s chief health policy advisor. Legislators often asked Paul to stand nearby, prepared to assist with complex subjects before committees, Kilman said. ERIKA ALBA. She’s a trusted counselor to some of Florida’s most prominent political organizations, candidates, and businesses engaged in the political sphere. Formerly the chief legislative counsel and assistant general counsel for Fidelity National Financial, Alba also brings government experience, having served as assistant chief counsel for the California’s Office of Insurance Commissioner. JON YAPO. Always impeccably dressed, Yapo is “the guy everybody in the Capitol seems to know and like,” Kilman said. He’s built relationships with legislators throughout the state through his work during election seasons. He also maintains a network of relationships built while

Florida’s Capitol, the firm’s executive and legislative lobbying team includes former Florida CFO Tom Gallagher, and Mike Colodny, former attorney for the Florida Senate and fourtime North Miami mayor. Other veteran lobbyists include Katie Webb, Trevor Mask, and Doug Bruce. It’s known for its top-rated insurance industry prowess and hosting of the annual Florida Insurance Summit that draws executives from around the globe.

GUNSTER Florida’s business-oriented Gunster law firm has Lila Jaber, the former chair of the Florida Public Service Commission. This fall, she was promoted to regional managing shareholder, having been in charge of firm’s government affairs practice. She was appointed to the PSC, which regulates investor-owned utilities, by former Gov. Jeb Bush and served two terms. Last year, Gunster also hired J. Cameron Yarbrough as a government affairs consultant in its Tallahassee office. His experience includes legislative liaison for the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation and legislative affairs director for Department of Management Services.

HOLLAND & KNIGHT Its Tallahassee lawyers and “policy advisors” represent clients in “health care, financial services, insurance, state and local taxation, public utilities, construction, education, transportation, and the environment,” its website says. Heavy hitters there include Mark Delegal, a prominent insurance lawyer-lobbyist, and lawyer-lobbyist Josh Aubuchon, who’s known for his advocacy of the state’s craft beer makers. Lobbyist Kimberly Case, former legislative affairs director for Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, also is in the office. The law firm’s Florida Government Advocacy Team is co-chaired by former Gov. Bob Martinez of Tampa, a non-lawyer who also was U.S. drug czar under President George H.W. Bush.

working as a legislative aide to state Rep. Jason Brodeur, a Sanford Republican. CHRISTOPHER M. KISE. He’s served as Florida’s solicitor general, and has been a confidante and legal advisor to both Scott and former Gov. Charlie Crist. Kise has argued before the U.S. Supreme Court and has a statewide litigation and government affairs practice with an emphasis on energy, environmental, transportation and development issues. CHRISTIAN CABALLERO. A veteran of the Capitol, Caballero’s experience includes serving as Bush’s deputy chief Cabinet aide and chief of staff to the Department of Juvenile Justice. In his Cabinet role, Christian was Bush’s

primary advisor during the acquisition of 74,000 acres by the state, then the single largest conservation land purchase in the state’s history. He later was a U.S. Presidential White House Fellow under George W. Bush, and went on to represent one of Florida’s first water farm projects. All that explains why Southern Political Report recently issued a peer-ranked survey placing Foley’s lobbying practice at the top of law firms with lobbying practices in the state. “There’s no doubt that the secret for Foley’s success is the caliber and quality of our people,” Kilman added.



A happy collaboration between litigators and lobbyists for 25 years BY JIM ROSICA




PHOTO: Mark Wallheiser Photography

hen lawyer Fred Baggett combined his Tallahassee lobbying/law firm with Greenberg Traurig in 1991, the firm’s founders made clear, they were “now one firm.” Even though that new enterprise at first was like serving, say, collards in fatback on top of key lime pie. “We were good ol’ boys in Tallahassee and they were the South Florida lawyers, and the legal and political community in Tallahassee scratched their heads: ‘What the devil are you guys doing?’ ” recalls Baggett, now the managing shareholder in Tallahassee. “We did litigation, contracts, and our lobbying, but most of our work related to government in one way or another,” he says of his old firm, Roberts, Baggett, LaFace and Richard. Greenberg, he says, “did not have the resources to deal with Tallahassee. They came up to see us and said ‘this is not our town.’ We merged the firms and we were their first office outside South Florida.” The combination worked, and Greenberg Traurig since then has exploded to 2,000 attorneys in 38 offices on three continents. And its capital lobbying practice, with Baggett still at the helm, is steaming on. In recent years, Greenberg has made marquee hires, including veteran insurance lawyer-lobbyist Fred Karlinsky and Liz Dudek, former secretary of the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration (see story, page 90). The firm came in fifth this November in legislative lobbying compensation for the third quarter of 2016. State law requires lobbying firms to report revenue, but it only requires them to do so in general ranges, not in precise amounts. Greenberg posted $1.03 million in lobbying revenue. Having offices around the country only helps, especially for larger clients: “We may tell clients, ‘if you have a Medicaid problem in Florida, chances






State Agency ‘Lifer’ Liz Dudek Now Advocates for Health Care at Greenberg Traurig BY JIM ROSICA

PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson

When Liz Dudek retired in November as secretary of Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration, she was immediately able to join Greenberg Traurig’s lobbying practice as director of Healthcare Affairs. State law normally bans lobbying by former state agency employees for two years after they leave. Dudek was able to bypass the lobbying ban because it exempts those hired before 1989; Dudek first starting working for the state in late 1974. No wonder Fred Baggett, managing shareholder of Greenberg Traurig’s Tallahassee office, was “thrilled” to be able to add her to his team. Dudek’s vast knowledge of the federal-state health care system made her a shoo-in. She led an agency that has a $26 billion budget, most of which went to funding Medicaid, the joint federal-state health care program for the poor. The agency also oversees licensing of Florida’s 45,000 health care facilities. “As a leader in the regulation of health care for many years, her distinctive knowledge and expertise are unsurpassed,” Baggett said. Gov. Rick Scott first appointed Dudek secretary of AHCA — which has a roughly $20 billion yearly budget — in March 2011, according to the agency’s website. She was re-nominated by Scott for the job and again confirmed by the Senate in February. “I’m a lifer, and I mean that in a really good sense,” she said during a confirmation hearing this January in the Senate Health Policy committee. “... I believe in being responsible, in being accountable, honest and efficient,” she added. “And I think I lead the best team in state government.” In a statement on her retirement, Scott said Dudek “has done an outstanding job making sure all Floridians have the opportunity to lead a healthy and safe life and I wish her the best.” Over the years, she gathered legislative and regulatory experience few government officials have. Dudek served in a succession of positions in the agency, including: • Bureau Chief of Certificate of Need/Budget Review • Bureau Chief of Health Facility Compliance • Assistant Deputy Secretary of Managed Care and Health Quality • Deputy Secretary of the Division of Health Quality Assurance “By joining Greenberg Traurig, I know I am joining a team that places integrity and professionalism above all else,” Dudek said in November. “... In this new position, I will be able to nurture the relationships I have formed throughout my career and continue to help improve health care in Florida.”

PHOTO: Mark Wallheiser Photography

are you’re going to have a similar problem in New York.’ … We can provide more than a normal lobby shop,” Baggett says. Gus Corbella, the firm’s senior director of the Government Law and Policy practice in Tallahassee, often talks about having “a platform and a network,” as do his colleagues. Corbella, who is not a lawyer, uses the example of getting “an email from someone in the firm that’s having a client issue in Thailand.” “In five minutes, you’ll see a half-dozen responses” from other members of the firm, he says. “It’s a daily occurrence. Someone knows the ambassador, or someone else had the same problem. The degrees of separation are minimal.” Corbella, formerly chief of staff to Senate President Jim King, says he’s still wowed “to have folks, many you may have never even met, reach out and say, ‘Hey, I can help you.’ I think that speaks a lot about this firm. That’s how much the governmental practice is respected. They see that we get results.” Baggett adds: “The management of the firm is obsessed with collaboration. It’s not like the old-school law firm model of a hierarchy of senior partners who have arrived and are entitled. Here, everybody works. And there are a lot of good lawyers that would not do well here because they expect the firm to support them. Those are the people the firm does not look for, either on the lawyer side or the lobby side.” Hiring Greenberg Traurig influencers provides a buffer and mediator between sometimes competing factions within the same company, especially sprawling corporations, he says. “In the corporate world, the lobby side and the external affairs and general counsel side don’t always see eye to eye,” Baggett explains. “The lawyer says, ‘Boss, we got a problem. Let’s go litigate it and spend a couple million dollars for three or four years.’ The external affairs side says, ‘Let’s get the right lobbyist and resolve it in six months.’ The CEO looks at us as a combination in bringing us on. We can work better with the general counsel and the external affairs team.” His team also can tap into the talents of the firm’s premier litigators in Tallahassee, including Barry Richard. He’s known for representing then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush during the 2000 presidential election challenge, and more recently he helped the Seminole Tribe of Florida win a legal fight against the state to continue offering blackjack at its casinos. “We use our litigators to help us with our lobby work,” Baggett says. “We’ll go to Barry and say, ‘here’s our issue; we need the legal perspective.’ And he’ll go in front of a (legislative) committee and explain it.” They also say they’re not fussed by stricter new rules proposed by House

Liz Dudek, with Gus Corbella

Speaker Richard Corcoran and adopted by the Florida House. They include requiring lobbyists to file an individual disclosure for every bill, amendment, and individual appropriation they are trying to influence. “While most people might consider it to be burdensome, it’s a transparency process,” Corbella says. “For lobbyists, transparency is not a dirty word. It’s our reputation and our clients’ reputation that we’re sharing with elected officials. It’s the bond that we share with those folks. If information is ever incorrect or misleading, you quickly lose your reputation in the process.” Picking up on that theme, Baggett refers to the random audits lobbying firms now are subject to. Last year was the first time under a 2005 state law that firms were randomly subject to audits. State law requires only that firms report compensation in ranges rather than exact figures, however, so it’s not known precisely how much money is involved in lobbying lawmakers. Baggett says he and others in the business sat down with staff to help devise an auditing program to delve into detailed recordkeeping, including revenues and time spent on executive lobbying versus legislative: “That was a big deal; they review every bill.” Greenberg also got a new CEO this year, Brian L. Duffy, who splits his time between the Denver and New York offices. The change in leadership hasn’t meant a change

in firm culture. “As a matter of fact, it’s a reaffirmation of the culture: hardworking, collaborative, business oriented,” Baggett says. “There’s no class divide.” At the same time, Corbella says, “we’re all on first-name terms with our CEO. I don’t think you have a lot of law firms that have that kind of environment where you feel comfortable sending an email to your CEO.” Karlinsky left rival firm Colodny Fass to join Greenberg Traurig in 2014. “A number of things were attractive to me,” he says. “First, the team approach that we have, the support and backup. “But really, it was the national and international platform for what I do, specifically on the insurance side, and the ability to have a number of different offices in a number of different states and a number of different countries with people that can handle all aspects of a client’s needs, whether it be taxes or employment issues, mergers and acquisitions,” he adds. “They make Greenberg an attractive business partner for anyone that’s doing business in Florida.” Baggett says the 25th anniversary of the merger of his old firm with Greenberg Traurig will be this January. “We found a firm that recognized the value of providing advocacy services inside a law firm,” he says. “It’s about the value to the client, being able to provide full service.” ][


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A renewed commitment to bring leading innovation to Florida public safety Nokia is powering the backbone of the SLERS Public Safety Network. In 2017 Florida will be upgrading its network to Project 25 digital radio. This backbone will play a vital role in delivering the reliability and security needed, and support mission critical applications. And it will make the network readily scalable for new technologies such as 4G-LTE, the IoT and eventually 5G. Nokia is at the forefront of global innovation. We are committed to providing the people of Florida with the leading edge technology and services that its public safety officers are counting on. Learn more.

policy note { WORKERS’ COMP

Workers’ Compensation rates rise as Supreme Court decisions upend Florida’s litigation-free system BY MICHAEL MOLINE AND PETER SCHORSCH

Understanding the 94 | INFLUENCE WINTER 2016

policy note { WORKERS’ COMP

“ THE COURTS SHALL BE OPEN TO EVERY PERSON FOR REDRESS OF ANY INJURY, AND JUSTICE SHALL BE ADMINISTERED WITHOUT SALE, DENIAL, OR DELAY.” So says the Florida Constitution’s Declaration of Rights. But there is an alternative: Florida’s workers’ compensation system, which offers redress for injury through its own specialized courts.

Since 1935, the state has used the workers’ compensation nofault system to ensure injured employees get medical attention and return to their jobs without the expense of litigation, all at a price that doesn’t bankrupt business. However, some say the balance the system aims for appears to have been lost. In addition to assistance available to injured workers — medical, wage replacement, rehabilitation, van, cars, homes, prostheses, drugs, treatment for unrelated conditions to treat related conditions, medical equipment, and others — there are lifetime as well as permanent and total disability benefits (with cost of living increases); all of which come at no cost to employee. Nevertheless, a handful of business owners and insurers say two Florida Supreme Court rulings have re-interpreted the right of access to the courts. And they are now looking to the Legislature to fix it when lawmakers reconvene in March. In fact, the lobbying has already started, Florida Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President David Hart said. The Chamber has convened a task force to draft a workers’ compensation fix. “I hope to be talking to a couple of members of the Legislature while they’re here in town about where we are and what their thinking is,” Hart said in an interview from Tallahassee. “I would anticipate that sometime during the committee meetings in, perhaps, December, we’d be ready to file a bill.” “It’s going to be a tenacious issue, because of very sharp differentiating interests,” said Rep. Bill Hager, a Republican from Delray Beach who has served on the insurance committee and has requested to do so next session. “I would say, ‘stand by’.”

The immediate crisis involves a 14.5 percent increase in workers’ compensation insurance premiums that began to take effect Dec. 1. Businesses will realize the extra costs as their policies come up for renewal during the subsequent 12 months.


The Chamber estimates the cost to Florida’s economy at $1.5 billion. A trial judge in Tallahassee enjoined the increase Nov. 25, ruling regulators and a rate-making council violated Florida’s open-government laws in approving it. However, the 1st District Court of Appeal stayed that ruling pending further argument. That rate-making body, the National Council on Compensation Insurance, or NCCI, files rates on behalf of Florida insurers. It points to those Supreme Court rulings for by far most of the increase. A major offender, in this view, was Castellanos v. Next Door Co., in which the court struck down a schedule for attorney fees in workers’ compensation disputes — mostly, a cap on those fees. The Legislature imposed this cap, tagged to the value of any benefits secured through litigation, through SB 50A. That was in 2003, the last time the system underwent major reforms. Those opposed to the measure say it explicitly declares fees need not be “reasonable.” In fact, charges must be strictly tied to a contingency fee schedule based on benefits secured. It is a process similar to all WINTER 2016 INFLUENCE | 95

policy note { WORKERS’ COMP

In Castellanos (delivered April 28) and Westphal v. City of St. Petersburg (June 9), the Supreme Court ruled Florida’s workers’ compensation system had become so heavily weighted against workers, it violated their access to the courts, and therefore the Constitution. “The workers’ compensation system has become increasingly complex to the detriment of the claimant, who depends on the assistance of a competent attorney to navigate the thicket,” Justice Barbara Pariente wrote for a 5-2 majority in striking down the fee cap. The court noted the plaintiff’s attorney in Castellanos needed more than 107 billable hours to secure $822.70 in benefits that his client had been unfairly denied, in the view of a judge of compensation claims. Under the fee cap, he was entitled to less than $165 — an hourly rate of about $1.53. Yet his work was both “reasonable and necessary,” the claims judge concluded. However, some of the facts suggest the case was not merely over $822 in benefits. Overlooked by some was the fact the claimant was at fault for a fight on the job in which he was injured, not covered under the workers’ compensation statute. Subsequent litigation was over much more significant issues; but as an unfortunate luck of the draw, the only benefits in question were $822. On the other hand, if the situation warranted $300,000, or could be turned into that amount, the same litigation would have garnered a fee of more than $30,000. Calling the case for what it is — the claimant now has a potentially lifetime open claim. “The Legislature has created an irrebuttable presumption that every fee calculated in accordance with the fee schedule will be reasonable to compensate the attorney for his or her services,” Pariente wrote. “The $1.53 hourly rate in this case clearly demonstrates that not to be true.” But the Legislature did not create such a presumption; the concept was infused by the court. While the decision entitled the attorney to bill at his usual fee of $350 per hour, or $37,520, there is no usual, customary rate in workers’ compensation cases — an idea perpetuated by attorneys. In reality, all actions are taken on contingency. In Westphal, too, the court documented 96 | INFLUENCE WINTER 2016

a history of diminished rights for employees. Temporary total disability eligibility, at issue in the case, had been reduced from about six-and-a-half years to five to two, the court noted. Employers and insurers enjoy the exclusive right to choose a treating physician (which always has been the case in Florida). Since 1970, workers cannot opt out and go to court, making it harder to prove the injury was the major contributing cause of disability. Workers face medical copayments of only $10 for any visits after the injured worker reached the point of maximum improvement from medical treatment for injuries, but not before then. The court majority saw the trend as unfair. “There must eventually come a tipping point, where the diminution of benefits becomes so substantial as to constitute a denial of benefits — thus creating a constitutional violation,” Pariente wrote for the five-justice majority in that case. She called the system “fundamentally and manifestly unjust.” What is important to note is that Pariente’s comments are a non-binding opinion; the court has never found the overall workers’ compensation statute unconstitutional, with a single exception of the violation of the single subject rule. The Westphal ruling struck down a two-year cap on temporary permanent disability payments — paid while the worker still seems likely to recover enough to eventually return to work. If that time runs out before that happens, the employee can lose financial support while still unable to earn a living. The court has yet to find the overall statute unconstitutional, either in Castellanos or Westphal. “The statute cuts off a severely injured worker from disability benefits at a critical time, when the worker cannot return to work and is totally disabled, but the worker’s doctors — chosen by the employer — deem that the worker may still continue to medically improve,” she wrote. And that, she continued, is no “reasonable alternative to tort litigation.” The Castellanos court pointed to an additional inequity: During the 2002-03 fiscal year, plaintiffs and defense attorneys in these cases split total fees roughly 50:50. By 2012-13, the split was approximately 36:64. Furthermore, the schedule still can produce excessive plaintiff’s fees, the court said. “The fee schedule does nothing to adjust fees downward when the recovery is high, even if the time required to obtain significant benefits was relatively minor and the resulting fee is actually excessive,” Pariente wrote.

Simpson Even so, a nearly $38,000 fee for winning about $823 in benefits doesn’t sit right with business and insurance leaders. In the view of the courts, the legislative intent for the cap is flawed. Pariente says it was to eliminate excessive fees, which may not have been the initial goal. The original intent was to remove incentives for lawyers to file unreasonable and arguably frivolous claims just to create attorney’s fees because the system allowed a judge of compensation claims to award fees with no relationship to benefits secured. Attorneys simply filed claims to play an economic game when the only support may be the lawyers’ thoughts (e.g., the claimant needs to see a psychiatrist even though no evidence supports that) — cheaper to pay the claim and litigate — economic roulette. Lawyers benefited by insurers denying claims — that’s the game and that’s why claim costs in Florida were 40 percent above the national average. Furthermore, since Castellanos, insurers report the reopening of old claims, increased attorney involvement and higher hourly fees, plus more challenges involving minor disputes, says the NCCI. The fear is that, attorney fees aside, the ruling encourages employers and insurers to OK unwarranted benefits to stave off litigation, driving up insurance costs. Bill Herrle, Florida director for the National Federation of Independent Business, serves on a separate workers’ compensation task force organized by Associated Industries of Florida. He said responsible business owners want to pay what they owe to injured workers — no less, but certainly no more. “We all agree that we need to have some cap on attorney fees,” Herrle said of himself and his colleagues on the AIF task force. “There is a broad consensus that usual and customary attorney fees will, over a couple of years, break the system. We’ll see double-digit increases like we saw this year for several years into the future,” he said. Before HB 50-A, Florida had the highest

PHOTO: Mark Wallheiser Photography

contingency cases, workers’ compensation or otherwise. The bill does not expressly say the fees don’t have to be reasonable.

workers’ compensation premiums in the country, as shown by a study by the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services and cited by AIF. By 2010, Florida ranked No. 40 among the states. Following the impending increases, it will rank No. 23. Richard Chait, chairman of the Workers’ Compensation Section of the Florida Justice Association, did not respond to a request for an interview for this story. But when the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation heard testimony on NCCI’s requested rate increase, he argued that greedy insurers — not trial lawyers — were to blame. Castellanos eliminated an incentive for insurers to deny valid claims, he said. Unfortunately, to buy into that argument, one must agree that all claims are valid and denials are all illegitimate. That is simply not the case. It may be a simplistic explanation: Lawyers get bigger fees, premiums go up, claimants still only gets their benefits. But, in fact, Castellanos created an incentive for lawyers to file and litigate claims; the exact situation the Legislature successfully constrained in 2003 and 2009. A group of advocates — named 14.5, after the workers’ compensation percentage rate hike — characterized it as “essentially misplaced,” but it is the same reform put in place in 2003, which drove prices down more than 60 percent, something now invalidated by the court. Could it be possible that former Florida chief insurance regulator Kevin McCarty was ill advised … for 13 years? “What Castellanos is going to do is serve as a great equalizer,” Chait said. “What we’re seeing is that cases that have been entrenched in litigation are now resolving. But it can be argued that lawyers have been running up the cost. That cases that have claims pending are being processed before 30 days — or even better, no petitions for benefits are needed.” They claim costs go up — just as they went down before Castellanos. Neither Hart nor Herrle was prepared to say what an ideal fix might look like; both task forces were still settling on the details. Hart has spoken to several potential bill sponsors and hoped business would agree on a unified approach. “Our intention is clear: to address the Supreme Court decisions, and in particular the decision that found caps on fees unconstitutional,” Herrle said. “Otherwise, 14.5 percent is unfortunately just the start of rate increases to come.” Sen. Wilton Simpson, a Republican from Trilby who will serve as majority leader next session, hopes to avoid getting bogged down in a fight between business and trial lawyers. He wants to hear ideas from all sides and to consider what other states are doing. ][

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Rising St rs Driven and successful today, these 22 young achievers represent the future of The Process


“They’re the next generation of Young Turks that will assume the ranks of lobbyists and inside government,” said David Mica, the chairman of the Florida Association of Professional Lobbyists. “As a new grandfather, they give me great hope for my grandson and Florida’s future.” INFLUENCE Magazine talked to some of the rising stars in the Sunshine State’s government affairs sector. They are the next generation of lobbyists and fundraisers, public relations gurus and top communicators. Their resumes are extensive; and don’t be surprised if they’re your boss in 10 years. >>


PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson

Call them the young guns, the up-and-comers, or the new wave of influencers. Whatever you do, don’t call them underachievers.

Kelly Schmidt, 24 Finance director for the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee

It takes persistence, personality, and a special touch to become a top fundraiser. It’s a good thing Kelly Schmidt has all three. “She’s this under-the-radar, up-and-coming star. I think she has a bright future,” said Nick Iarossi, a consultant and founding member of Capital City Consulting. “Some people have good political instincts; they’re just born with the ability to read (people). She was born with it. But she’s not out there doing what the other 24-year-olds are doing, and that’s rare.”

Schmidt was recently named the finance director for the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee. It’s a well-deserved promotion after nearly a year — and one crazy election cycle — as the organization’s deputy finance director. A 2013 Florida State University graduate, Schmidt said she started out as an intern with the Republican Party of Florida during Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign. She was hired by the party to work on Senate campaigns the next year. She stayed with

it when Senate campaigns broke away from the state party and formed the Florida Republican Senatorial Committee in 2015. She worked her way up the ladder, quickly ascending to a top position in the organization. And now that she has the taste for fundraising, Schmidt doesn’t think she’ll ever leave it. “I started my internship looking to build my resume — I didn’t know I would build a career,” she said.



Melanie Brown


f you’re running for office in Florida, you probably already know Melanie Brown. If not, just know this: She’s one of the money “men”. The 35-year-old has made a name for herself as one of the top fundraisers in the state. Need proof of her prowess? When she was at the Republican Party of Florida, she raised $13 million to elect Republicans to the Florida House. Nearly a decade later, she’s still one of the go-to people when it comes to raising campaign dough. So when she joined Johnson & Blanton in 2011, it was only natural she would be involved with fundraising. “My love language is elections and fundraising,” said Brown, the director of government relations at Johnson & Blanton. Brown got her start as an OPS secretary in the Senate Appropriations suite while she was at Florida State University. She worked there during session, putting herself through college and fueling her love of the process. It was also where she met Jon Johnson and Travis Blanton. She calls them her “couch stalkers,” joking they would loiter on the couch in the front of the appropriations suite. They took a liking to her, and when her time in the Senate ended, they offered her a job. They hired her to be a runner, but that job quickly morphed. Soon Brown was tracking bills and doing administrative duties. When the office manager left, she stepped in and filled that role too. “She had a great way about her,” said Johnson. “She’s really a utility infielder, if you will, she can play any position and play it really well.” She did it so well that elected officials noticed, and pretty soon some of the state’s top lawmakers were calling Johnson & Blanton to see if they could steal her away. “That was a high honor that she was noticed by elected officials,” said Johnson.


She left the firm in August 2006 to become the finance director for House campaigns at the Republican Party of Florida. It was a chance to spread her wings, try her hand at campaigning, and learn the ropes of the fundraising business. She helped raise millions to elect House Republicans, before taking a job in the Speaker’s office in 2008. And after a few years as a House staffer, her stalkers came calling. “We had a spot that we needed to fill, and she was the person we wanted to hire,” said Blanton. “We obviously wanted her back.” The offer allowed Brown to move to Tampa, and gave her a chance to expand her horizons, while also getting back to the fundraising side of things. Johnson & Blanton is a significant contributor to candidates and committees, and it is Brown’s job to manage their program. That means researching candidates and their positions, developing plans and disseminating the contributions. And her talents are so well known, Johnson and Blanton occasionally field calls from candidates asking if she can put together an event for them. “She understands what they need, she is super easy to deal with, and highly, highly organized,” said Blanton. For Brown, the job gives her the best of everything. She gets to raise money and help candidates, but also is able to dive into the policy side of things. She’s gotten involved with health care policy, and is tasked with handling the firm’s social media. “I’m the jack of all trades,” said Brown, a mother of two. “We’re all hands on deck. I would say balancing it is always tricky, but I just think of the good things we’re doing for our clients.”

PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson

Johnson & Blanton’s ‘utility infielder’ raises money — and so much more




Emily Duda Buckley, 25

Government relations manager at Jones Walker For Emily Duda Buckley, agriculture and politics go hand-in-hand. A member of the powerful Duda agriculture family, the 25-year-old always knew she had a passion for politics and the political process. So when she got an internship with David Rancourt in 2010, she made the most of it, hustling every day, even though they both knew an offshore oil drilling bill wasn’t going anywhere. From there she did everything she could to learn the ropes: internships at the James Madison Institute and the governor’s office; a summer as a legal assistant at her family business; and a stint in the Florida House of Representatives, before joining The Moya Group. Now she’s the government relations manager at Jones Walker, where she specializes in agriculture and energy. One of the clients in her portfolio: A Duda and Sons, her family business. “I’m very fortunate. A lot of family businesses don’t make it past the third generation, I’m the fifth generation,” she said. While agriculture is a big part of her life, she also dabbles in education. And this year, she took charge of the firm’s entire political program, handling everything from candidate interviews to contribution recommendations. “Few people have achieved the reputation and relationships which Emily enjoys throughout the legislative and executive branches,” said Christopher Moya, director of the firm’s government relations practice group.

Carol Bowen, 39

Deputy chief lobbyist at Associated Builders and Contractors of Florida Like many young transplants to Florida, Carol Bowen thought she would be in the Sunshine State for a year. That was more than a decade ago. Today, Bowen is poised to take over as the chief lobbyist at Associated Builders and Contractors of Florida. While the Palm Beach resident has big shoes to fill, insiders expect Bowen will continue to elevate the statewide association in the years to come. “She is not only very talented and skilled and a tireless advocate, but she’s got great relationships,” said Robert Stuart, the senior director of government affairs at GrayRobinson. Those relationships will be key when she takes over the reins from Rick Watson, who announced he was retiring after the 2017 legislative session. As the vice president of government affairs for ABC of Florida’s East Coast chapter, Bowen’s region spans from the Keys to Melbourne. One-third of the Florida Legislature represents her region, and Bowen has built relationships with most of them. “It is not about how I feel politically or legislatively. It is not about my opinion of the world. It is my job to represent the clients and their needs,” said Bowen. “Any victory I have as Carol Bowen is not my victory, it’s a victory for ABC.”



Eric Edwards, 33

PHOTOS: Mary Beth Tyson (Crofoot and Buckley); courtesy E. Ewards; courtesy Carol Bowen

Assistant vice president of governmental affairs for U.S. Sugar Sugar runs through Eric Edwards’ blood. Born and raised in Clewiston, several members of his family worked for U.S. Sugar. He has friends who work there. And now Edwards is officially part of the sugar family. “It’s an area, it’s a company, it’s an entity that I’ve been aware of for my whole life. Their issues affect my family; their issues affect my friends,” said Edwards, who was recently named assistant vice president of governmental affairs at the company. While it may seem like a natural fit, Edwards wasn’t always on the path to be a member of the lobby corps. He went to school to be a doctor, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather. But after two and a half years, he changed paths, deciding politics and policy was more his speed. He got his start in 2004 as an intern for the Republican Party of Florida, before making the shift to the Florida Legislature. It’s there he learned to love the process, becoming a top aide to former Senate President Don Gaetz. “We have wanted to strengthen and expand our internal government relations operation for some time, and we have patiently searched for just the right combination of experience, personality, and potential,” said Robert Coker, vice president of U.S. Sugar and its head lobbyist, earlier this fall. “We hit the trifecta with Eric Edwards.”

Katie Crofoot, 28 • Assistant vice president of governmental affairs at the Florida Bankers Association

Just call Katie Crofoot a Jill of all trades. She has worked as a legislative staffer, both in the House Majority Office and for Rep. Eric Eisnaugle. She’s spent time at the Republican Party of Florida, working on House campaigns during the 2012 and 2014 election cycles. “Katie knows the game she’s playing from all sides. She’s been professional staff, Speaker’s staff, member staff, (on the) campaign side, political consulting with us, and now lobbying,” said Joe Clements, the co-founder of Strategic Digital Services. “Katie has been in the trenches a lot in her career. None of the positions I just mentioned before were ‘easy;’ she was part of big battles in each one.” Now the 28-year-old Winter Park native is hoping to hone her skills in the policy arena, signing on as the assistant vice president of government affairs at the Florida Bankers Association in October. The job will give her a chance to “specialize and hone in on” one specialty. And while Crofoot has tried her hand at almost everything in the industry, it’s the policy side of things that just keeps calling her. “I’m brand new to banking, but I feel I have the skills because of working for (the House),” she said. “I love public policy.”



Joshua Gabel, 24

Bianca Garza, 30

Director of communications at United for Care For Bianca Garza, advocating for medical marijuana is personal. Her grandmother died of pancreatic cancer when Garza was just two years old. As a teenager, family members told her about how they would make her grandmother brownies laced with marijuana and rub an oil they made on her back to help alleviate her pain. “It rocked my world,” said Garza, the director of communications at United for Care, the organization behind the successful 2016 medical marijuana campaign. A University of South Florida graduate, Garza had always planned on getting involved in advocacy. She brought advocacy groups to the AURA Music and Arts Festival, which she co-founded, in an effort to make sure attendees were informed about issues important to them. And it was through the festival Garza became aware of the push to legalize medical marijuana in Florida. She started as a volunteer, before becoming a regional organizer for United for Care during the 2014 campaign. When the group began gearing up for a fight in 2016, she signed on as the director of communications, moving her family from Tampa to Miami to be closer to the cause. “Bianca started off on the campaign as a volunteer coordinator in 2013 as someone passionate about medical marijuana, but with no experience in campaigns or public relations. She quickly adapted to her job and then, over the years, grew into the much larger role of communications director,” said Ben Pollara, United for Care’s campaign manager. “Bianca was successful in both jobs for the same reason: she’s a committed, honest messenger who people cannot help but like.” Now that the campaign is over, Garza intends to continue to fight for the rights of patients, especially as lawmakers begin the arduous task of implementing Amendment 2. “I want to make sure patients have reasonable access,” she said. “I have a vested interest in the patients I’ve met along the way.


You don’t need to convince Josh Gabel that social media is important. He realized that early on, watching how then-candidate Barack Obama used social media to build a coalition of young voters. He saw it again this year as Democrat Bernie Sanders and Republican Donald Trump used it to turn out their supporters. So it’s no surprise that Gabel is making it his priority to get more young Floridians engaged with the government watchdog on social media. “There’s a lot more younger people taking notice to what we’re doing. I think that’s a testament to what we’ve done on social media and in the capital,” he said. “It’s definitely crucial. You cannot survive without it in today’s world.” Gabel knows a few things about surviving in political arena. He got his first shot when Meredith O’Rourke hired him as a campaign finance intern for Mitt Romney’s campaign. He then joined Gov. Rick Scott’s re-election campaign, first as an intern, then working in fundraising and finance. He went on to work for Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry’s campaign, before deciding it was time to try his hand at the policy side of the business. So he picked up the phone and called Florida TaxWatch to ask if they were hiring. They were, and Gabel quickly made the leap from the campaign trail to the halls of the Florida Capitol. “Josh is a bright young star and has brought incredible energy to Florida TaxWatch,” said Dominic M. Calabro, president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch. “His insights and perspective on everything from social media to research on issues have been a benefit not only to our group, but to all Florida taxpayers. He has a very bright future serving the public.”

PHOTOS: Mary Beth Tyson (Gabel, Hunt, Henderson); courtesy B. Garza

Outreach coordinator at Florida TaxWatch


Brittney Hunt, 28

Director of talent, education and quality of life policy at the Florida Chamber of Commerce Ask Brittney Hunt how she balances the variety of issues on her plate, and she is quick to respond. “I’ve become a semi-pro juggler,” she says with a chuckle. It might be a joke, but it’s one that isn’t that far from reality. At the Florida Chamber, Hunt focuses primarily on education and health care issues. “When you think of where the food fights typically center, health care, gaming, and education are always near the top of the list. They are issues that require constant attention as they evolve and a policy understanding that exceeds the usual soundbite,” said Frank Walker, the vice president of governmental affairs at the Florida Chamber. “Brittney is successful because she does her homework, is not afraid to ask the right questions to get to the heart of an issue; and has demonstrated a unique ability to forge and grow relationships across all sectors of the public policy landscape.” Hunt is no stranger to the political process. She spent two years as an analyst in the Attorney General’s Office, working to implement policy. But she started to wonder if being the influencer was more her style. She learned the ropes of education policy as a lobbyist for Messer Caparello, before joining the Florida Chamber in 2015. She picked up health care, quickly becoming an authority in the field. “It’s definitely been cool for me to see both sides,” she said. “Contract lobbyists have clients; we’re looking out for the greater good for businesses.”

Jasmyne Henderson, 28

Attorney with the Pittman Law Group For Jasmyne Henderson, working in a small firm has led to some big opportunities. She joined the Pittman Law Group after graduating from the Florida State University’s College of Law. She was trying to decide if she wanted to stay in Tallahassee, and Sean Pittman, the firm’s founder, offered her a job to help with Session. “It was a bit of a transition. I had some legislative experience before, but it was my first time directing a legislative program,” she said. “He took me under his wing.” Henderson has spent the past few years learning the ins and outs of the industry, getting her sea legs on a variety of issues. And she has good people guiding the way. Former Sen. Geraldine Thompson is her grandmother; and former Sen. Arthenia Joyner is one of her mentors. “She’s been around it all of her life,” said Thompson. “She’s very well prepared, but I think the involvement over the years has given her a certain kind of understanding and self confidence that makes her stand out.” Government affairs is just part of Henderson’s passion; she’s been working with Pittman on campaigns on and off since 2010. And as she looks to her future in the industry, she constantly reminds herself of one guiding principle: Treat others as you want to be treated. “I say this all the time, but I think the best anyone can take is the same people you see going up, you can see going down,” she said.





Jose Diaz Carrying on the legacy of Bob Levy


he needed a job after the airline went under, Levy helped him get one with state Rep. John Cosgrove. But his path back to Robert Levy and Associates was far from a straight line. In 1993, he entered the seminary and spent the next five years studying to become a priest. “I’ve always been a religious person. I figured out that was where my vocation and calling was,” he said about his decision to enter the seminary. “It basically didn’t work out. But here’s how I look at it: I left the seminary a better person than I came in.” Diaz came back to the firm about a decade ago, after working in Washington D.C. for five years. Rodriguez said it was supposed to be temporary, that Levy asked him to come on board until he could find someone to fill the open position. But Diaz never left. Over that time, he continued to build relationships, hustled every day, and helped keep the trains running on time. And when Levy got sick, Rodriguez said Diaz was right there by his side. Diaz said while Levy never thought about retiring, the thought was always the two men would be “a team and business partners until the end,” and Diaz would carry on the firm. And while it came sooner than he hoped, Diaz is now finding himself in a position to leave his own mark on the nearly 40-year-old firm. Don’t expect too much to change. The firm has long prided itself on helping the little people and giving people a chance, and Diaz said he plans to carry on that tradition. He still wants it to be a place where the next generation of lawmakers and lobbyists come to learn the ropes. “It has never been about the money,” said Diaz. “For us, it’s about making a difference.”

PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson

ose Diaz chuckles at the notion he is considered a “rising star.” At 51 years old, Diaz has been a part of the process for nearly three decades. He’s worked on campaigns, walked the halls of the Capitol and has seen the government affairs industry morph over the years. But despite decades of experience, Diaz also is keenly aware he is embarking on what could be the most important year of his career. Diaz took over operations of Robert Levy and Associates earlier this year, after the death of Bob Levy, the firm’s founder and Diaz’s mentor. He worked with Levy for 27 years, and is now tasked with carrying on the veteran lobbyist’s legacy. “I know this is a crucial year to prove myself,” he said. That might not be as difficult as he thinks. He has been lauded for carrying the firm through the transition, keeping the firm’s client list intact. Clients have told him “you were Bob and Bob was you,” expressing confidence he can carry on. “He’s quiet, but very strong and someone you want in your foxhole with you,” said Ana Maria Rodriguez, the vice president of government affairs at the Miami Association of Realtors. “He’s a great soul and has a great heart.” And yet Diaz understands the weight of his responsibility. The firm has long been known as a place where young, talented people go to learn the ropes before moving on. Rep. Holly Raschein was a protégé of Levy’s, as was former Sen. Dwight Bullard. Diaz got his start with Levy in 1988. He was working as a flight attendant with Eastern Airlines and knew the airline was facing hard times. He had a passion for public service and government, and was introduced to Levy, who gave him a shot working on campaigns. He worked with him for three years while he was still at Eastern Airlines. When


PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson




Whitney Harris Seeking opportunity for workers who are ‘a different flavor of normal’


hitney Harris always thought she’d be helping people, but this isn’t the path she started out on. The eighth-generation Floridian went to St. Petersburg College, earning her degree in orthotics and prosthetics. She completed a residency in Colorado, and became a certified prosthetist. But Harris said she quickly realized it wasn’t for her. “I didn’t like Colorado, and I didn’t like working in the prosthetic industry,” she said. “I didn’t like the way people without arms and legs were being treated. It started weighing on me.” So in 2014, she took the first opportunity she could find in Florida with a nonprofit that worked with and advocated for individuals with disabilities and their families. She landed at The Family Café in Tallahassee, and changed the course of her life along the way. “A lot of the people you identify as rising stars, there’s no limit. What the big advantage with Whitney is, whether she wants it or not, she is a role model,” said Tony Carvajal, the executive vice president of the Florida Chamber Foundation. “She’s just not making a big deal about it. She just does.” The 26-year-old joined the Florida Chamber Foundation in January as its special projects coordinator and assistant to the executive vice president. While it might not be a sexy title, Harris has been tasked with developing and leading a newly created internship program for people with disabilities. When she’s not doing that, she’s coordinating the Florida 2030 Town Hall Meetings, a key part of a major Chamber Foundation initiative. And she is also a person born with a disability, a fact she doesn’t let get in the way of her life. Born without a fully developed right arm and right leg, she climbed trees with her siblings. She sews and she knits;

last year everyone on her Christmas list got homemade hats. While many people might consider her an inspiration, including Carvajal, her boss, Harris tries to to shrug off the idea. “It upsets me to no end that people seem to equate me living a normal life ‘despite’ a disability as an automatic inspiration,” she said during a speech at the 2016 Future of Florida Forum. “Let’s pretend for a moment … that everyone in the world was the exact same. We all have one arm, one leg, and one thumb. We get up, put on our legs, drive to work and provide for our families. Going to work wouldn’t be a point of inspiration, it would be a point of our everyday life. It would be normal.” At the Chamber Foundation, she’s helping to create an environment where a person with disabilities can get a job and thrive in the Sunshine State. She’s already proven herself in a short amount of time, and said Carvajal sees her staying in the policy world “managing more and more programs, hopefully with us. “She has a good head on her shoulders, she has vision, she can see what the future of Florida looks like,” he said. “She’s clearly someone we’ve passed the torch to, inside or outside of the organization.” There are an estimated 700,000 people in Florida with disabilities who are capable and interested in working, but can’t find jobs. Launched earlier this year, the internship program works with chambers of commerce across the state to identify local businesses that could potentially hire people with disabilities as interns. “There’s still a large number of people with and without disabilities that don’t understand that having a disability isn’t weird or strange, it’s just a different flavor of normal,” she said. “We want to earn a living, provide for our families and help develop the economy.”


Andrew Ketchel, 29

Consultant at Capital City Consulting

Go ahead. Call Andrew Ketchel a policy wonk. It wouldn’t bother him in the slightest. His love affair with policy began with a “leap of faith.” He was getting his graduate degree at the University of South Florida, where he played football and received his undergraduate degree, and decided to apply for the Florida Gubernatorial Fellows Program. It was a chance, but one that helped launch his career. He got into the program, and spent nearly a year at the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. After that was a stint in the Governor’s Office, before landing at the Department of Environmental Protection. “It seemed like a really cool area to learn,” said Ketchel, who most recently served as the agency’s director of legislative affairs. “It was a fascinating experience. I learned so much.” His three years came as the state was handling a host of different environmental issues, including battles over a contentious hydraulic fracking bill and the passage of wide-sweeping water legislation. His poise through the rough patches caught the eye of Nick Iarossi, who convinced him to join Capital City Consulting in October. “From what I’ve seen, for a lot of people in his age group there is a love of the politics and the love of the social sect in being in the industry, but (I see) a real dearth of policy knowledge,” said Iarossi. “That’s where guys like Andrew excel, and that’s what separates him from the pack. He is a good, genuine guy. He likes to dive into the policy issues. He’s willing to roll up his sleeves and get to the policy things.” For Ketchel, the move to Capital City is a long-term one. And don’t expect him to ever bid adieu to his home state. “I can’t imagine doing this any other state,” he said. “This is the place you want to be if you’re in governmental affairs.”

Kristen McDonald thought she’d become a lawyer when she grew up. Then she went to law school, and everything changed. “I absolutely hated it,” she said. “I found it so boring, just sitting in the library for hours on end and having teachers tell you it’s not anything like what you see on TV.” She had gotten a taste for politics as an undergrad at Florida State, participating in a seminar about the 2008 election. She was hooked, and after a year of law school (and trying to convince her parents it just wasn’t for her), she decided to give politics a try. It’s a good thing she did. Although under 30, she’s considered one of the most valuable talents in the industry. She’s worked for some of the top communicators in the state, learning the tricks of the trade as an intern in Gov. Rick Scott’s communications office, working under Brian Burgess and Brian Hughes. McDonald joined Hill+Knowlton Strategies in May, after stints at the Republican Party of Florida and in the Office of the House Majority Leader. The move gave her a chance to spread her wings into public affairs, allowing her to become a bit of an expert on everything. “When Kristen joined Hill+Knowlton Strategies’ Tallahassee office and the Florida public affairs practice, we felt as though we had hit the jackpot,” said Alia Faraj-Johnson, the Florida public affairs leader and senior vice president at Hill+Knowlton Strategies in Tallahassee. Faraj-Johnson said McDonald is “strategic and calm, two very important traits when tackling high-stakes issues.” And after three years working in the Florida House, Faraj-Johnson said McDonald’s “knowledge of the legislative process is unsurpassed.” McDonald sees a future for herself and Hill+Knowlton, but don’t ask for specifics about her plans for her future. “I have no idea. I had a 10-20-30 year plan of what my life was going to look like and what I was going to be doing, but it just doesn’t work out that way,” she said. “I try not to do that now. I just roll with the punches.”


Kristen McDonald, 28

Account supervisor at Hill+Knowlton Strategies

PHOTOS: Mary Beth Tyson



Drew Piers, 25

Deputy director of public affairs at Sachs Media Group Drew Piers doesn’t mind if you call him in a crisis. In fact, he’d prefer it if you did. He wears many hats at Sachs, working on political campaigns and helping shepherd through legislation important to his clients. Plus, he’s there for them when they need support when problems come up. “Whether it’s an organization or an individual, no one wants to have a crisis, but they’re always grateful when they have support,” said Piers. Like so many politicos his age, he cut his teeth as an intern in Gov. Rick Scott’s office. Scott’s 2010 campaign was the first one he volunteered for, the first time he gave a campaign contribution. He stayed in the Governor’s Office for about a year and a half, before taking an internship at Sachs. He worked his way up the ladder, and supporting several pieces of legislation moving through the process. He’s most proud of being part of a team that worked to pass legislation to curb prescription drug abuse. It’s an issue prevalent in the Bradenton-Sarasota area from which he hails, and Piers said it felt good to pass legislation that can give people in his community “a better chance.”

Drew Messer, 33

Principal at Vineyard Partners

Drew Messer grew up around politics, waving campaign signs for family and friends. So when a job opened up on a statewide campaign right after law school, Messer jumped at the opportunity. That was in 2010. In the years since, he’s built up an impressive resume. Florida coalitions director for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign. Senior government director at Republic Services. Now the 33-year-old is striking out on his own, hoping to make his mark in the industry. “Drew is smart, hardworking and willing to do what it takes for success,” said Susie Wiles, a veteran political consultant and a managing partner at Ballard Partners in Jacksonville. “He’s a great friend and a good partner on any political project. I always look forward to the chance to collaborate.” Messer opened Vineyard Partners in February, after three years at Republic Services. As the government affairs director for the company’s Southeast region, he got a taste for the lobbying side of things and learned the ins and outs of procurement. And, eventually, he decided he could do the exact same thing for a variety of clients. In the 10 months since hanging his own shingle, he’s already had successes. He worked with Tim Baker and Brian Hughes on the Jacksonville pension tax initiative, which received overwhelming support earlier this year. “It’s a little scary at first,” said Messer. “But you soon find out you have a service to offer. If you continually deliver with confidence and in a first-class manner, business will keep coming.”


Greg Blosé II, 36 Grassroots development and engagement manager at the Florida Chamber of Commerce

A Miami boy through and through, Joseph Salzverg has spent the past four years in the capital city making a name for himself. He already has a reputation in Miami-Dade County. The 28-year-old got his start working on Rep. Jose Felix Diaz’s 2010 state House campaign. Diaz was a first-time candidate, Salzverg a first-time campaign manager. They won, and Salzverg became one of the go-to political consultants in the Miami-Dade legislative delegation. But while campaigns left Salzverg energized, the opportunity to help shape public policy became his passion. As a second-year law student at the Florida State University College of Law, he worked as a legislative analyst for the House Regulatory Affairs Committee. That experience, Salzverg said, was paramount to him becoming a lawyer and a lobbyist. At GrayRobinson, Salzverg focuses primarily on regulated industries and local government growth management issues. And in his short time in the government affairs universe, he has already helped draft and pass legislation focused on community development districts for The Villages, and helped secure more than $7.5 million in funding for a major technology client. “We are proud to have him on our lobbying and legal team at GrayRobinson and are excited to see what his future holds,” said former House Speaker Dean Cannon, the executive vice president and statewide chair of government affairs at GrayRobinson. Salzverg sees a future in the industry, and hopes to move back to Miami in the next few years. “I like what I do, and I like what I do in the process,” he said. “If I ever wake up and not be happy, I wouldn’t do it. But I wake up every day and I love coming to the office, I love the clients, and the issues we work on.”


Greg Blosé is a man of many talents. He spent five years in talk radio, before joining the Volusia Home Builders Association as its director of government affairs. He worked his way up the ladder, becoming the association’s executive officer after four years. And in 2013, after a brief return to talk radio, he joined the Florida Chamber of Commerce. “When you’re dealing with this many organizations, you have to care about what we’re fighting for every single day,” he said. “Every day there’s going to be a different challenge. I’m going to focus on solutions, on how (we get things) done, and how we move the ball forward.” But even at the Chamber, Blosé is a man of many hats. He’s the point of contact for the state’s regional chambers, and works daily to help strengthen the relationship the Florida Chamber has with its regional partners. As project leader of, he works to keep Floridians informed about the issues at stake each election. And, if that wasn’t enough, he’s a member of the Chamber’s communications team. “All politics are local and no one knows that better than Greg,” said Edie Ousley, vice president of public affairs at the Florida Chamber. “He’s a skilled communicator who connects local chambers across Florida to lawmakers, and motivates at the grassroots level to make the difference.”

Joseph Salzverg, 28 Attorney and government consultant at GrayRobinson

PHOTOS: Mary Beth Tyson and courtesy J. Salzverg



Samantha Sexton, 28 Vice president of legislative and regulatory affairs at the Personal Insurance Federation of Florida Samantha Sexton doesn’t think of herself as a lobbyist. She considers herself an advocate — a storyteller. She thinks of herself as someone who can communicate to decision makers, to tell the stories of those people impacted by their actions. The 28-year-old Melbourne native has put that philosophy to work over the years. At the PACE Center for Girls, she advocated for girls in need of a helping hand. She learned the power of reaching across the aisle, working with Democrats and Republicans alike to help advance the organization’s mission. “She did a fabulous job for advocacy for a nonprofit that was serving a very, very worthy cause. Now, she’s into the cause of the insurance arena, and she’ll do a great job there,” said David Mica, the executive director of the Florida Petroleum Council. “As a younger millennial, she is no snowflake. She is the antithesis of a snowflake. She is a hard worker who gets into the trenches for her causes. And she is also very, very bright and astute in understanding the political nature of the Tallahassee bubble.” Sexton joined the Personal Insurance Federation of Florida in August. The issues and industry might have changed, but Sexton said the job hasn’t. She’s advocating for consumers, providing them “with the best opportunities and telling that story.”

For Kelsey Swithers, the political and legislative side of things came easy. The communications side? Well, that was a different beast. She didn’t know much about the state’s media markets, or about writing a press release and dealing with reporters. But that didn’t stop her from taking an internship in 2011 with Bascom Communications, one of the top communications and consulting firms in the state. It was worth the risk. Five years later, she’s a senior communications consultant at the Tallahassee firm. Swithers specializes in legislative and political communications, and has worked on a variety of issues in her role. She was among those who developed a strategy to advocate for affordable housing funds, and has been a key member of the Everglades Foundation’s communications team. And when it comes to the Legislature, Swithers serves as the firm’s policy coordinator, tracking proposed legislation from beginning to end. “There are some things you can teach young up-and-comers in this business, but in order to be successful and be able to grow and become your own person [you have to] have a skill set that sets you apart from others. In the arena political communications, you have to be prewired to understand how politics and government and policy works — and Kelsey is that way,” said Sarah Bascom, the firm’s president. Swithers credits Bascom and others at the firm for her success, saying she “had great teachers.” And as the firm’s intern coordinator, she’s now become one of those great teachers. “If I’m lucky, and I hope I am, I hope to be doing the same thing,” she said.

Kelsey Swithers, 27 Senior communications consultant at Bascom Communications



Jared Torres, 30 Director of legislative affairs at the Florida Department of Corrections

When Jared Torres was in the sixth grade, he took a field trip to Tallahassee as part of the Take Stock in Children program. There was a “Rally in Tally,” and children and mentors from across the state converged on the capital city. Torres and his mentor were part of Broward County’s delegation, making the long trip by bus from South Florida to Tallahassee. But that trip would ultimately shape the course of Torres’ life. “Take Stock (in Children) is what introduced me to the government process,” he said. “I saw government at work. I got a glimpse of what public service was all about.” Torres said he decided during that field trip so many years ago that he wanted to be involved in public service. He told his mentor on the way home that’s what he wanted to do one day, and she spent much of their relationship encouraging him to work hard to achieve his goals. And he’s done just that. He’s spent the past eight years working for the State of Florida, including more than four years as the legislative affairs director at the Agency for Persons with Disabilities. In 2015, he was brought on to fill the same role at the Florida Department of Corrections. “I love what I do,” said Torres. “Every day I’m humbled and grateful to have the opportunity to serve.” Jillian Hasner, the president and CEO of Take Stock in Children, said that attitude toward public service part of the reason why Torres has excelled in the industry. As a Take Stock in Children alum, she said he is “especially aware of how important it is to give back.” “I would say this about Jared: He is one of the finest individuals and human beings I’ve had the privilege to know. I think Jared embodies the term public servant. That’s really the mindset he brings to his job and his service every day,” she said. “I think a lot of that comes from the fact he realizes he got to be part of something where people gave him a chance and an opportunity by being part of Take Stock in Children. He sees this as an opportunity in his life and career to give back. It really is a mindset and a servant’s heart.”

Tara Reid, 26 Tara Reid could have had a life on the stage. She grew up singing, and danced in high school. She loved the stage, and planned to pursue a career in musical theater. But politics pulled at her heartstrings, and after two years at the Florida School of the Arts, she transferred to Florida State University to focus on politics and policy. “It was a difficult decision because I loved the stage, but I knew I couldn’t do it forever,” she said earlier this year. “It was the best decision I’ve ever made.” The decision paid off. She scored an internship at the Florida Retail Federation while she was in college. She got a job at the Republican Party of Florida right out of college, spending more than a year at the state party before landing at Strategos Group. “I got lucky,” she says about her early successes. “I think it was good timing for me. It’s hard for so many people to get jobs in the process, so I’m really blessed it happened so easily.” Samantha Padgett, vice president and general counsel at the Florida Retail Federation, doesn’t think luck has anything to do with it. Instead, Padgett said Reid’s willingness to work is what makes her stand out. “What I love about Tara is that she works. She’s not out to be a big shot or impress people,” said Padgett. “She’s willing to dive in, learn the issues, learn the process and get things done. It’s that willingness to work that will make her a very impressive big shot, probably sooner than later.”


PHOTOS: Mary Beth Tyson

Associate at Strategos Group


Jo Morris, 31 Legislative affairs director for Florida Department of Elder Affairs Jo Morris wanted to be be a legislative affairs director before she was 30. She beat that goal by two years. Morris was named to her current position in 2013, at the age of 28. It was the culmination of years of working within Gov. Rick Scott’s administration, serving at both the Department of Health and Office of Financial Regulation, before landing at Elder Affairs. “I think this department is one of the hidden gems of the state government,” said Morris, who said her job allows her to help lawmakers and influencers better understand the issues facing Florida’s aging population. “Everyone here does great work for the elders in the state.” Darrick McGhee, Sr., the vice president of government relations at Johnson & Blanton, said Morris has thrived in the industry because she is a hardworking person who is “able to smile through anything and befriend everyone.” And he should know: As Scott’s director of legislative affairs, McGhee hired and assigned Morris to both the Office of Financial Regulation and Elder Affairs. “She has been a great asset wherever she has gone,” said McGhee, before calling Morris “one of the best-kept secrets in the legislative world.” While Morris has spent much of her career working in the public sector, she’s doesn’t consider herself a lifer. She’s loyal to the administration, and said she wants to stay on for the remainder of Scott’s term before moving on to something new. “This is where I got my start in the industry,” she said. “It’s just been really gratifying to build myself in these roles.”


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winners + losers from the 2016 General Election


The Winners. And the Losers. Who’s happy — and who’s not — after Election Day 2016 by peter schorsch

WINNERS I F A N Y T H I N G represents a binary choice, it’s the ballot box on Election Day. Be it a blowout or an automatic recount squeaker, one candidate or cause wins and the other loses. Here’s a list of Florida influencers who are high-fiving in the winner’s circle or trudging off in defeat … at least until 2018:

Richard Corcoran: Big wins on Election Day mean good news for the new House Speaker. Republican incumbents held on to their seats, and there’s a lot more new GOP faces in the chamber.

Brian Ballard: It may have taken three tries, but Ballard sure did pick a winner. And when the president-elect is his client, you have to wonder: When will we start calling him ambassador?

Front Line Strategies: Brought home big

wins for first-time candidates Bobby Payne, Chuck Clemons, Byron Donalds, Don Hanhfeldt, Stan McClain, and Bob Rommel. They can also take a bow for their winning work

for Reps. Bob Cortes, Manny Diaz, Jay Fant, Tom Goodson, MaryLynn Magar, Elizabeth Porter, and Jay Trumbull; and Sens. Dennis Baxley and Doug Broxson.

Tim Baker and Brian Hughes: All they do is win. The dynamic duo were behind two Duval County referendums. The pension reform referendum easily passed in August; and, in November, they convinced conservative Northeast Florida voters to sign off on the possibility of slots.

Joe Gruters: Call him Donald Trump’s man in Florida. The Sarasota GOP chairman stood by the president-elect through a series of controversies and will go down as one of Trump’s most loyal supporters. Bonus: He crushed his District 73 opponent and is the newest member of the Florida House. WINTER 2016 INFLUENCE | 125

Anthony Pedicini and Tom Piccolo:

Christian Ulvert: A ray of sunshine in an

When you’re on the front lines in Tampa Bay for the House Speaker, there’s always plenty of work. Give these two men a hand for the rash of victories for House campaign clients.

overall dismal year for Democratic candidates, Ulvert brought home victories for Jose Javier Rodriguez, Robert Ascencio, Ben Diamond, and Nick Duran.

JOHN MORGAN: All those millions of dollars spent on Amendment 2 finally paid off. Medical marijuana sailed through at the polls. Days later, supporters began a “draft John Morgan” for governor campaign. If he’s in, get ready for an expletive-laden 2018 campaign. Joel Springer: He might fly under the radar, but the man behind Republican Senate campaign operations always seems to win.

Susie Wiles: Does she know how to pick ‘em, or what? An early supporter of President-elect Trump, Wiles took over the Florida campaign and helped deliver a crucial victory in the Sunshine State. 126 | INFLUENCE WINTER 2016

out, that multi-million-dollar pledge to help Democratic candidates could have been better spent elsewhere.

more losses than wins. You have to wonder, is his main talent finding ways to make the Florida Democratic Party less relevant?

FLORIDA EDUCATION ASSOCIATION: Spent millions of dollars this election cycle to elect state legislators sympathetic to its cause, and came up emptyhanded. To add insult to injury: Corcoran called the union out during his first speech as speaker. It’s safe to say it is going to be a bumpy few years.

Oscar Braynon: The Senate Minority Lead-

Utility companies: Spent millions upon

er had a chance to shift the balance of power slightly, but couldn’t deliver victories in South Florida. The reason? He blames Donald Trump.

millions of dollars to push Amendment 1, but it wasn’t even close come election night. It might be time to figure out how not to be the bogeyman and focus on delivering the product, something they’re actually good at.

LOSERS Scott Arceneux: Ooof. Another year with

Mike Fernandez: A mega-Bush family supporter, the Miami billionaire went all in for Hillary Clinton and threw his support behind Rep. Patrick Murphy for Senate. Turns

2016  Politician of the Year

Lenny Curry says, ‘If you want to do big things, you’ve got to play big ball.’ BY AG GANCARSKI

former chair of the Republican Party of Florida, was exploring running for office two years ago, many in the Jacksonville political establishment told him he couldn’t win. There were others ahead of the 46-year-old Key West native in line, they said, who deserved their time. Undaunted, Curry ran anyway. And he won, one of many mayors of the consolidated city of Jacksonville who seemed unlikely choices — until their election. Because of consolidation in the late 1960s, Jacksonville is the last of the major Florida cities that traditionally has had a GOP mayor. Having incorporated the entirety of Duval under a combined city/county structure, Jacksonville contains areas that would have been Republican suburbs if consolidation had never happened. Curry, an accountant by trade, was represented by his campaign as being “not a politician.” That was then. This is now. And now, he is our Politician of the Year. In a conversation with INFLUENCE Magazine, Curry noted the “not a politician” phrase was subject to some misinterpretation. “The term ‘politician’,” Curry said, “used in the campaign by others who were close to me … was used in the sense of the bureaucratic — all flash, no substance; all ribbon cutting, no accountability.” “I still reject,” Curry added, “that I’m a politician in that sense of the term. “Politics in the sense of negotiating and navigating. … You have to be able to do it — that includes business and any endeavor. I knew that coming into office,” Curry said. Coming into office when and how Curry did, there was a pronounced need for “negotiating and navigating.”


One such issue requiring that was Jacksonville’s public pension funding shortfall, which was crippling the city’s general fund with spiraling obligations and no relief in sight. Mayors had come and gone without solving the problem. However, the Curry administration found one, via an unprecedented referendum to extend a ½-cent infrastructure surtax past its sunset in 2030 to offer a stable funding source for the obligation. Curry noted he’d “heard the initial idea” during the period between his election and inauguration. “It intrigued me,” the mayor said. “There was great and significant political risk pursuing this in the first term, specifically within the first year, but if you want to do big things, you’ve got to play big ball. “Before I moved into a discussion with the City Council and the Legislature, I did my homework. Even though that initial homework said it was unlikely. I rejected the idea that just because it was unlikely it’s not possible. >>

PHOTO: Mark Dennis Ho



Early in his first term as Jacksonville mayor, Lenny Curry dove into the “unlikely” goal of asking voters to extend a half-cent sales tax — which was approved in August’s Primary Election.



“Pretty early on I knew I was going to do this,” Curry added. “There was no other way forward. I wasn’t going to let it sit for four years.” When asked if polling drove his approach, Curry was blunt. “The big decisions I make to move forward, I do not make them based on polling data,” Curry said, noting political operatives would have told him “this is bad politics … if you’re concerned about your popularity or favorability.” “What a political operation does for me,” Curry continued, “is it allows me to take bold initiatives and ideas and communicate those ideas [outside the policy sphere] to people and share the ideas with them and engage them.” Indeed, Curry’s political team is regarded as the best in Northeast Florida. Brian Hughes of Go Meteoric and Tim Baker of Data Targeting were central to Curry’s evolution from a private citizen and party operative into a first-rate politician. In the mayor’s race, Curry’s team crafted a compelling narrative around Curry, while telling the story of the policy and governance failures of one-term Democratic Mayor Alvin Brown (the first Democrat


elected since 1987). Brown had polled as high as 70 percent midway through his only term, but Curry and his team saw the city’s first African-American mayor as vulnerable nonetheless. Meanwhile, in marketing the pension referendum, they fulfilled a different function: making the case for the pension reform measures, and microtargeting the message to various constituencies, overcoming resistance, and creating a resounding mandate for an extended current tax contingent on meaningful policy reforms. Those policy reforms are the main course on Mayor Curry’s plate for at least the next few months. Collective bargaining and renegotiation of the various pension plans, statutory prerequisites to securing the funding, is an ongoing process, one Curry would like some resolution on before the next budget cycle. The mayor noted that he and union heads, in marketing the proposal in Tallahassee and to Jacksonville voters in the referendum, “traveled the same [road] together in the Legislature and through the vote,” ultimately agreeing “we had to have an option to fund this [liability] once and for all.” Curry noted there are two sets of

stakeholders – “taxpayers and employees” — and his job is to find a “solution that values and respects both of those parties in a very real way.” “I think that’s the path to success,” Curry noted, describing the proposals as “transformational” and “set[ting] the stage for a dialogue beyond Jacksonville.” Despite the optimistic language, those close to Curry expect the negotiations between the mayor’s team and the “union bosses” will be fractious and take some time. Beyond the city’s pension predicament, Curry also had to deal with coordinating the consolidated city’s response to Hurricane Matthew. Even though Jacksonville was spared a direct hit, the impact from the “100-year storm” was still severe. Curry used a sports metaphor to describe the process of being “in the zone” during storm preparation and recovery. “I was completely and totally at comfort and at ease in handling the decision making, the preparation, and the communication,” the mayor said. “I can’t explain it. I was just there,” Curry added.

PHOTO: Wesley Lester

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and Gov. Rick Scott participate in an emergency briefing relating to Hurricane Matthew, which raked Jacksonville in early October, causing widespread flooding, coastal erosion, and power outages.


“ What a political operation does for me is it allows me to take bold initiatives and ideas and communicate those ideas [outside the policy sphere] to people and share the ideas with them and engage them.” — JACKSONVILLE MAYOR LENNY CURRY

Gov. Rick Scott — a political ally and friend of Curry’s going back years — was a “fantastic” resource, Curry related, with communication before, during, and after the storm. “The ability to call him and say ‘this is what I’m going to do’,” Curry said, was invaluable. “I need someone else — even though he’s on a much bigger stage — who is in a room, as alone as I am. I’ve said this before — leadership is a lonely place,” Curry continued. “In the end, you own the decision. Period. No one else does. “It’s comforting to be able to call the governor, who’s alone on a statewide stage, and say ‘this is what I’m going to do,’ and get a reaction,” Curry added. Curry, a believer in “modeling success,” sees similarities between himself and Gov. Scott. “He’s about accountability. He’s about metrics. He’s about using data to get things done. He is about results … from being around him, it gives me more clarity and certainty for sticking with that approach,” Curry added. Storm preparation and recovery offer a unique set of challenges. However, Jacksonville faces a more recurring pressure: the need to foster downtown development. “It’s coming,” Curry said. By the end of his first term, Curry expects Jacksonville to take advantage of a “really unique opportunity” in terms of developing Jacksonville’s downtown.

The “bigtime private sector” — specifically “investors who have the ability to drop hundreds of millions of dollars into projects and have the liquidity to see it through” — will play a key role, the mayor said. Jaguars owner Shad Khan and investors he can attract will play a role, as will Peter Rummell, who is developing an ambitious project on Jacksonville’s Southbank called The District. “There’s an opportunity here to rethink downtown,” Curry said. “Let’s have an entry that comes in right through and around the stadium, where you can see high-end hotels, food, residences all the way from the Shipyards, Metropolitan Park all the way down to Berkman Plaza, all the way up and around the old City Hall, the old courthouse. Tremendous opportunity there. Because the private sector is ready to go. And they’ve been ready to go for some years.” “For whatever reason,” Curry added, “the downtown debate has gotten stuck in the debates of the past. We have the opportunity to leverage private dollars that are ready to move and ready to move now.” “If we continue to sit around and debate what exactly is the perfect plan, what

exactly will make every single person happy,” Curry continued, “we’ll be having the same discussion in four years, eight years. I’m not prepared to do that. “By the end of my term,” Curry said, “I want people to look at downtown and say, ‘He was about action and getting things done.’” Curry’s prediction: by the end of his first term, there will be serious movement on the long-deferred goal of downtown revitalization, including the Shipyards project, which will have “development and greenspace,” the mayor added. “There’s a really unique opportunity for that area to be the entrance into a vibrant downtown,” Curry noted. Moving beyond the issue of infrastructure to social legislation, Jacksonville has wrestled with the question of expanding its Human Rights Ordinance to include LGBT people. This has been an issue on which proponents and opponents have sought a clear position from Curry. And, thus far, they have been frustrated. Curry said earlier in 2016 that HRO expansion wouldn’t be “prudent” saying, “I’m not going to use any of the options

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available to me to try to have an impact on the outcome.” Despite his hands-off approach to LGBT rights, Curry has already issued a departmental directive prohibiting employment discrimination for city employees and those of city contractors. “It took some time and some thinking to arrive at that conclusion. We made progress as a city there,” Curry said, “and I did it with my executive authority.” “There were all kinds of debates happening,” Curry added, “in and around our country, when a state specifically decided to legislate the taking away of rights from people.” “We are a constitutional republic that’s based on freedom … when you expand freedom, you have to do it thoughtfully.” “I believe in the expansion of freedom, not the restriction of freedom. I’ll just leave it at that.” Back in January 2015, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, in endorsing Curry, called him a potentially “transformational leader.” Some dismissed that as campaign rhetoric. However, when it comes to issues ranging from public pension reform to downtown development, Curry and his team have been transformational by necessity. On social issues, where consensus has proven elusive, Curry has sought a middle ground. Though there are those who say he hasn’t gone far enough on issues such as LGBT rights, it should be noted that the Human Rights Campaign increased Jacksonville’s “municipal equality” score to 49 from 23 previously, based solely on


Curry-era reforms. Jacksonville might not have realized two years ago that it needed Lenny Curry. However, from the moment he replaced Alvin Brown on the fourth floor of City Hall, Curry has mobilized toward a consensus politics that encompasses the entire city, attempting to right historic wrongs and do what limited government can to foster the civic good. Some of his best political allies have been Democrats. Councilman Tommy Hazouri, a former mayor and erstwhile critic, helped Curry to sell the pension reform measure. And Councilman Garrett Dennis was instrumental in helping Curry bring national attention to the horrific conditions at HUD complexes owned and managed in Jacksonville by Global Ministries Foundation. Democratic operatives called Curry a “party boss” when he was running for office. Those operatives have moved on; the people call him mayor. And almost a year and a half into the role, he’s living up to that title – and then some. There are those who see Curry as just a Republican politician. However, what drives him in office is what drove him as a candidate — an oft-stated desire to make Jacksonville a place his three kids will want to stay in as adults. “Elections are about the next generation,” Curry said at his inauguration. As has been the case, Curry’s governance model has attempted to translate that forward-thinking rhetoric into meaningful action. ][

Lenny Curry speaks to the Jacksonville delegation (top) about legislative priorities in the 2017 session. The mayor was the driving force behind “Yes for Jacksonville,” (above) a referendum that extended an additional sales tax to help alleviate crushing pension obligations.

PHOTOS: Wesley Lester


Public Affairs For Florida’s Best Companies cybersecurity




utilities Darren Richards


2016  Politician



hey guided their communities through good times and bad; donned windbreakers and faced down storms; and were catapulted to the national stage. Some ousted the establishment, while others sailed through to easy victories. And one even mounted a successful comeback. These Florida politicians might not be our Politician of the Year, but it’s fair to say each had an extraordinary 2016.

GOV. RICK SCOTT With just two years left in the Governor’s Mansion, Gov. Rick Scott faced a multitude of challenges in 2016, and handled them all with the poise of a statesman. After a gunman killed 49 people in an Orlando nightclub, Scott spent days on end in the community, meeting with families of the victims, attending memorial services, and visiting survivors in the hospital. But the Pulse nightclub shooting wasn’t the only time Scott led the state through a disaster. As Hurricanes Hermine and


Matthew barreled toward the state, Scott hunkered down in the state emergency operations center, urging Floridians to stock up on water and stay safe. And in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, Scott saw some of his best approval numbers since taking office, with 45 percent of voters giving him good marks, according to Public Policy Polling. Yet, Scott’s successes weren’t just measured by the way he handled himself during the bad times. The state saw record tourism numbers, despite concerns about bluegreen algae and homegrown Zika. The unemployment rate has remained steady, and the state has announced private-sector jobs gains on a regular basis. The Naples Republican also shot onto the national scene, penning an op-ed praising then-candidate Donald Trump. While he withheld his endorsement until after the Florida primary, Scott became one of Trump’s most vocal supporters. That support scored him a primetime speaking slot at the Republican National Convention, and has bolstered speculation he’s considering a 2018 U.S. Senate bid.


ORLANDO MAYOR BUDDY DYER With all eyes on Orlando this year, Mayor Buddy Dyer stepped up to the plate and represented The City Beautiful — and the state of Florida — with grace. Dyer was a steady voice following the Pulse nightclub attack. He was one of the first people Floridians and Americans heard from after news of the attack hit the airwaves, and he continued to keep his community informed in the days and weeks following the shooting. When victims needed help, Dyer announced the city created the OneOrlando Fund to assist victims of the attack and their families. In total, $29.5 million was donated to the fund; and according to the organization, it distributed $27.4 million for 299 claims, or 98 percent of eligible claims. Despite the tragedy, 2016 marked another year of continued growth in Orlando. The region leads the state in private-sector job gains nearly every month, and the tourism industry continues to boom. In December, Dyer became the city’s longest-serving

PHOTOS: Office of the Governor (Scott); City of Orlando Communications Flickr (Dyer)

of the Year

Gov. Rick Scott with residents relieved by the reopening of US Highway A1A in Flagler Beach after Hurricane Matthew.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer at a press conference for CPR and AED Awareness Week on June 2, 2016.



Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine celebrates at the press event unveling the commemorative Coca-Cola “Miami Beach” bottle.

MIAMI BEACH MAYOR PHILIP LEVINE He was one of Hillary Clinton’s biggest cheerleaders, even taking fellow Democratic mayors on a tour of the Sunshine State to rally support for the Democratic nominee. While Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine’s support for Clinton might have boosted his national profile, it’s his position on climate change that has kept him in the spotlight. He was name-checked in a recent Los Angeles Times opinion piece focused on climate change, was featured on National Public Radio talking about the impact rising tides could have on his community, and was even interviewed by Leonardo DiCaprio for his documentary on climate change. Like several other Florida mayors, Levine had his own challenges in 2016. Miami-Dade County was ground zero for locally acquired cases of Zika. Miami Beach


was one of those impacted communities, and it took nearly a half-year before the final zone was lifted. Frequently mentioned as a possible 2018 contender, Levine could be well-positioned for a gubernatorial bid. Aside from being well-respected in the community, Levine has the ability to self-fund his race, something that might prove beneficial in what could be a crowded field.

THE FRESHMEN There will be a lot of new faces in the Florida delegation when the 115th Congress convenes in early January. Florida is sending 10 new members to the U.S. House of Representatives this year, one of the state’s largest turnovers. There were a few notable additions to the delegation, including an outspoken former state representative and a well-liked former governor. Residents in Florida’s 1st Congressional District voted to send former state Rep. Matt Gaetz to Washington. The Fort Walton Beach Republican will replace retiring Rep. Jeff Miller, who represented the

There will be a lot of new faces in the Florida delegation when the 115th Congress convenes in early January. western Panhandle for 16 years. Gaetz is known for his outspoken personality, and pushed to legalize low-THC medical marijuana in Florida. North Florida also welcomed Rep. Neal Dunn —who replaced outgoing Rep. Gwen Graham, a Democrat who is exploring a gubernatorial bid — in Florida’s 2nd Congressional District. In Northeast Florida, voters picked former Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford to replace Ander Crenshaw, another Republican who decided to retire

PHOTOS: City of Miami Beach Flickr (Levine); Val Demings for Congress; Stephanie Murpyhy for Congress; Charlie Crist for Congress; Neal Dunn for Congress; John Rutherford for Congress

mayor, serving in that capacity for nearly 14 years. With a year like this in the books, it’s no wonder Dyer is being floated as a possible 2018 gubernatorial contender.


Florida is sending 10 new members to the U.S. House of Representatives this year.

The 10 “freshman” representatives in Florida’s Congressional delegation include (clockwise from top left) Val Demings, Neal Dunn, Stephanie Murphy, John Rutherford and Matt Gaetz.

after 16 years in Congress. Voters up and down the I-4 corridor also decided to send a new class of representatives to the nation’s capital. In Florida’s 13th Congressional District, former Gov. Charlie Crist defeated Rep. David Jolly after a testy congressional race. Democrat Val Demings won the race to replace Republican Rep. Daniel Webster in Florida’s 10th Congressional District. Have no fear, Webster will remain in the U.S. House. He ran — and won — in Florida’s 11th Congressional District. But perhaps the most stunning victory came in Florida’s 7th Congressional District, where Democrat Stephanie Murphy defeated Rep. John Mica. The 12-term Republican congressman easily beat Democratic opponents in the past, but newly drawn congressional districts made his district a little less friendly to Republicans this time around. Just an infant when her family fled Vietnam in a boat, Murphy is an Orlando-area businesswoman with a background in national security. “I always say it was the greatest honor of my life, to be able to work alongside uniformed men and women, knowing that they rescued me at sea,” she said in an interview with Florida Politics in November. ][



A Moderate, Yet Adventurous Man Forget party labels, lobbyist Justin Day supports people who ‘get stuff done’


o prove his talk to “drain the swamp” wasn’t just empty campaign rhetoric, Donald Trump’s transition team quickly announced in the immediate aftermath of his shocking victory for president that, to work for him, all incoming officials would need to terminate their lobbying activities and agree not to lobby again for five years after leaving the administration. Shortly after that announcement, Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran tweeted, “Fl goes one better w/#6 year ban. But reform is catching on!” Corcoran’s call for banning elected officials from lobbying the legislative or executive branch for six years is just one of his panoply of wide-ranging proposals to reform the lobbying industry that will be a key storyline of the upcoming 2017 legislative session in Tallahassee. Justin Day wasn’t prepared to address Corcoran’s manifesto when he sat down with INFLUENCE in early November, but he did want to speak up for himself and his industry. Day, director of the Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners, is proud of his lobbying efforts in Tallahassee for government agencies like Tampa International Airport, Port Tampa Bay, and the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority. “It’s a shame that, because of a few bad apples, the whole industry gets taken down,” he says when asked generically about the reputation lobbyists have in some — maybe a lot — of circles. “Ninety-nine percent of lobbyists are really good, down-to-earth people trying to get their clients a voice in state government.” Speaking to this reporter at Daily Eats, a favorite hangout of his in Tampa’s Hyde Park District on


a Friday afternoon a week and a half before Election Day, he acknowledges he’s come a long way since growing up in St. Cloud, some 26 miles southeast of Orlando in Osceola County. “It was the kind of place where we were very excited to get our Walmart,” he says about growing up there in the 1980s. “We had a couple of stoplights, and a McDonalds,” he says, exaggerating for comic effect. The Tampa-based Day may not be geographically that far away from St. Cloud these days, but he’s definitely flying at a higher altitude in his role as a lobbyist with his agency in South Tampa and Tallahassee — as well as a premier fundraiser for Democratic candidates. The 36-year-old grew up with politics, literally. His father, Bob Day, was elected property appraiser for Osceola County when he was just two years old, and served in that capacity for more than two decades before his career ended abruptly in 2006. That’s when Bob Day was removed from office by then-Gov. Jeb Bush, after he was found guilty of two felony grand theft charges and 10 misdemeanor counts for having his employees do personal work for him on two of his re-election campaigns. In response, Justin Day says, “I love my dad,” and says the family has moved on from the incident. Day graduated from Florida State University with a degree in international affairs, and then went back and received his Master’s Degree in political science. Upon graduating in 2004, he began working immediately on Betty Castor’s U.S. Senate race against Mel Martinez as her “wheelman,” driving the candidate in her Chrysler Sebring convertible from one end of the state to another. >>

PHOTO: Benjamin Todd


Justin Day, director of the Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners, is an advocate for lobbyists who, he says, are getting a bad rap from the president-elect and Florida’s legislative leadership.



“He knew all my secrets,” Castor recounts. “Justin was a good sidekick, ran interference, and met supporters easily.” That election was the first U.S. Senate contest in Florida since 9/11, and Martinez made sure to remind voters about how Castor’s tenure as president of the University of South Florida in the 1990s coincided with the initial FBI investigation into Sami Al-Arian, an assistant computer science and engineering professor who created a Middle Eastern think tank on the USF campus. Under Castor’s tenure, USF ultimately put Al-Arian on a two-year paid leave during an investigation before allowing him back on campus in 1998. Castor departed the university in 1999, and in 2003, Al-Arian was arrested on charges he raised money for terrorist groups (In 2008, Al-Arian pleaded guilty to one count of material support to terrorists, and was ultimately deported to Turkey in 2015). “Sami Al-Arian,” Day sighs when the name is invoked. “That name will never leave my repertoire.” During the last few months of the campaign, Day connected with Alex Sink, who would be important in elevating his stature. “It had just been Betty and Justin for so


many months, and things were heating up, and having had experience from Bill’s (McBride’s 2002) gubernatorial campaign, I raised my hand and said I’ll be the travel aide if (Justin) keeps driving,” recalls Sink. “I sat in the back of Betty’s convertible all cramped up, and got to know Justin that way.” Castor’s political career ended that fall when she lost to Martinez, but Day’s was just getting started. He helped Sink in her campaign for chief financial officer in 2006, while also doing some work for Rod Smith in his unsuccessful bid for the Democratic nomination for governor. He would go back to work with Sink a few years later, but next up was a stint as executive director of the now-defunct Florida Mainstream Democrats, an organization created to push for moderate Democrats to win across the state. Former South Florida legislators Steven Geller and Dave Aronberg jointly made the hire. “He impressed us from Day 1, and he’s done nothing but impress me ever since,” says Aronberg, who says that Day is smart, hardworking, very likeable, and also humble — “which can be hard to find in these circles.”

“He listens more than he talks,” continues Aronberg, who was re-elected without opposition in November to another fouryear term as state attorney for Palm Beach County. “And when he speaks, he’s never bombastic. I’m just glad he’s on our team.” A few years later, Sink hired Day to work outside of her office as her political and finance director, a position paid for by the Florida Democratic Party as she contemplated a run for 2010. “He’s very detailed oriented and organized, and most of all, he just has a fantastic personality, and that’s why he’s been successful now in a much bigger playing field, because of how respectful of people he is, and he does what he says he’s going to do,” Sink says. It was around this time Day became more active in fundraising for state Democrats, where he learned he was good at it. In 2011 he began raising money for Barack Obama’s re-election in Florida, and started out by committing to try to raise $50,000. His first two events brought in $70,000. “I blew away the original goal of what I was trying to raise. Then I committed to the next level,” he remembers. He ended up serving on Obama’s

PHOTOS: Courtesy Justin Day

Before becoming a lobbyist, Justin Day worked on the campaigns of most of Florida’s Democratic luminaries — as well as supporting those with a national profile, including Hillary Clinton (this page), Barack and Michelle Obama (facing page, top) and Bill Clinton (facing page, bottom).

“ It’s a shame that, because of a few bad apples, the whole industry gets taken down. Ninetynine percent of lobbyists are really good, down-toearth people trying to get their clients a voice in state government.” — JUSTIN DAY

national finance committee, as Tampa Bay regional finance chairman for the campaign, and as national chair for the DNC’s Gen44 program. After Sink’s nail-biting loss to Rick Scott in November of 2010, Day said he felt at a crossroads. He was burned out by working on campaigns, but wanted to stay involved with politics. And he wanted something long term. There was an offer to become an insurance agent, which he says simply “was just not very appealing to me.” The idea of becoming a lobbyist then entered into his consciousness. “I thought I could become a good lobbyist. I think I could help bring some clients in,” he remembers thinking at the time. Day says he believes most people probably don’t grow up wanting to be a lobbyist, and it certainly wasn’t one of the professions he aspired to while in high school. “I think it just kind of happens naturally, and when you’re in that environment, up in Tallahassee, you’re in the policy process, it’s just sort of a natural transition, to go that route. But that seemed to be a natural step in a long-term career that I thought I could be successful and bring value to the firm, and bring value to clients. “ While Day works hard for his clients, he also has a lot of fun. Sky diving? Check. Mountain climbing? Yes. Bull riding (in St. Cloud)? Yes. And add some surfing in St. Bart’s. “I consider myself something of an

adventurer, and like to do some crazy things,” he says, quoting lyrics from Tim McGraw’s 2004 hit, “Live Like You Were Dying.” But there’s more on the horizon, including a possible statewide run by one of his friends, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. Like Buckhorn and Sink, Day’s personal brand of Democratic politics seems to be on the centrist level. He says he’s really about getting things accomplished for the

people, party be damned. “To me, it’s not about party. It’s about people who are going to go to Tallahassee or Washington and get stuff done. I might be a Democrat by my registration, but at the end of the day I’m a moderate. I just want to get good people in — I’m supporting some Republicans just like I’m supporting Democrats who I think are good people who are going to go to Tallahassee and do good work.” ][


What I’ve Learned ...

Ron Book 64, Miami Legendary Lobbyist, Passionate Competitor, Advocate for Abused Children AS TOLD TO JIM ROSICA IN TALLAHASSEE

Editor’s note: Lawyer and lobbyist Ron Book has been stalking the corridors of the Capitol for over 40 years. “Book’s relentlessness as a lobbyist is legendary,” Newsweek magazine once wrote of him, calling the 64-year-old “compact and pugnacious.” He’s been chair of the Homeless Trust of Miami-Dade County since 2004, winning a term-limit waiver this year. He’s a prostate cancer survivor. And he’s been a crusader against child abuse after revelations that his daughter Lauren, now a state senator, had been molested and abused by her nanny for years. He sits on the board of Lauren’s Kids, the nonprofit she founded to prevent childhood sexual abuse and help its survivors. Book sat down recently with INFLUENCE’s Jim Rosica for a one-on-one chat.

ABOUT LOBBYING AND PROFESSIONALISM: There are people who come in here all the time and they want to do what I do. Or be what I am. I give all of them the same basic advice: Do what I did. The problem today is that every Tom, Dick, and Harry; Mary, Sue, and Jane, who goes out and runs a campaign thinks they can just come up here and be a lobbyist and understand what the system is about. Term limits, to some extent, have facilitated not just that thought process, but the ability to work your way in, without years of experience, without the knowledge and experience that you gain by working in the process. I started in the process working as a legislative aide, got an opportunity to work for a subcommittee. Happened to be in the right place at the right time. And I did that in between undergraduate school and going to law school. And I tell people all the time, what you’ve got to do is understand how the process works. How does it all connect? If you don’t work in government, you can’t understand it. You can’t advise your clients correctly, you can’t advise them ethically, honestly, thoroughly, completely, if you don’t really understand. And while you can gain experience in some other ways, it’s


certainly not what you learn in a textbook. You can go down to the Graham Center at the University of Florida and get some experience. You can come over here to Florida State and there are a lot of people that do what I do and they lecture over there, (they’re) adjunct professors. But some people think that by going through some course study, that gets them ready for this business. And I don’t think it does. I think part of the problem today, when you think about some of the transformational things that have happened over the 40-plus years I’ve been doing this, is that the system has changed dramatically. Different things have precipitated different kinds of change. Sam Bell was going to be speaker of the House. The voters turned him out of office over some tax measures that had passed. After that, the system began to change. Why? Because what the system learned — what the process learned — was that lawmakers needed to be fully educated. And just because something came up from leadership didn’t mean that that was what was best for the people. I think that the greatest level of change ... well, let me go backwards. First we got the Sunshine Law and the public records law,

this is back in the [Gov. Reubin] Askew days. Then we later got financial disclosure. And the Jack Gordons, the Dempsey Barrons, the George Kirkpatricks, names of the past, litigated that to the Supreme Court — and they lost. And financial disclosure came about. Well, a lot of people like Ken Plante, certainly an institutional lobbyist around here till he got sick, left the process over it. Principle mattered. And they didn’t like that principle. Now, some stayed, but some left … it drove people out. People didn’t want to disclose. That was a prerogative of a citizen Legislature. But that began a change. I think another set of changes, the most dramatic changes, came with term limits. People have forgotten the rules; people have forgotten the respect. Come here, I want to show you something. [He starts looking through a coatrack, then calls out to an assistant, “Hey, where are the ties?”] There were ties here. The point is, I keep ties hanging here. But the reason they’re there isn’t for me. They’re for other lobbyists. I wear a tie to work every day. But lobbyists have forgotten the rules. They’re not written anywhere. Part of the rules is how you conduct yourself. Lawyers don’t go into courtrooms

PHOTO: MMary Beth Tyson

“ There are people who come in here all the time and they want to do what I do. Or be what I am. I give all of them the same basic advice: Do what I did.”



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without ties. Lobbyists shouldn’t go into the halls of the Capitol without them. The public can. Reporters can. But we can’t. The public can go in blue jeans and a T-shirt. It’s their building. But we get a privilege to go there. We may have a right, but, really, it’s a privilege to walk those halls. And you’ve got to respect it. And I think that what has happened is, one of those transformational things, when your word doesn’t mean anything anymore. The integrity of lobbyists, the looseness of information. It used to be said that the only thing you have is your credibility. And the first time you lie, cheat, mislead, that’s the last time you come over here. ... I think that what’s happened now is that people play footloose and fancy free. Alex Villalobos, when he was in the Senate, felt like one of the industries was lying to him on one of the reform measures. So Alex proposed that everybody — I think Jim King was president at the time — that testified for a committee had to raise a right hand and put a left hand on the Bible. And they wouldn’t let it pass as a statute and

think was constitutional. That’s different than a set of rules. But I sued in my name and I got Guy Spearman — another pillar who believes in the same ethical standards I do, but also believed what was in there was unconstitutional. … I’m a lawyer and I run this place as law firm. The reason I run it as a law firm is I want to be bound by the Code of Professional Responsibility. I want to be bound by a set of rules and regulations, the rules of the Bar. Article 5 of the Constitution says the Supreme Court regulates the profession. So when the [Legislature] passed a statute to regulate me, I took great exception to that. We lost. I get it. But I felt so strongly about that I went to court over it. There are people who think they know everything about this place. If you went and asked the other lobbyists that work [in my office], both of them would say to you, “We learn something new every single session.” We do. You never stop learning. Because the process evolves with new members, with new chairs, with new leadership. Like this: “All appropriation projects

“ I think that part of why I urge people to work in government isn’t just so they understand the inner workings of government. I want them to understand the respect of the institution.” — Ron Book they wouldn’t let it pass as a rule. You know what? He was right. I tell him that every time I see him. I tell him, “You may not have won that one, but you were right.” Things just have changed. You could tell somebody that it was raining outside. It better be raining outside. Tell somebody that paper’s white, it can’t be off-white. That stuff has changed. The process is one of integrity. People have complained about [House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s] rules. That’s his prerogative. He’s been in government a long time. Things that he saw along the way he didn’t like, he’s trying to right. It doesn’t matter whether lobbyists agree or disagree with him. Now, by the way, Tom Lee and I are extremely friendly. But I was a named plaintiff in a lawsuit over his statutory lobbyist reform stuff. Why? He passed a statute I didn’t

must be filed as stand-alone bills.” You got to move with those changes. You got to move with them when they happen. If you don’t learn a better way to get the square peg in the round hole, you’ve cheated your clients; you’ve cheated those you come to advocate for. What lawyers tell prospective clients is, “we can’t take stuff we can’t handle and we’ll be aggressive about our representation on your behalf as we can possibly be.” … I think that part of why I urge people to work in government isn’t just so they understand the inner workings of government. I want them to understand the respect of the institution. I want them to get trained in how to handle themselves and how to carry themselves and how to speak in the process. I think that’s really important. I mean, I don’t like the word “mentor” because it sometimes gets misinterpreted. But I try to be helpful to every young lobbyist. I try to

give them advice even when I’m not asked. Because I think sometimes there’s a better way to make a widget than the way they’re making it. You know, a lot of people don’t respect what lobbyists do. I feel just fine about who I am and what I do. But I do believe that’s a special place (pointing at the Capitol) … There’s a dinner tonight. It’s for the Historic Capitol Foundation. I serve on that board for a reason. I don’t need the accolades. I serve on the board because of the historical significance of that place. I started working there when I first came to work here in the 1970s. I worked in that old building; to me, that place is so special.

ON WINNING: I kid with people who tell their kids that winning isn’t everything or you shouldn’t teach them that winning is everything. A while ago there was a House member that stopped by. He sat down and we were talking about my cancer. And I told him, I ran track at the University of Florida. My track coach, Jimmy Carnes, died of prostate cancer. When I was diagnosed in July, they had been watching me for a year and half. Half of my brain was about the hundred people I knew that had been survivors of prostate cancer. But this side of my brain, this troubled half of my brain, that put me into “treatment and analysis paralysis” was about my track coach who was one of my two or three best friends. I woke up one day, a couple of years into my track career, and realized I wasn’t going to be All-American. I wasn’t going to be among the top guys. I was always going to be fifth, sixth, seventh man. So I left to go work in the Legislature, finish my last eight months at FIU. Other than my mother or my father, I learned more about life from my old track coach that from anything or anybody else ever. He taught me discipline, taught me focus. And I was having this conversation with this guy, about how (Jimmy) taught me how to give everything. How to win, how to win, how to win, and winning was everything, how to push your body to such a level. But when he got diagnosed, his doctors told him the same three things my doctor told me: “Curable, beatable, we’ll fix you.” And so that part of my brain had this terribly difficult time processing that I wasn’t invincible, processing that maybe I wasn’t going to live to be 120, processing that somehow I was going to have to slow myself down. That stuff had a debilitating psychological impact on me. And so I was describing this to this House member. And I said to him that’s what was the hardest part for me, because to me it is about winning. So this part of me that started to argue that maybe I wasn’t going to win, that there were people like Jimmy Carnes who died. To give you the


The sisters came to hire me the next session. These guys were going to steal their hospital. Can you imagine stealing a hospital from the nuns? So we devised a strategy, and part of that strategy was, “take it to ‘em.” But in my agreement was a provision that specifically excluded any other social issues, including choice. I’m a (pro-) choice guy and I didn’t need to be in that issue, not my issue.

Ron Book (far right) celebrates with his daughter, Lauren Book, after she is sworn in as a new Florida senator representing South Florida’s District 32 during the Organizational Session.

proper perspective of how close we were, when I worked for Bob Graham in 1978, I brought him up here to be our outside-contract executive director of the governor’s council of physical fitness and sports. He stayed through Graham’s eight years. He stayed through Bob Martinez’s four years. He stayed through Lawton (Chiles) and stayed through most of Jeb (Bush). The Sunshine State Games was something he and I helped create; the U.S. Olympic license plate was his idea. His life’s ambition was to be head coach for the U.S. Olympic Team for track and field. He got that opportunity in 1980. What happened in 1980? We didn’t go. [The U.S. boycotted those Games, held in Moscow, over the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in late 1979.] He never got another opportunity. So I always remembered about the importance of seizing opportunity. But my whole drive of winning and my focus and my determination and never quitting and the work ethic and the hours working, it all came from that guy.


ON POLITICS VERSUS POLICY: I’ve been an NPA (no party affiliation) since it wasn’t popular. I dropped my party affiliation, which was Democrat, and became an NPA because I tried to stay out of [politics]. It doesn’t mean I don’t take on divisive issues because I certainly do. But I otherwise stay out of those issues that are of a politically charged nature. I’ll give you an example: Some people will remember that a lot of years ago, for 60 days, I had between 12 and 18 nuns walking around the Capitol with me. The nuns followed me everywhere I went, and part of the agreement of representation is that the nuns needed to send a contingent up every week for the nine weeks of the session. We were dealing with an issue with the Sisters of Mercy, who owned Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale. And they had an advisory board that decided they didn’t like the full mission of the nuns. So they sneakily came to Tallahassee and changed a corporate law that allowed that advisory board to basically take control of the sisters’ hospital.

you bring your child or children into this world, you can’t go check out a textbook, can’t go down to your local Blockbuster store, as they used to say, and check out a video to understand how to raise them, how to teach them, how to protect them. You draw on things your parents taught you, the way your parents raised you. And then what you yourself thought was good, bad, and indifferent; what you saw around you. ... When investigators come into your home to investigate child abuse, we don’t have a guide for that either. So we’re in this uncharted territory. You think you’re smart and knowledgeable. Remember, at this point my kids were 16, 14, and 9. And there’s a lot of things that try the very core of who you are as a human being, and in that parenting world. You know, a lot of people ask me over the years about guilt. I’ve always said I don’t have any guilt from it, but I guess I really do. You bring somebody into your home to help take care of your kids because you work a lot, because you’ve got a spouse that also worked and had other stuff going on. You do all the right things, going to an agency, and you did your due diligence, but your kids got harmed. When those disclosures happened, investigators didn’t just interview Lauren, they interviewed my son, who was very young, my (other) daughter. And there were no indications of any abuse of those two. Now, much later, other disclosures occurred. The abuse was of all three kids, not just one. How do you go about balancing that as you try to lead your family to a place of survivorship, a place of balance ...? You get through these things. You want to go kill somebody ... you want to just go there for your kid. “How could they do that?” When I think about all of the direct — forget collateral damage — all the direct damage to all three of my kids.... People want to know why I do what I do with my daughter’s foundation, my role as chairman of the board. There is nothing I do that’s more important. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. If I stop doing all this — and I’m still driven to do this, I get up every day with a passion to try to figure out how to get a square peg in a round hole — and all I did was homelessness and my daughter’s foundation work, I’m a fulfilled individual. ][

PHOTO: By Mark Wallheiser Photography

ON BEING A PARENT: You know, when

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The Big Question



in the freezer for a while and one night I took them home, threw them on a sheet pan and baked them only to find out they were the best damn “Original” Buffalo Wings I’ve ever had. Frozen, in a box, from a media consultant. — Ana Cruz, Ballard Partners

The best gift (gifted to the Johnson & Blanton office) was an ice cream maker from David Johnson. It has become a tradition that our office manager (base command) make strawberry sorbet and deliver it to the 4th Floor of the Capitol during the last week of every legislative session. — Melanie Brown, Johnson and Blanton After months of Frozen Office Syndrome and realizing my office hoodie and blanket weren’t enough, I was extremely happy and relieved when my colleagues got me a space heater for Christmas so I could avoid 148 | INFLUENCE WINTER 2016

the frostbite and possible death by exposure! — Gabriella Castillo, LSN Communications A framed, signed, Bo Jackson jersey. — Steve Crisafulli, former Speaker of the Florida House Frozen Buffalo Wings sent from Joe Slade White in 2002. I was the executive director of the FDP at the time and Joe was one of our media consultants. This big box arrived at the party and inside it were ice packs, styrofoam and another smaller box. The smaller box had a plastic bag filled with frozen orange wings. Joe is clearly creative, but I thought to myself (foodie that I am), “how good could these really be?” They sat

A handle of Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon, even though I am a Jameson or Red Breast man! It allows you to think kindly about the giver with each and every swallow! — Dr. Ed Moore I’ve received many great gifts from clients and colleagues over the years, but this Christmas I’m hoping for a “Make America Gaetz Again” cap from the Panhandle’s newest Congressman. — Drew Piers, Sachs Media Group Clients/colleagues/family/ friends that send bourbon are, collectively, “the best” because bourbon is the best. These facts are undisputed. — Robert Stuart, GrayRobinson

An Urgent Plea to the State NAACP and Florida Teachers Union from More Than 100 African American Ministers:

Drop The Suit!

In August 2014, the state chapter of the NAACP joined the Florida teachers union in a lawsuit asking the courts to shut down the Tax Credit Scholarship program. This program empowers low-income parents to choose a school that best fits their children’s individual learning needs. Here’s what we know about the program: • The average household income of scholarship families is $25,000 for a family of four. • Roughly 30% of scholarship children are Black. More than 75% are minorities. • The scholarship children are the worst performers in their public schools when they leave them. • Once in a new school, they make progress equal to children of all family incomes. • The program helps the academic performance of the public schools. We believe the goals and outcomes of this program are consistent with the mission of the NAACP. For decades, the NAACP has worked to empower Black citizens to improve their lives – especially the lives of their children. That is exactly what this scholarship does. We created the Florida African American Ministers Alliance for Parental Choice as a formal coalition calling for the end to this misguided lawsuit. We now have more than one hundred members – ministers from every corner of the state. We are simply following the lead of our own congregations. In January, more than 10,000 people travelled to Tallahassee to urge the NAACP and the teachers union to drop the suit. Just this month, we delivered a petition to the NAACP signed by more than 5,000 people imploring the NAACP to drop out of the suit. For over 100 years, the NAACP has fought for educational freedom for Black parents. It should not abandon that honorable legacy now. Signed,

The Florida African American Ministers Alliance for Parental Choice A Coalition of More Than 100 Ministers From Around Florida Paid for by the Black Alliance for Educational Options.

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