INFLUENCE Magazine — Summer 2018

Page 1

A Publication


THE 100 MOST INFLUENTIAL PEOPLE IN FLORIDA POLITICS including Mike Griffin, Reggie Cardozo, Michael Corcoran, Noah Pransky, Nancy Watkins, Nadine Smith, Will Weatherford, Ana Cruz, and Anthony Pedicini



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A 100 Like No Other “You’ve guaranteed there will be an INFLUENCE Magazine for another two years.” That’s what one of the members of the INFLUENCE 100 told me after the first listing of the most influential people in Florida politics was published two years ago. This person’s point to me was that by creating a “Fortune 500 of Florida politics,” I had instantly made our fledgling magazine relevant. I didn’t know if I believed that. Not until another member of the list — a prominent lobbyist — told me about executives of a major corporation who were considering changing their roster of contract lobbyists. The in-house lobbyist who managed the team pushed back against the executives’ meddling by taking out the INFLUENCE 100 edition of the magazine, showing it to the executives and asking them to show him the lobbyists who the execs wanted to hire. On those pages were some of the members of his existing team. That, my friends, is influence. And that is what this magazine — and especially this edition (our 10th!) — is all about. But influence is a commodity that’s hard to define. The old adage that you’ll know it when you see it doesn’t apply to influence because, in many ways, those who wield influence don’t often want to be seen at work. That’s what’s special about the INFLUENCE 100. There are no elected officials or agency heads on the list. That’s for two reasons: the first being that, of


course, the Governor of Florida is the most influential person in the state; the second is that the power of most officeholders is with their position and (mostly) they don’t take it with them once they leave. Instead, the INFLUENCE 100 includes all the other masters of the universe: The Players, The Thought Leaders, The Lobbyists, The Titans, The Counselors, The Media, The Industry Leaders, The Advocates, The Wonks, and The Legends. The original inspiration for the INFLUENCE 100 is Time Magazine’s annual list of the most influential people in the world, which, rather than ranking them, also breaks down its list into sectors. The INFLUENCE 100’s two favorite aspects for me — beyond the parlor games it inspires — are the superb photographs that accompany many of the profiles, and that those bios were written by the subjects’ peers, competitors, and admirers. After all, who knows the 100 better? Since this is the second edition of the INFLUENCE 100, it’s almost as interesting to consider who is no longer on the list as well as who is making a repeat appearance. About 60 percent of the latest list was on it in 2016 but, still, a lot of room opened up on the rankings. And, as it was with the first edition, this is MY list. I’m responsible for the facepalming, out-of-left-field choices, as well as the glaring sins of omission. I’m the one who initially decided not to rank the list. I’m the one who moved so-and-so from the “100” section to the honorable mentions.

Beyond the INFLUENCE 100, this is a really, really good edition of the magazine. Probably our best yet (and that’s saying something, considering INFLUENCE Magazine finished second in the state for the Florida Magazine Association’s best single edition award). There’s just a slew of news and notes and insights and features about what we think is the most politically active and interesting state in the country. Hopefully, with this second edition of the INFLUENCE 100, we’ve done more than guarantee another two years for our little publication.

Peter Schorsch Publisher







CONTRIBUTORS Josh Cooper Mike Deeson Rochelle Koff Joe Henderson

Peter Schorsch Phil Ammann

Rosanne Dunkelberger Christy Jennings Jim Rosica

Dan McAuliffe Michael Moline Jim Rosica

ART Sarah Bray Colin Hackley Kristin Piccolo

Phil Sears Benjamin Todd Mark Wallheiser


Mary Beth Tyson




Daniel Dean



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 June 2018, Extensive Enterprises, LLC. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is prohibited.





PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson


78 THE 2018 INFLUENCE 100

INFLUENCE is the name of the game — and this magazine. For a second time, Publisher Peter Schorsch twirls his Rolodex and narrows the list from different sectors to come up with the 100 most influential people in the U.S.’s third-largest state. Don’t be surprised if some of these faces aren’t all that familiar. Some of the most powerful movers and shakers do their best work out of the spotlight. Also, 60-plus more people who deserve an Honorable Mention.

74 Will Voters Add Ethics Reform to the Constitution? Without a push from special interests it’ll be a tough row to hoe to get the 60 percent approval needed, predicts CRC member Don Gaetz.


148 Artistic Outlets During their downtime, two lobbyists return to inventive pursuits they enjoyed before their advocacy careers. Southern Strategy Group’s Allyce Heflin has just finished her first classical composition in pursuit of a music degree, while solo practitioner Travis Moore acts, directs and now produces live theater.





38 170

17 34 In the Kitchen with Josh Cooper When cooking a steak, diamonds are a grillmaster’s best look. Plus, Cooper picks his five favorite Florida steakhouses.

38 Let Us Eat Steak



Nothing says decadent dining like a perfectly aged, perfectly served, perfectly presented steak. Rochelle Koff travels the state to choose her favorite restaurants serving steaks — and so much more.

PHOTOS: Jessica Friend, Bill Day, ©Waldorf Astoria Orlando

66 Rick Scott’s Orbit Now seeking to unseat longtime Sen. Bill Nelson, Scott’s universe is populated by the people who have supported him in his journey from unlikely candidate to two-term governor.

160 What I’ve Learned MATT BRYAN: Hard work and honesty are the hallmarks of success for the last of the name partners in Smith, Bryan & Myers. And, he says, the best lessons are learned after a failure. 12 | INFLUENCE SUMMER 2018

On the Move Political Aficionado’s Guide


Insider’s Advice

Social Scene


Briefings from the Rotunda


69 RYAN COHN holds forth on your personal data and how it can be used — and abused.

Fourth Floor Files


The Big Question


70 STEVEN VANCORE says unless the motives are right and the information is useful, Do Not Poll!

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Essential Gear for Campaigns on the Go W

hen campaign season overlaps the dog days of summer in Florida, maximizing your time — and staying comfortable while doing so — is Priority One. Joe Clements and Matthew Farrar of Strategic Digital Services are sharing their favorite tech products to keep even the busiest schedule under control. Their Tallahassee-based company specializes in data analysis, digital media and software development for a range of political campaigns and causes.



Let’s face it, Florida is a huge state. If you’re like us, and on the road constantly, you want to make the best use of that time. The Apple iPad Pro is influencer’s dream tool for staying connected while traveling. Whether you’re answering email, updating social media, editing a photo, or playing a game (We’ll never tell), the iPad Pro is the power tool for staying connected on the road. It comes with the option of a 10.5- or 12.9-inch display and a variety of colors. Pro tip: Don’t waste the extra money getting an iPad with cellular service built in. Your smartphone almost certainly has the ability to act as a mobile hotspot for those times when you’re out of reach of Wi-Fi. Power users combine it with the Apple Pencil for an excellent travel machine. IPad Pro, from $649; Apple Pencil, $99

Apple AirPods

If you’re an iPhone user and haven’t yet tried out a pair of AirPods, you’re missing out! These wireless headphones are great for taking phone call after phone call, and making sure you can hear your favorite podcast or playlist in between. The case also acts as a battery pack for the wireless earphones, and they should easily last all day or longer. We swear by these — they make great gifts and are easy to make part of your routine. Android users have several great options for truly wireless earbuds, too. Bose makes a great pair. $159,

CAPTURING GREAT DIGITAL CONTENT Amazon Basics Tripod + RetiCAM Tripod Phone Mount Video RULES the Internet. You don’t need a fancy camera to capture great content. Whether it’s in your office, on the campaign trail, or at an event, a simple, basic tripod and phone mount allows an influencer to capture high quality from the best device at your disposal: your smartphone. If you have the budget, there are tripods of all shapes and sizes. But to grab a shot quickly and cheaply, all you need is a lightweight tripod. Combine it with the best smartphone tripod mount (believe me, we’ve tried nearly all of them) on the market from RetiCAM. AmazonBasics tripod, $23.49. RetiCam tripod mount, $19.99

DJI Osmo Mobile 2 The DJI Osmo Mobile 2 is a stabilized, motorized gimbal for your phone. One of the most powerful devices for capturing great content on the campaign trail or in the Capitol is your smartphone, and when combined with a gimbal, you can capture smooth, stable shots that make videos look beautiful! $129,

Rode VideoMic Me Directional Microphone for Smartphones Part of making great video is capturing great audio. Whether you’re broadcasting a campaign rally on Facebook Live, delivering a speech to clients that you need to record, or shooting a field video, the Rode VideoMic can make it sound better. The tiny shotgun microphone clips right to your smartphone (or connects via dongle if you’re a newer iPhone user!) and delivers professional-quality audio to your video broadcast or recording. $57.99,


STAYING CHARGED Anker PowerCore Battery Pack Keeping your smartphone or other devices charged while on the go can be a nightmare. A good, long-lasting battery pack can make your life MUCH easier. Anker is one of our favorite brands on Amazon right now. They make high-quality products at great prices. They offer a variety of battery packs for smart devices, including a massive 20,100 mAh battery pack for the power user, an excellent mid-sized version, and even a candy-bar sized pack that will work in even the smallest of bags! $17.99-$119.99,

Anker Quick Charge 3.0 5-port USB Wall Charger If your travel bag or your nightstand look like a jungle of wires and charging bricks, consider adding a five-port charger to your arsenal. The Anker Quick Charge is a great little piece of equipment, replacing the need for five different USB charging bricks. It’s must for the influencer on the go who needs some juice! $35.99,

LOW-TECH SOLUTIONS If it’s not the heat that gets you, the mosquitoes aren’t far behind trying to make your outdoor activities miserable. Parakito’s band —wear it on your wrist or ankle — comes in a variety of patterns, including a patriotic American Flag design. Each refill of the DEET-free mosquito repellent lasts 15 days and is made with natural essential oils. $19.50,

These dress shirts are “hydrophobic” — made of a water-repellent material that keeps you dry and stain-free all day. Comes in a nice variety of checks. $80,

This compact little bag holds a water bottle as well as campaign literature and other essentials to keep your hands free to shake while campaigning. $19.99,


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Aficionado’s  Guide to ... GOOD READS

These Floridians are Part of The Process, and They Write Books, Too BY ROSANNE DUNKELBERGER

The number of books written by politicos are legion, so to narrow the reading list just a bit, we’re sticking with authors who have a Florida connection. Here are a few new titles you might want to crack open during the dog days of summer:


BY RICK WILSON No discussion of the #NeverTrump movement is complete without the tip of a very large hat to Rick Wilson. The Tallahassee-based Republican political consultant has gained a national reputation for his near-constant excoriation of Donald Trump, mostly via nonstop tweeting, as well as appearances on news panels and the occasional screamingly funny column in The Daily Beast. Wilson says his new book — due out Aug. 7 — will have a few old favorite commentaries, but that most of its 90,000 words are new material. And it won’t be nonstop jabs at his favorite target. “I’ve been thinking about Donald Trump since the minute he came down the escalator,” Wilson said while waiting for a flight to D.C. to provide commentary on a CNN panel during the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. “Not just Trump qua Trump, but what does it mean to our society, our politics … everything else. It’s

more reflective of this long conversation … and long observation I’ve been having of not just him personally, but what the hell he’s doing to us.” While critical books about the Trump phenomenon are legion, Wilson’s is the rara avis that censures his presidency from the right. He leaves discussions of whether Trump will eventually resign (“a non-zero chance”) or be impeached (“it is such a high bridge”) to the pundits. Instead, Wilson’s book focuses on the lives and reputations that have been destroyed by their association with the president and the Republican candidates who are now trying to thread the how-Trumpian-do-you-haveto-be needle to find a way to get elected. “The book not only looks at what inevitably happens to everyone who comes into his orbit, it also looks at the sort of the damage to the conservative movement and the Republican party that’s going to go on and on from this and beyond,” he explained. “It looks at ‘how do we redirect some of this?’ If you’re a conservative like me, how do you redirect this in the postTrump era?” Free Press $27



When he represented Pennsylvania’s 4th district, former Rep. Jason Altmire was a centrist — and he had the bona fides to prove it. In the National Journal’s ranking of the conservative-to-liberal leanings of Congress members, Altmire was No. 218 — the man in the middle. Or as his book title describes it, dead center. And like the bullseye on a target, his moderate voting record meant everybody was aiming for him. Which is why he is now former representative Altmire, serving between 2007 and 2013, and living in Ponte Vedre Beach. In his book, Altmire describes the polarization driven by extremists on both sides of the political spectrum that has paralyzed modern-day lawmaking, using his experiences as Exhibit A for why it is happening. He represented a diverse district that encompassed the Rust Belt of western Pennsylvania and the wealthy Pittsburgh suburbs. His voting record didn’t always toe the party line, most notably when Altmire — despite lobbying from no less than President Barack Obama — voted against the Affordable Care Act. (Although in his role as a lobbyist for Florida Blue, he worked toward its implementation in Florida.) When Pennsylvania lost a congressional seat after the 2010 census, in the new

Former Rep. Jason Altmire appeared recently at a book signing and public forum in Tallahassee. Questioning him was old friend and pollster Steve Vancore. Photos: Colin Hackley


gerrymandered district — another sore spot — he had to run against a more traditional liberal Democratic incumbent and lost. The seat was ultimately won by Tea Party Republican Keith Rothfus, who has held it since 2013. While he outlines the problems of hyper-partisan politics, Altmire also offers practical solutions. One would not limit primaries to party members, giving a vote and a voice to NPA voters or members of the opposing party in deep red or blue states. A more radical solution he suggests would be for Florida to switch to a “Top 2” primary, where all those running for office are on one ballot and all registered voters are eligible to vote. The top two vote-getters would move on to the general election. The process is currently used in Louisiana, Nebraska, Washington state and California. “If you are someone who runs in that primary and you only appeal to your narrow extreme within the base of your party, you are going to lose,” he told a Tallahassee audience. “In order to win that primary, you have to appeal not just to your own people, but the people in the center and even members of the other party.” Sunbury Press $19.95


BY RICK BAKER Not one to shy away from big goals, tax attorney and former mayor of St. Petersburg Rick Baker set out to write a history of Florida, starting in 12,000 B.C. — during the Ice Age, when Florida’s west coast stretched about 100 miles into the Gulf of Mexico — to 2010. “The first 13,000 years goes by real quick,” Baker quipped, when explaining how that much history could be crammed into a 300-page book during a reading at Tallahassee’s Midtown Reader bookstore. The book is written in a year-by-year timeline and illustrated with more than 500 historical prints and photographs. Baker has included worldwide events in the timeline in italicized print, to put Florida’s history in a wider perspective. Baker’s research included reading the inaugural address of every Florida governor, as well as meeting with people who lived through historical events. “It’s amazing the little treasures you find,” he said. In addition to politics, the history covers bad news (hurricanes, fires, shipwrecks, murders) and points out highlights of the state’s develop-

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ment over recent centuries. When asked what makes Florida unique, Baker pointed out “two things that are true about the state of Florida” that remain meaningful to this day. “The first one is I think that … the success of our state is tied to the health of our land,” he said. “The tourists come here because it’s beautiful and the people come and live here because it’s beautiful and it’s a nice place to live. It’s critical that the Atlantic, the Gulf (and) the waterways are clean. Florida, more than any other state, is dependent on (the environment).” His second observation was about Florida’s people. “It’s a state founded by risk takers — people on the entrepreneurial edge,” Baker said. “Take (Henry) Flagler and (Henry) Plant, what they invested was huge. It was risks taken by the individual businesses, but the government shared in the risk as well. Anybody that would get into one of those rockets and take off was a risk taker. From land speculators to citrus growers, they’ve come and they’ve taken risks — and I think we should encourage that.” Pineapple Press $18.95

12/8/17 2:30 PM


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Who Will Pay for Rays’ Tampa Stadium? BY JOE HENDERSON

If the only issue confronting a new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays was where to build it, well, problem solved. After two decades of languishing near or at the bottom of Major League Baseball’s 30 franchises in attendance, the Rays believe they have found the right spot for their future — a 415-acre site in Ybor City at the eastern edge of downtown Tampa. As Mike Griffin, vice chairman of the Rays 100 group of business and civic leaders trying to facilitate the move from dilapidated Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg noted, “I really believe that in Ybor, the Rays can draw 5,000 to 7,000 more fans per weeknight and 10,000 more per game on weekends.” Before fans start lining up for hotdogs and souvenirs, or before the first shovel of dirt is moved at the proposed site, everyone involved knows the elephant in the dome. “How do you pay for it?” Griffin said. “When you look at where we are and where we’re going, right now we’re just building a business plan — and how we can do this with a minimum of public involvement?” That’s the reality of the politics involved in this effort. In past years, sports owners would have pulled out the standard playbook of

threatening to move unless taxpayers paid most of the cost of building a modern stadium. It almost always worked. Politicians always caved. The Miami Marlins, for instance, moved into a new stadium in 2012 with a deal that has been widely panned as horrible for taxpayers. The Marlins agreed to pay for about 20 percent of the stadium, Miami-Dade County picked up most of the rest. The county borrowed about $500 million from Wall Street bond sellers. The Miami Herald estimates by the time the loan is retired about 30 years from now, the county’s actual tab will top $2 billion. The backlash from that deal reverberated to Tallahassee, where state lawmakers have grown increasingly hostile toward the concept of publicly financed ballparks and sports facilities. Legislators rebuffed efforts to obtain state money to help a $400-million renovation of Daytona International Speedway. The project went ahead anyway, privately paid for by the International Speedway Corporation. A threat by Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross to move the team unless the state helped pay for major renovations at Sun Life Stadium in 2014 was met with SUMMER 2018 INFLUENCE | 23

yawns. Ross eventually paid nearly $500 million himself to get the project done, and then became an outspoken opponent of public financing. “You’ve got to look around,” Ross told ESPN in 2017. “There’s very little public money available for teams today. And if you own a team, you should have the deep pockets to deliver. “You need some public money for infrastructure and things like that. But with the costs of stadiums today, our country can’t afford to put all of the money in those things.” State Sen. Tom Lee of Thonotosassa, in a January 2017 interview with Florida Politics, echoed Ross. Infrastructure? Maybe. Luxury suites solely to generate cash for the owner? No way. “There are ways government can invest in these big projects without being a donor to the team,” Lee said then. He mentioned things like road construction, sewer upgrades, water and so on. “Those things,” Lee said, “are in government’s wheelhouse. Those things stay behind even if the sports team leaves town.” Meanwhile, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who will leave office next year because of term limits, has asked the state to reconsider its decision not to seek federal tax breaks for the land where the proposed stadium would be built. Every little bit helps. The city has argued the site should be designated an economic opportunity zone, but not because of the stadium. They say the area is hot for development, stadium or not, and should qualify for the break under President Trump’s new tax laws. Here is the reality of this fight: Even if the land is given that designation, and local lawmakers can cobble together something resembling a financing plan, and the state doesn’t step in and block that, and about 87 other potential obstacles, it comes down to three key points: How much will a stadium finally cost? Estimates have been as high as $800 million. How much will the Rays and Major League Baseball pay? And how will the local community bridge what is likely to be a significant gap, since taxpayer money will almost certainly be at a minimum? That’s where Griffin and a coalition of Tampa/Hillsborough business leaders believe they can make a difference. Advocacy groups like the Rays 100 have pledged to buy significantly more suites and season tickets for a stadium in Tampa. They figure a ballpark in the center of the 24 | INFLUENCE SUMMER 2018

Tampa Bay market is much more likely to attract fans than one on the extreme western edge in St. Petersburg. Go a couple of miles west of the Trop and you’re trying to sell tickets to grouper. “When everything came together for the Ybor site, it created a lot of excitement,” he said. “I am pleasantly surprised at how this is going.” Publicly, at least, Rays owner Stu Sternberg has been noncommittal about how much the team is willing to pay. His initial guess of about $150 million was greeted with derision. He has since said he won’t get serious about how much he can afford until he sees what the business community comes up with. Rays revenues traditionally have been near the bottom of MLB. Politicians are right to be wary, especially given the backlash that still exists today over a giveaway lease to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1996 that was the key to building Raymond James Stadium. The money that supported the lease came from a half-cent sales tax hike voters approved 53-47 percent. The so-called Community Investment Tax paid for many county projects, but the cash that went to the Bucs got all the attention. Griffin said he is not even thinking

about that. “There will be no tax money used. We know that going in,” he said. But if the stadium is built, Griffin is sure that the Rays’ days at the bottom of MLB attendance will be over. He pointed to the success of the Tampa Bay Lightning, who play in an area located just a few blocks from where the proposed Rays stadium would be built. At the end of this regular season, the Lightning have had 148 consecutive sellouts at 19,092-seat Amalie Arena. That’s about 3,000 fans per game more than the Rays pull in at the Trop. While it’s easy to say that streak has been fueled by the Lightning’s superior play this season, it’s worth noting that every game was sold out last year, too, and the Bolts didn’t even make the playoffs. Griffin said that proves people will come downtown in sufficient numbers to support a team. That is the message he is bringing to the community. “We’re focused on building business support, corporate support, and sponsorships,” he said. “This is a movement, grassroots from the ground up. We’re not forcing this down people’s throats. “I feel good about this, I really do. I feel better than I ever have.”

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The New TV Landscape Takes the ‘Public Service’ out of Broadcasting BY MIKE DEESON



t may surprise you to learn the airwaves TV stations use to bring you programs and news belong to you. As part of a deal the government made with broadcasters dating back to the Communications Act of 1934, broadcasters get free use of the “public airwaves” in return for providing news and information as a public service to its listeners and viewers. While you may “own the airwaves,” it’s likely you’re an unhappy boss and feel as if broadcasters are not living up to their end of the bargain in providing a public service. You’re not alone. Former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, in an opinion piece in The New York Times, bemoaned the disregard broadcasters have shown in providing a public service. “The use of the public airwaves is a privilege and not a right,” Copps opined. Copps noted the FCC — which used to require stations to document their public service when TV stations applied for license renewal every three years — has now moved to eight-year license renewal with very little documentation required. Three distinct and separate events led to the current state of broadcasters providing public service. The first major change was when the news department became the profit center for network-affiliated stations. When I first started in television in the ’60s, news departments were looked on by TV station operators as a way to help stations renew their licenses by providing a public service. Most local news departments covered news they thought viewers needed to know, with a focus on journalism, not ratings.

After the FCC restricted the amount of time networks could broadcast in prime time in 1970, local stations were required to provide programming for time slots the networks had filled in the past. Stations turned to syndicated programs or expanded their news departments. Suddenly, TV stations realized there was huge revenue to be made in local news and the emphasis in many stations switched from “Journalism Comes First” to “Ratings are King.” The second event was the 1987 FCC decision to repeal the Fairness Doctrine, introduced in 1949. No longer were broadcast outlets required to give air time to contrasting views when presenting viewers and listeners with controversial topics. Finally, the broadcast universe was turned upside down in 1990 when the FCC removed a rule limiting the number of radio and television stations a company could own. Huge broadcast groups now own several stations and dominate the airwaves across the country. Sinclair Broadcasting — with several stations in Florida including WTWC in Tallahassee, WTVX in West Palm and WGFL and WNBV in Gainesville — owns 233 stations in 108 markets and is poised to take over Tribune Broadcasting and add another 42 stations. Nexstar, which owns WFLA and WTTA in Tampa and WCWJ in Jacksonville, has 171 stations in 100 markets. TEGNA, which owns WTSP in Tampa and WJXX and WTLV in Jacksonville, has 56 stations in 39 markets. E.W Scripps, owner of WFTS in Tampa, and WPTV and WFLX in West Palm, has 26 stations in 24 markets. The danger comes when a broadcast group no longer bound by the fairness doctrine uses the public airwaves to push an agenda. The poster child for this abuse is Sinclair, owned by a politically conservative family who ships out “must run” editorials from former Trump staffer Boris Epshteyn and ordered anchors at all its stations to read editorials attacking the “mainstream media.” Baltimore Sun columnist David Zurawik labeled the editorials “as close to classic propaganda as anything I have seen in broadcast television in the last 30 years.” So where does a viewer go to get unbiased political coverage in Florida? Unfortunately, with the hiring of so many young (read cheap) TV reporters, many of whom have no knowledge or interest in the political history of Florida, too few outlets are giving regular coverage to politics. In Tallahassee, one would think the state capital would be a hotbed for political coverage, but that is not the case. Both broadcast and print media have cut back staffing in Tallahassee. Several years

ago, almost all the network-affiliated stations had bureaus or stringers. Now, Mike Vasilinda and his Capitol News Service are one of the last left standing. Vasilinda, who began covering the Capitol in 1975, works for eight stations throughout the state. The Florida Channel, which streams most of hearings and sessions in the Legislature, has a variety of public affairs programs covering politics. “They will often ask the tough questions,” a veteran Tallahassee journalist told me, but he adds, “they rarely follow up and press elected officials, because the funding comes from the Legislature.” In other words, you can’t press “the boss” too hard because he’s paying the bills. As NPR and former Tampa Bay Times TV critic Eric Deggins said, “The problem with TV stations covering politics in Florida is that many of the reporters are extremely young and have no perspective.” For example, when the ultimate Florida political story — the 2000 hanging chad recount — happened, many of today’s reporters hadn’t started kindergarten. In Orlando, according to longtime Orlando Sentinel TV critic Hal Boedeker, politics gets prime coverage on the TV stations. Boedeker says the “Trump Revolution” has brought politics on the local level to the forefront as those on all sides of the political spectrum have strong views. The West Palm TV market has been forced into a category of its own when

it comes to covering politics because of President Trump’s frequent trips to Mar-aLago. National media invades the area on a regular basis and the effects on the residents provides continual fodder for local political stories relating back to the president. Local stations report on traffic issues when the presidential invasion occurs, budget-breaking security issues and general disruptions caused by the presidential visits and Trump’s entourage — including the gaggle of reporters and satellite trucks that are a mandatory part of covering the most powerful man on earth. Clearly, in many markets covering politics is not an easy task. In Tampa Bay, for example, the TV stations serve several counties and there are more than 20 municipalities in Pinellas County. Someone in Sarasota, for example, might not give two hoots about the race for mayor of Tampa. It is a fine line the TV stations must walk. Add to that the attitude of the FCC led by Chairman Ajit Pai, who wants less regulation of TV stations, expanded ownership by big groups, and even is allowing some groups to broadcast “local news” from another state. Pai’s leadership prompted 20 U.S. senators, led by Florida’s Sen. Bill Nelson, to write an April 26 letter telling him “The FCC — under your leadership — has engaged in a systematic process of eliminating many of the individual rules designed to further the public interest obligation


and keep broadcasters tied to their local community.” It’s disappointing, yet easy to see how an 800-pound gorilla like Sinclair Broadcasting, which has a political agenda and will soon reach 72 percent of the households in the country, has more influence on local TV coverage of politics than it should.

That’s also why the public airwaves — which, in theory, belong to you — sadly do not anymore. All is not lost. Here are some of Florida’s best reporters covering political topics throughout the state:

Television’s Political Coverage

HONOR ROLL Craig Patrick, WTVT — Tampa Bay. He leads the pack in regular political reporting and has a show, “Money, Power and Politics.” Al Ruechel, Holly Gregory and Allison Walker-Torres, Bay News 9 —Tampa Bay. Ruechel leads the political unit with his show, “Political Connections,” and Gregory also contributes to political coverage at the 24-hour news channel. Walker-Torres hosts a regular public affairs program, “In Focus,” at Bay News 9 and its co-owned Spectrum News 13 in Orlando with political issues often at the forefront. Rob Lorei, WEDU Public Television — Tampa Bay. Hosts “Florida This Week,” featuring a panel of journalists and political insiders who discuss the local political events of the week. Noah Pransky, WTSP — Tampa. In coordination with the Tampa Bay Times, Pransky had a huge impact with a series called “Zombie Campaigns,” about elected officials no long running but using the money from their campaign war chest to live high on the hog. He also has dogged Hillsborough Commissioner Ken Hagan regarding funding of the proposed Rays Stadium in Ybor City. Mark Douglas and Steve Andrews, WFLA — Tampa Bay. Douglas does a regular government watchdog feature, “You Paid For It,” and Andrews has exposed the Department of Veteran Affairs’ shoddy treatment of veterans. Adam Walser and Jarrod Holbrook, WFTS — Tampa Bay. Walser’s coverage of Pinellas Park Mayor Sandra Bradbury exposed preferential treatment she was getting from the city. Holbrook’s investigation of the spending habits of the Tampa Port Authority forced the politically appointed board to make changes. Caught up in a series of E.W. Scripps layoffs, Holbrook is no longer with WFTS.


Greg Fox, WESH — Orlando. He’s a prime example of a reporter covering government and politics on a regular basis. Chris Heath, WFTV — Orlando. The investigative reporter focuses many of his stories on politics and government abuse. Ryan Elijah, WOLF — Orlando. He hosts a public affairs program, “Orlando Matters,” which often focuses on politics and features political interviews. Michael Putney, WPLG — South Florida. The king of politics, Putney not only does WPLG newscasts, but also hosts “This Week in South Florida” with Glenna Milberg. Jim DeFede, WFOR — South Florida. The region’s other political force, the investigative reporter has produced several documentaries involving political issues and problems. Dave Elias, NBC2 — Fort Myers. Like many others, the station relies on its investigative reporter for the bulk of its political coverage. Amanda Hall and Oliver Redsten, WINK TV — Southwest Florida. Hall is a main anchor, which usually limits her time in the field covering stories. In the meantime, the younger Redsten looks like he’s at the start of a promising career — already winning several awards.


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Aficionado’s  Guide to ...

the Political


The Shapes of Water Artist Margaret Juul’s abstract swirls celebrate the element — and send a message about preserving this precious resource by phil ammann


or visual artist Margaret Juul, water is a muse, an inspiration and a lifelong passion. With fluidity and power, water has been the primary creative force for the Florida-based painter and designer, one that defines a prolific decades-long career. Whether ocean or freshwater, waves or waterfalls, the bright colors, reflected light and vivid motion found within water dominates much of Juul’s most-celebrated pieces — equal parts dynamic and spiritually soothing. “My work incorporates irregular shapes, which move around the canvas, reminis-

cent of brilliant marine hues found in 19th-century Japanese woodblock prints, tied in with impressionistic brush strokes,” Juul tells INFLUENCE Magazine from her St. Petersburg studio. “I strive to reveal rough, textured surfaces from the thick application of a medium on linen — oil, acrylic, ink and pastel — reiterating both earthly and organic natures.” Over the past quarter-century, Juul earned respect within the art world, rare for a modern female artist. Representing her portfolio are several prominent print manufacturers, and she has been a featured artist in galleries

throughout the U.S. and Britain. It also brought Juul a group of fans, supporters and collectors — several dozen of her original works are on display in Florida alone. Many pieces are found in a wide variety of settings — from homes of celebrities and politicos (some recently displayed in Charlie Crist’s district office), to corporate centers, hospital lobbies and high-end Florida hotels, including the newly remodeled Marchand’s Bar and Grill in the Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg, Orlando’s Grand Bohemian and Ritz-Carlton resorts in Sarasota, Miami and Fort Lauderdale.


PHOTO: MaryBeth Tyson

Juul’s lifelong infatuation with water, at first, came with a price. A native of New York, Juul and her family frequently visited Florida before relocating to Pinellas County in the 1980s. During one of those early vacations, though, a riptide pulled the 6-year-old Margaret into the Miami Beach surf, where she nearly drowned. “All I remember was light shining down through the waves,” Juul recalls. “It has stuck with me my entire life. As my career developed, it was that image that was the catalyst for all the work I have created since.” 32 | INFLUENCE SUMMER 2018

After earning a fine arts degree at Columbia College in Chicago — a fantastic opportunity to learn while visiting worldclass museums, she says — Juul returned to Florida and found temporary work in the head accounting office of an environmental remediation corporation. Subcontracted by the U.S. government, Groundwater Technologies specialized in nuclear waste, Superfund sites, oil spills and wastewater cleanup. It was an eye-opening view of just how destructive pollution can be to neighborhoods and their residents. The experience gave the burgeoning artist, already fascinated by the form and shapes found in water, a deeper insight into the fragility of our environment. As for the progression of her unique approach: “It has been a slow, but constant pace. I thought I would continue to develop a more realistic style, but as time went on, I loosened up.” Starting as a photorealistic painter, Juul faced a crucial turning point years later, by way of a work-related hand injury in 2008 which nearly ended her painting career. For rehabilitation, she adapted her style by working fluidly and relying on abstract impressionism.

“Remarkably,” Juul says laughing, “it was that style that has been successful globally.” Juul’s depiction of water in its various forms offers more than visual appeal. Each work provides the viewer an underlying message of hope for our environment — in Florida and worldwide. “Bridging visual art and education,” she says, “my goal is to have work created to promote an understanding of the challenges we face regarding a changing climate.” While the world confronts multiple environmental issues, Juul chose to use her artistic talents by concentrating on what impacts Florida the most — the need for clean, sustainable water. “Although all aspects are important,” she says, “I focus on freshwater and living oceans.”

“We are on the verge of a major turning point in human history,” Juul adds. “In my way, I would hope that someone will look at my abstracts and be moved or inspired … moved to respect the environment and our precious natural resources … inspired to think creatively, ‘outside the box.’” Over the past five years, Juul donated several paintings to favored nonprofits, raising thousands of dollars for equality and the protection of earth’s natural resources. Locally, the groups benefiting from recent works include Tampa Bay Watch, Equality Florida and the Children’s AIDS Foundation. One of Juul’s commissioned works will be part of the “Oceana: SeaChange” charity event, set for July in Laguna Beach, California. The annual celebrity auction celebrates the campaign to preserve ocean habitats and wildlife. This year, actor Ted Danson hosts, and there will be a performance by singer Katharine McPhee. Juul believes art and activism are indistinguishable; the artist plays a crucial role in culture. “Throughout history, artists have served as a mirror on society,” she says. “They express the innermost essence of being human.” Since it took Juul decades to reach this point in both life and career, she is quick to caution budding artists: Becoming a professional requires a “tremendous amount of passion, time working and evolving to find an inner voice.” It may not be a path for everyone. “Once you put in time and effort (which could take years) to become a professional artist in today’s world, you must be organized,” she says. “Meet deadlines, market the work, and keep up with the hustle.” “If you are not willing to give it your all early on, and handle rejection or criticism, a career as a professional artist may not be viable for some. If so, find something else; make art a hobby.” Samples of Juul’s extensive portfolio — which includes original paintings, prints, fabrics and clothing — are available at


Josh Cooper

In the Kitchen with ...



osh Cooper does not like to lose. Whether it’s college football, consulting for Gov. Rick Scott’s senatorial campaign or playing with his kids in the backyard, Cooper is in it to win it. Cooper declared his 15th-place finish (out of 30 entrants) at a recent Steak Cookoff Association contest — his first — in Jacksonville “a disaster.” On a more positive note, Cooper did manage to beat a barbecue teammate and rank third in the taste category. At steak competitions, the steaks are provided by the organizers and contestants are given numbers, which they use to pick their rib-eyes. With the relatively high number of 20, “by the time we got to select our steaks, all the good ones were gone,” Cooper says. Ideally, a rib-eye should be between 1 ¼ to 1 ½ inches thick. “That’s the perfect thickness for a hot, fast cook,” he says. With that size steak, Cooper suggests cooking it three minutes on each side, and letting it sit until it comes to temperature. A “perfect” medium steak is cooked to 140 degrees, but should be taken off the grill at about 133 degrees because the temperature will continue to rise.


If a steak is thicker, you should consider a “reverse sear,” where the meat is cooked — basically baked — over indirect heat until it gets to between 115 and 120 degrees. “Then you’re going to pull it off, jack the grill up really hot and sear it,” he says. One of the things contest judges look for are perfect grill marks. “Not squares, you don’t want squares. You want diamonds,” Cooper admonishes. “If you want to be a showstopper and show your buddies your grill mark skills, get your protractor out and go for 76 degrees.” A steak’s crusty caramelization is the result of the Malliard reaction, “many small, simultaneous chemical reactions that occur when proteins and sugars in and on your food are transformed by heat, producing new flavors, aromas, and colors,” according to It’s common to many foods, but particularly obvious when it comes to steak. The same effect can be achieved on a stovetop in a cast iron pan, which some prefer to the grill. When cooking with cast iron, “I’m not going to have any grill marks, but I’m going to have a damn tasty steak,” Cooper says. “At Master Chef, Gordon Ramsay only cooks his steak in a cast iron skillet.” But cooking is only part of the story of creating a superb steak.



CHEF COOPER PICKS HIS FAVORITE FLORIDA STEAKHOUSES While traveling the state, Josh Cooper has eaten in his fair share of great steakhouses, but he has narrowed down the list to a Top 5. But before you dash off to sink your teeth into the perfectly cooked steak, he’s noticed something to think about when ordering a steak in a fancy restaurant: “Today there’s this phenomenon happening where the steakhouses are tending to undercook all their meat. The reason is, if they bring you a piece of steak that is a little over, say, medium rare and you send it back, they have to throw it out. If they bring you your steak and it’s under medium rare and you don’t like it, then they can just reheat it. “I have always ordered my steaks medium rare and the last 10 times I’ve been to a really nice steakhouse they’ve all come back undercooked, so I’ve now started ordering all my steaks medium and they come out medium rare. It’s crazy but that’s what’s happens, especially at the nice high-end restaurants where they’re dry aging the steaks and putting all this money into the process of preparing the steak before it gets cooked.”

NO. 1 / STEAK 954

“It has a Kobe rib-eye that’s not cheap, but it will change your life forever. I first had it when we were working down there in the governor’s 2010 campaign and I fell in love with that place.” 401 N. Fort Lauderdale Beach Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale.


“Incredible.” 1208 S. Howard Avenue, Tampa.


“You can sit right on Lincoln Road outdoors and do a lot of people watching, eat an incredible steak and have some great wine.” Lincoln Road Mall, 915 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach.


“The dry-aged, bone-in ribeye at Blu Halo here in town is one of the best steaks I’ve ever had.” 3431 Bannerman Road, Tallahassee.


“Not a restaurant, but you can have a high-end steakhouse at your house by using the techniques I talk about in the story. Just order something from Jimmy P’s. They have whole huge steak area filled with Prime, Wagu, Kobe .… The other great thing about this place is if you live in Florida, they will Fed-Ex the steak anywhere in the state for 20 bucks.” 1833 Tamiami Trail N., Naples.


It all starts with choosing the right meat at the store. While everyone knows fat is key to tasty steaks, it’s important to look for the right type of fat. “You don’t want huge pockets of fat,” the grill master advises. “What you’re looking for is a lot of little pockets throughout the steak. If you feel hard fat, you don’t want that. “If you’re going to sear it, then it’s OK to leave some fat on the outside because you can pick it up and sear that off,” he continues. “But if you’re going to cook it on a grill … you want to trim that fat along the outside off of it.” The method of seasoning a steak is also important. “Overnight is best,” he says. If you’re planning to season right before cooking, Cooper suggests that you don’t, and just season it after it’s cooked. With only three hours before cooking to prepare his steak for the contest, he seasoned it with his favorite beef rub (Holy Cow from Meat Church) and vacuum sealed it in a bag. “It’s called a dry brine,” Cooper says. By pulling the seasonings into the meat, “it tenderizes the meat and it also helps add flavor.” At the cookoff, it’s all about the steak. Contestants present their rib-eyes in a Styrofoam clamshell with no garnish or sides, spinalis side first. It’s the “cap” of a rib-eye and the part the judges will taste. Cooper and his team and business partner Gannon Hunt are planning to travel to steak competitions throughout the region, on their quest to return to the World Food Championship. Chalking up his first try to a learning experience, Cooper says he’s raring to compete again: “I’m going to win the next one now that I know the secrets.”


Bascom Communications & Consulting, LLC has worked inside the halls of government, sat inside the war rooms of campaigns, and advised some of Florida's most innuential trade associations, leaders, CEOs and Fortune 500 executives. Our team’s passion for what we do drives our work product every day, translating into success for our clients. | @BascomLLC | | 217 S. Adams St., Tallahassee, FL 32301 SUMMER 2018| 850.222.2140 INFLUENCE | 37







teakhouses have long carved out a niche as a special occasion destination. These bastions of beef are still sizzling, though some chefs and restaurateurs are redefining the genre. Many now boast a more modern, brighter decor. Virtually all steakhouses today offer a diverse menu, with seafood, salads and delectable sides. And many place a bigger emphasis on the sources of their meat and fish and seek out local produce. Chefs point to the need for creativity and options. At high-end Meat Market in Miami Beach, for example, the menu includes a whole roasted cauliflower, wood-grilled achiote shrimp and umami half-duck. Diners devour duck fat cornbread as well as wagyu steaks at contemporary Cowford Chophouse in Jacksonville. And at luxe Bull & Bear in Orlando, customers can request vegan or vegetarian dishes. Steakhouses have maintained their upmarket appeal and mostly high prices, anywhere from 20-something dollars for a small filet to more than $100 for finer cuts and bigger portions. The price for monster chops can sometimes top $200. Undoubtedly, you’ve enjoyed big, juicy steaks at places like Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Shula’s 347 Grill and Capital Grille, but we left out big chains on our list below to focus on local choices or those with only a few locations. Here’s a look at 10 essential places steak lovers will want to discover in Florida.



1. Bern’s Steak House: ”When you’ve been doing

it well for 62 years, you don’t mess with what works,” noted Brooke Palmer Kuhl, Bern’s public relations director. What works for the iconic steakhouse? Stellar cuisine, notably its dry-aged steaks paired with fine wine, gracious service and an over-the-top setting. Bern’s mammoth selection ranges from a 6-ounce filet mignon to 60-ounce strip sirloin. While steak stars, the menu also features oysters on the half shell, varied seafood and a smoked fish tasting. Bern’s captivates from the outset, with its ornate decor of scarlet wallpaper, wrought-iron light fixtures and ivory bust statues. Diners start with a tour of the gleaming kitchen and famous wine cellar — with more than 6,800 unique labels — and finish upstairs in the romantic Harry Waugh Dessert Room, where you can devour divine sweets in your own private nook. Founded by Bern and Gert Laxer, the steakhouse is now owned by their son, David Laxer. Staffers with 40-plus years on the job help keep Bern’s a memorable experience. 1208 S. Howard Ave., Tampa; (813) 251-2421.


2. Bull & Bear: Named after the grand restaurant in the Man-

hattan Waldorf Astoria, the Orlando version is also an elegant destination known for its impeccable service, top-quality cuisine and stellar wine list. Dress in your finery, if you like, and savor this setting of dark woods and deep red velour seats, white tablecloths and lavish chandeliers. Bull & Bear still concocts a real Caesar salad (for two) tableside, or consider a starter of pan-seared foie gras with wild berries. Among the menu highlights: a 38-ounce, 32-day dry-aged Allen Brothers Prime tomahawk ribeye, Chateaubriand and veal Oscar. You’ll also find fish, chicken and lamb plus sides such as wild mushroom mélange or lobster mac and cheese. If you snag a table by the window, you can catch the Epcot fireworks over the treetops. Waldorf Astoria, 14200 Bonnet Creek Resort Lane, Orlando; (407) 597-5500.


Courtesy of Cowford Chophouse.


©Waldorf Astoria Orlando.

3. Cowford Chophouse: A restored historic

building is the backdrop for this elegant steakhouse, which opened in October 2017. The structure dates back to a 1902 bank built after a fire destroyed much of downtown Jacksonville. It was restored by restaurateur/owner Jacques Klempf during a massive two-year overhaul. The chophouse features a casual first floor, a white tablecloth formal setting on the second and a rooftop bar. Executive chef Ian Lynch serves an impressive menu, including filet mignon, ribeye, wagyu and the nicely marbled ribeye cap, the most tender part of the steak. Meats have a hint of smoke, cooked in a wood-fired grill using pecan and oak. Along with about 10 or so cuts of meat, Cowford offers treats like caviar with Tater Tots and a roasted seafood tower. Another treat: He aims for locally grown ingredients. 101 E. Bay St., Jacksonville; (904) 862-6464.

4. Edge Steak and Bar: Chef

Ben Rusnak

Aaron Brooks has kept his edge by turning out top-notch steaks reflecting South Florida’s Caribbean-Latin influences. Start with hearty snacks like lush foie gras and chicken liver bonbons, chorizo and cheddar croquetas, and calamari and tomato empanadas. Brooks prepares his steaks with a signature rub and offers house-made sauces, including chimichurri, of course. Menu choices include wagyu, grass-fed and grain-fed meat and dry-aged options. But Edge is more than a steakhouse. You’ll find snapper, mahi, grouper and swordfish as well as the delectable Seafood Cazuela, packed with grouper, clams and pink shrimp stewed in a coconut curry sauce, and vegetarian options. Edge has a cousin in the Denver Four Seasons, though the Miami space has a different menu and a South Florida vibe. Four Seasons, 1435 Brickell Ave., Miami; (305) 381-3190.



5. Jimmy P’s Charred:

Butcher Jim Pepper is a rarity in the current steakhouse scene. He was born into the meat business, apprenticing for his dad in Chicago. Pepper set up shop in Naples in 2002 and now he and his son, Jimmy, run three places — Jimmy P’s Charred steakhouse and butcher shop (lunch and dinner), Jimmy P’s Burgers & More (lunch and dinner) and Jimmy P’s Butcher Shop & Cafe (breakfast and lunch). The steakhouse grew out of the family’s original butcher shop, known for selling fine cuts of meat including American and Japanese wagyu, Berkshire pork and game meats such as kangaroo, elk and buffalo. The Peppers also make their own sausage, brisket and bacon. Not a carnivore? The steakhouse menu includes charred smoked octopus, seared salmon and lobster tails, all served in a welcoming setting with lots of reclaimed wood and brick. Jimmy P’s Charred, 1833 Tamiami Trail North, Naples, (239) 643-6328; Jimmy P’s Burgers & More, 1201 Piper Blvd., (239) 5141800; Jimmy P’s Butcher Shop & Cafe, 25010 Bernwood Dr., Bonita Springs; (239) 221-7428.

6 6. Meat Market: Executive chef/co-owner Sean Brasel is at the helm of this sleek

Miami steakhouse, which opened on Lincoln Road in 2008. There are now sites in Palm Beach and Puerto Rico, with a fourth spot expected to open in Tampa in 2019. Brasel’s fine steaks include ribeye, filet mignon, churrasco, porterhouse and a 30-ounce wagyu beef tomahawk rib-eye. Embellishments can include a maple foie gras butter, roasted pepper chimichurri or a pepper cognac sauce. Brasel aims for local, seasonal ingredients and expands the menu beyond slabs of beef, with a raw seafood selection, lobster tail, grilled salmon and varied sides and starters. Happy hour features fun snacks like Gouda Tater-Tots and tuna tartare nachos. 915 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach, (305) 532-0088; 191 Bradley Place, Palm Beach, (561) 354-9800; and 6063 Ave Isla Verde, Carolina, Puerto Rico, (787) 253-2007.

Lila Photography




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7. Okeechobee Steakhouse: Founded in 1947, the

Lewis family founders boast this longtime venue is the oldest steakhouse in Florida. It remains a local fave. Fans like the traditional atmosphere with a dark, woodsy decor plus the classic menu, including the “steak lovers’” porterhouse, bonein ribeye and “Palm Beach sirloin” served with house salad and choice of potato. Plenty of starters, seafood, sides and sweets round out the menu. 2854 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach; (561) 683-5151.


8. Quality Meats: This Art Deco-influenced space is a Manhattan transplant from a family considered steakhouse royalty. Alan Stillman launched the TGI Friday’s chain and Smith & Wollensky. With son Michael, he has opened Quality Meats, first in New York then in the historic former Bancroft hotel in South Beach. The hotel’s original check‑in desk was transformed into a butcher counter and a custom meat‑hook chandelier stars in the bar and lounge. A large, wraparound patio is a romantic setting for al fresco dining. The menu features traditional cuts of beef that are cured, smoked or aged in‑house with sauces made tableside. Other attractions are a roasted suckling pig, house-made charcuterie and sides such as Parmesan waffle fries, gnocchi and cheese and corn crème brûlée. 1501 Collins Ave.; Miami; (305) 340-3333.


9 10

9. Steak 954: An eye-catching jelly-

fish aquarium and an ocean view command your attention at this beachfront gem, located in the luxurious W hotel. Considering the owner is Philadelphia restaurateur Stephen Starr, it’s no wonder there’s a $65 cheesesteak (albeit American wagyu ribeye) on the menu. Dry-aged, prime beef rules but you’ll also find a raw bar, several fish choices and Maine lobster. Steak 954 is light and breezy, with a laidback terrace where you can savor a sea-salty breeze and linger over sumptuous desserts from pastry chef Sarah Magoon. W Fort Lauderdale, 401 N. Fort Lauderdale Beach; (954) 414-8333.

10. 1200 Chophouse: The small, intimate steakhouse gets its name from the way its beef is prepared — in a 1,200-degree broiler. Restaurateur Dan Casey, who got his start selling hot dogs, also owns Snappers Sea Grill. His steakhouse menu touts in-house aged cuts from Angus to wagyu with specialties such as a three-pound tomahawk ribeye, chili-rubbed Berkshire pork chop and surf-and-turf with filet mignon and Caribbean lobster tail. Start with bacon-wrapped scallops or mussels with andouille sausage, and ask about gluten-free options. Entrees include a house salad with walnuts and chopped apples, dinner rolls and baked or mashed potatoes. The casual venue sports faux cowhide wallpaper accents and a shady patio. 5007 Gulf Blvd., St. Petersburg Beach; (727) 367-1300.



FUTURE OF FLORIDA FORUM September 26-28, 2018 • Orlando 850-521-1237 44 | INFLUENCE SUMMER 2018

Briefings from the Rotunda


Florida’s legal J ‘brain drain’ benefits Trump administration

esse Panuccio first comes to mind when thinking of the emigration of notable legal talent from Florida to the Donald Trump administration. Panuccio was Gov. Rick Scott’s general counsel and headed the Department of Economic Opportunity before joining the Foley & Lardner law firm, then later was named acting associate attorney general at the U.S. Department of Justice. That technically makes him third-in-charge after Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. But at least three other Republican-aligned Florida lawyers also serve in the administration, as Jason Gonzalez – managing partner of the Tallahassee office of Shutts & Bowen – noted on his Facebook page earlier this year: — Carlos Muniz, formerly chief of staff to Attorney General Pam Bondi, now is general counsel for the U.S. Department of Education. After leaving Bondi’s office, he became a partner at a Jacksonville law firm. There, he was an outside counsel for Florida State University in the lawsuit filed against it by a former student who said she was raped by quarterback Jameis Winston in 2012. — Matt Leopold, formerly with the Carlton Fields law firm in Tallahassee, now is general counsel for the Environmental Protection Agency. He also was general counsel for Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and was an attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, according to his agency bio. And Leopold worked in the Washington office of then-Gov. Jeb Bush as a federal policy advisor on environmental matters. — And Charlie Trippe, formerly in private practice in Jacksonville, now is chief counsel to the Federal Aviation Administration. In 2011-12, he was Scott’s first general counsel and served as the governor’s Chief Ethics Officer, his bio says. He’s also been general counsel for litigation for CSX Transportation, headquartered in Jacksonville. SUMMER 2018 INFLUENCE | 45


Briefings from the Rotunda

Eileen Stuart heads to Hopping Green & Sams; will still lead Mosaic’s GR efforts


PHOTO: Marybeth Tyson


ffective (and) ethical.” Her new firm is “really lucky to be getting” her. Those were some of the reactions to news that fertilizer giant Mosaic’s chief lobbyist Eileen Stuart was decamping to the Tallahassee law firm of Hopping, Green & Sams to boost its government affairs practice. Stuart made the jump in June. She spent almost 10 years at Mosaic, most recently as vice president for government and regulatory affairs, working on lobbying efforts in Tallahassee and Washington. At Hopping, Green & Sams, she’ll be a shareholder, though her practice will center largely on state and federal government and regulatory affairs. The deal also ensures she will continue to represent Mosaic in Tallahassee and serve as a key voice and face for the company. “Eileen worked for one of TECO’s most important customers for about 10 years,” said Charles O. Hinson, vice-president of government relations at TECO Energy. “I was so impressed with her that I all but offered her a job in a business meeting (between TECO and Mosaic) with her boss present,” he said. “She is talented, effective, ethical and a winner. She is a great fit for the Hopping firm.” Mark Kaplan, Eileen’s former boss at Mosaic and a former chief of staff to Gov. Jeb Bush, said the law firm “and its clients are really lucky to be getting Eileen Stuart.” Stuart “makes everyone around her better through her uncanny ability to understand and connect with people at all levels, analyze and solve complex strategic and technical problems, and do it all with unquestioned integrity that continually earns the trust of people throughout government and business,” Kaplan told INFLUENCE. “This is a great fit and it will be fun to watch Eileen and her new colleagues build on HGS’s legacy in Florida,” added Kaplan, who was recently named vice president of government and community relations for the University of Florida. Prior to joining Mosaic, Stuart worked in the Executive Office of the Governor under Gov. Charlie Crist where she served as deputy policy director.

She also has worked at the Florida Senate and the Public Service Commission. Stuart received an undergraduate degree from the University of Florida and a law degree from the Florida State University College of Law. She and her husband live in Tallahassee with their two sons. “HGS’ widely recognized expertise and reputation provide an unparalleled platform, and I am excited to work alongside the exceptional team there to help our clients achieve their objectives,” Stuart said.


Capital City Consulting making progress on new HQ


onstruction continues apace in Tallahassee’s downtown. The finishing touches are being put on the Ballard Partners’ building at Monroe Street and Park Avenue, and Florida Power & Light has broken ground on its new Jefferson Street home in the capital. Right next door to FPL, still another edifice is planned: The new home of Capital City Consulting, which has yet to get underway. Firm principal Nick Iarossi said groundbreaking was slated for some time in late June or early July.

PHOTO: Mark Wallheiser

Rendering of the new offices of Capital City Consulting

FPL’s new building in Tallahassee, next door to Capital City Consulting, here under construction in May.

“We have finalized our building’s design and construction documents,” he said. “The building will be two stories and have a contemporary ‘feel.’ “Lots of glass, natural light, collaborative work areas, with a very large conference room that can accommodate coalition meetings and after-hours events,” he said. “It’s purposely designed for the needs of a growing lobbying firm.” Asked for the reason behind the move from the firm’s current digs in the Greenberg Traurig building at College Avenue and

Adams Street, he said, “Quite simply, we’ve outgrown the space we’re in. “We do anticipate hiring more lobbyists and support staff as our business continues to show strong growth,” he added. “We also need space to house lobbyists from our new satellite office in Tampa while they are in Tallahassee for business.” One thing’s for sure: With the Capitol a block away, it’s hard to beat the location. (And veteran lobbyist Ron Book will be their next-door neighbor.)


Briefings from the Rotunda

PHOTO: Mark Wallheiser


The Pinpoint Results team includes Tanya Jackson (seated) and (standing, left to right) Marti Coley Eubanks, Bryan Cherry and Robert Beck.

Marti Coley Eubanks joins PinPoint Results


f you’re joining a family business, it helps to know the family. So, it was no surprise when former state Rep. Marti Coley Eubanks signed on in May to the lobbying-consulting team at Tallahassee’s PinPoint Results. PinPoint was founded 10 years ago by Tanya Jackson and Robert Beck, who are married. Their son-in-law, Bryan Cherry, has worked with them for the past six years. And Cherry also was Coley Eubanks’ chief of staff when she was in the House of Representatives. “We wanted to continue to grow our presence, and our team spent six months discussing possible candidates who reflect our values and are fun to work with,” Jackson told INFLUENCE. “Bryan’s respect for Marti was always something he raved about, and that aligned with our perception and experience in working with her. “The courtship went on for several weeks until we all closed the deal and welcomed Marti aboard,” she said. “We worked with Marti when she was a legislator on several issues, including funding for Florida-based programs serving the elderly, the homeless, and many other programs that improve the lives of Floridians,” Beck added. “Her work ethic, commitment and willingness to ‘find solutions to complex problems’ was always refreshing and left a lasting impression.” They said PinPoint represents a number of health care in-


terests and not-for-profit associations and providers, stressing they’re organizations “that help Floridians; be they seniors, adults with disabilities, kids who have run-ins with the law, people with mental health or substance abuse issues, rural hospitals, and public guardians who care for indigent seniors who have no one else to help them.” They also represent several technology companies whose offerings help government operate more efficiently. “Marti’s going to have the opportunity to jump in wherever she feels she can contribute to helping our clients achieve their goals,” Jackson said. “And Marti has extensive experience in education, healthcare and economic development, so we know there are future clients on the horizon who will benefit greatly from her background in those areas.” She served 2005-14 in the Florida House, rising to Speaker Pro Tempore in her final two years in the Legislature. Coley Eubanks had been governmental relations director for Nemours Children’s Health System Florida. “My background as an educator, my experience in economic development while I was in office, and, most recently, my role with a health care organization gives me a wide range of knowledge to complement this great team, and I feel honored to be a part,” Coley Eubanks said.

RFB Karen Skyers joins race for HD 61 for Hillsborough County and worked as a child protective investigator for the Florida Department of Children and Families, according to her bio. She interned for the federal Public Defender’s Office in Orlando, and at the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights in Washington, D.C. And Skyers is a “Distinguished Alumni” honoree of the Florida A&M University College of Law. The district includes downtown Tampa, Ybor City, and Seminole Heights and is a majority-minority area: Over 52 percent black and nearly 19 percent Hispanic, according to House records. Registered Democrats there hold an overwhelming advantage. “I understand issues that matter to people of color, no matter their shade of black or brown, and what I’ve learned is that some needs are universal: good jobs, affordable health care, safe and high-quality schools, thriving communities — every one of us wants that,” said Skyers, who speaks Spanish. “And that’s why I’m running.”

PHOTO: Marybeth Tyson


aren Skyers seeks to replace Sean Shaw for a Tampa House seat. She’s been a public defender, a lobbyist, and now she’s running for the Florida House. Skyers, a Tampa attorney, is one of several Democrats now running for Sean Shaw’s House District 61 seat in Tampa. With Republican Pam Bondi term-limited, Shaw — also a Democrat and Tampa attorney — is making a go for state Attorney General. “Our community needs someone who isn’t afraid to stand up and speak out because that’s what I’ve been doing all along,” Skyers told INFLUENCE. Until March, Skyers was a lobbyist with the Fort Lauderdale-based Becker & Poliakoff law firm. Earlier, she was with Southern Strategy Group. She also has some pretty formidable political bona fides: Skyers once was a legislative aide to former Sen. Arthenia Joyner, who rose to Democratic Leader before being term-limited in 2016. Skyers was an assistant public defender



Briefings from the Rotunda

PHOTO: Mark Wallheiser

Carol Bracy takes the ‘pulse’ of Ballard Partners


arol Bracy says her recent promotion to managing partner in Ballard Partners’ Tallahassee office, where she’s worked for 11 years, is “really kind of an extension of what I’ve been doing for the last two-plus decades.” The veteran lobbyist (her first Session was 1994) sat for an interview with INFLUENCE at Ballard’s new building downtown, which Brian and Kathryn Ballard still are adorning with art, including a hallway full of pop art-inspired works. “I’ll continue my role with representing clients that I have with the firm, but I’m also now managing the day-to-day operations of the Tallahassee office,” Bracy said. “That includes a lot of personnel issues (and) management issues that I didn’t have before.” One of the things she does is “team calls with the (other) managing partners on a regular basis, just to kind of get a pulse of where we all are … We’ve grown quite a bit since I’ve been here.” Most recently, Ballard moved lawyer-lobbyist and Sayfie Review publisher Justin Sayfie to the


Washington, D.C., office, and hired former state Rep. Jose Felix “Pepi” Diaz as executive vice president in Miami. “... For me, it’s sort of a natural progression,” Bracy said. “I’ve had management roles before, so this is not completely foreign to me. Now it’s a matter of making sure (that) we’re seamless, in terms of our strategic focus and growth. And Brian in particular is someone who is incredibly supportive, been a great mentor for me. “He works incredibly hard, so he sets the bar pretty high for the rest of us,” she continued. “For me, I find that personally and professionally challenging. I’ve gotten to work with really incredible clients, private-corporate, public sector, nonprofit, so you have a range of issues that you get to work on here.” Bracy, a Boston-area native who graduated from Philadelphia’s Temple University, spent a decade representing Florida’s 67 counties as interim executive director and legislative director for the Florida Association of Counties. “I got to pretty much learn everything, from airports to

growth management, to finance and tax, to health care,” she said. She later served as chief of staff to former Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings before joining the Ballard firm. But Bracy calls herself “more of a policy wonk than a political wonk.” That includes keeping an eye on emerging trends. “I think we’ve only scratched the surface of technology” in terms of lobbying needs, she said. “We’re seeing it in Congress with privacy issues, social media and elsewhere. I feel like that is still an area that is not quite done, from a regulatory perspective.” Bracy and her colleagues will be ready, she said. “The work that we do, and the engagement in the process, is incredibly serious. We’re the third-largest state in the country. Folks are paying attention to what Florida is doing, and I think that the type of folks that you have on your team, for me, have to have that understanding and appreciation for the work that we’re hired to do.”

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toasting florida politics

SOCIAL s c ene

Florida Chamber Foundation Business Leaders Summit PHOTOS BY COLIN HACKLEY

The Florida Chamber Foundation held their second annual Florida Business Leaders’ Summit on Prosperity & Economic Opportunity in Orlando in May to discuss how Florida’s businesses can help pave the way toward prosperity for all Floridians. At the event held at the Rosen Plaza Hotel, conversations ranged from the importance of skills and workforce training to looking at Florida’s housing, and how current business-led efforts can be replicated throughout Florida; business, community, and philanthropy leaders joined with elected officials to set the stage for action.


toasting florida politics

SOCIAL scene

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1. Adam Putnam, 2. Will Weatherford 3. Stan Connally

4. Michelle Dennard 5. Ann Reinert, Linda Landman-Gonzalez, Kay Rawlins 6. David Lawrence

7. Tony Carvajal, Michael A. Finney 8. Mark Wilson 9. Forough Hosseini SUMMER 2018 INFLUENCE | 57

toasting florida politics

SOCIAL s c ene


The Florida Society of Association Executives (FSAE) held an Executive Summit this past April at the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel in downtown Tallahassee. Topics included “Building Blocks Every Leader Needs,” an Overview of the 2018 Legislative Session, and “Effectively Getting Your Message Across to Legislators and the Public.”


toasting florida politics

 SOCIAL scene

 1. FSAE Executive Summit 2. Bill Montford 3. Keyna Cory 4. Drew Preston

5. Christina Johnson, Jon Peck, Sarah Bascom 6. Barney Bishop, Halsey Beshears 7. Noreen Fenner



Greenberg Traurig Tallahassee



The Intersection of Business and Government in Florida

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Greenberg Traurig is a service mark and trade name of Greenberg Traurig, LLP and Greenberg Traurig, P.A. ©2016 Greenberg Traurig, LLP. Attorneys at Law. All rights reserved. °These numbers are subject to fluctuation. 26903


FOURTH FLOOR>FILES Significant other? Children? Grand kids? The loves of my life: Audrey, 7, and Colton, 4

Who is your favorite Florida Capitol Press Corps reporter and why? All the ones I’ve dealt with have been pretty fair.

In 25 words or less, explain what you do. Act as a liaison between business and elected officials. Advocate for good public policy.

Other than, your reading list includes … Sayfie, and pretty much all the bigger city Florida papers.

Without using the words Democrat, Independent or Republican, conservative or liberal, describe your political persuasion. Lean right on business, regulatory and fiscal issues. More towards the middle on social issues. If you have one, what is your motto? “Good enough” isn’t good enough. Any last-day-of-Session traditions? Used to head to the Kentucky Derby every year after sine die. Wouldn’t mind bringing that one back. What are you most looking forward to during the Legislative Session? Success .… And maybe a little luck.

What swear word do you use most often? I wish there was only one.

Favorite movie? Godfather I or II. I never can click past those when they’re on. When you pig out, what do you eat? What don’t I eat? If you could have dinner with a historical figure no longer living, who would it be? Niccolo Machiavelli would be a pretty interesting conversation.

What is your most treasured possession? Until they’re 18, their mine! So, my kids. The best hotel in Florida is … Ritz Carlton-Naples, or the JW Marco 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? Rick Scott, Bill Nelson, Ron DeSantis, and Adam Putnam.

If you could have another lobbyist’s client list, it would be … I couldn’t ask for a greater roster of clients than we currently have. But if anyone represents the Chicago Cubs … Professional accomplishment of which you are most proud? Always hopeful that’s the one to come. Keep chasing. Lobbyists are often accused of wearing Gucci loafers; do you own a pair of Gucci loafers? If not, why not? I’m a laces guy.

PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson

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FOURTH FLOOR>FILES GAINING A FAMILY WHILE SHEDDING ‘STUFF’ Significant other? Children? Grand kids? Although I did my best to avoid marriage, at the age of 35 I finally met my husband and had to concede. We have now been married for going on 8 years. In the deal, I got two amazing sons, Austin, 22, and Carson, 19. I am glad I waited but couldn’t imagine life without my Three Kings and am not sure how I did before them. In 25 words or less, explain what you do. I solve problems, build relationships, make connections, and advocate for my community to achieve impactful results and love every minute of it. Without using the words Democrat, Independent or Republican, conservative or liberal, describe your political persuasion. Evolving. If you have one, what is your motto? You learn and come to understand what you want by experiencing and learning what it is that you don’t want. During your career, have you had a favorite pro bono client? Pepin Academies, an independent not-for-profit public charter school for students with learning and learning-related disabilities. It’s a school for students who need a place where belonging leads to learning. Pepin Academies is exactly what charter schools are supposed to be. Three favorite charities? Metropolitan Ministries, Hands Across the Bay, Pepin Academies Foundation. Any last-day-of-Session traditions? None. I guess I need to work on that.

PHOTO: Jessica Friend

Natalie King

What are you most looking forward to during the Legislative Session? Cessation of fundraising. If you could have another Vice President and COO, lobbyist’s client list, it would be … RSA Consulting Group There isn’t one. The collection of clients RSA has built is second to none and I wouldn’t be doing what I do with anyone else or for a different set of clients. Professional accomplishment of which you are most proud? I am most proud of the fact that I enjoy what I do and I like the people I do it with and for.

Lobbyists are often accused of wearing Gucci loafers; do you own a pair of Gucci loafers? If not, why not? No and I don’t wear Prada or Jimmy Choo either. I would rather spend my money on boats and travel. Who is your favorite Florida Capitol Press Corps reporter and why? Peter Schorsch, of course! Other than, your reading list includes … TBT, Politico, News Service of Florida, Sunshine State News, and the first thing each morning ... Sunburn What swear word do you use most often? Ummm … all of them. I hear swearing is a sign of intelligence. What is your most treasured possession? Although people aren’t possessions, it is my family I treasure most. Stuff is just stuff. In fact, about 5 years ago I tested this by downsizing my life, giving away all of my stuff and moving onto our 42-foot yacht. We bought a house in December and I am having a hard time buying stuff — even though I know I need to furnish and decorate, my minimalist ways keep me from having the urge to acquire stuff. The best hotel in Florida is … Love love, Sea & Sun in St. Augustine. WaterColor Inn in Santa Rosa is pretty nice too. 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? Ron Pierce, Adam Putnam, Ashley Moody and Dana Young. Favorite movie. “While You Were Sleeping” and “Sixteen Candles.” When you pig out, what do you eat? Cookies, cupcakes and a big glass of milk. If you could have dinner with a historical figure no longer living, who would it be? Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis



In 25 words or less, explain what you do. I give clients a voice at the state Capitol. My primary client is NAMI Florida, where I serve as their executive director. Without using the words Democrat, Independent or Republican, conservative or liberal, describe your political persuasion. A lovely shade of purple. If you have one, what is your motto? “Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – Steve Jobs. During your career, have you had a favorite pro bono client? I represented the Florida Association of Free & Charitable Clinics their first year of operation at a very steep discount and secured over $4.5 million to serve uninsured Floridians. Three favorite charities. NAMI Florida, NAMI Florida, NAMI Florida. Any last-day-of-Session traditions? Meeting friends to celebrate or commiserate, depending on what just died on the calendar. What are you most looking forward to during the Legislative Session. Catching up with friends in the process whom I haven’t seen in a while. If you could have another lobbyist’s client list, it would be… I really don’t check out who has what clients. I’m happy with mine. Professional accomplishment of which you are most proud? Being asked by Gov. Rick Scott to sit on his mental health workgroup after the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, then getting legislation in SB 7026 requiring schools to provide mental health awareness programs for students. Lobbyists are often accused of wearing Gucci loafers; do you own a pair of Gucci loafers? If not, why not? I’m not a Gucci girl, but I recently took selfies at a store in Paris and sent them to my Gucci-loving brother in Orlando. 64 | INFLUENCE SUMMER 2018

Who is your favorite Florida Capitol Press Corps reporter and why? I worked with many of them back when I was a Gannett News Service reporter. I’d say Steve Bousquet—he’s tough but fair, has a life outside his job, and is respectful to people he interviews. Plus, he threw me a few story leads. Other than Florida Politics, your reading list includes… lots and lots of emails. What swear word do you use most often? WTF? What is your most treasured possession? It’s a tossup between a black-andwhite picture of my late father giving me a piggy-back ride at 4 and a swatch of artificial orangeand-white checkerboard turf from Neyland Stadium at the University of Tennessee. I packed both when I fled Hurricane Irma last year. The best hotel in Florida is… one with a spa. 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? The new governor, Jack Latvala, Emma Gonzalez, Steve Schale Favorite movie. Currently it’s “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” When you pig out, what do you eat? Cheeseburgers and french fries. If you could have dinner with a historical figure no longer living, who would it be? Abraham Lincoln. He battled depression, was compassionate about his wife’s mental health challenges, wanted to do what was best for this country, and relied on his intelligence and intuition to guide him.

Alisa LaPolt

Executive Director, NAMI Florida

PHOTO: Mark Wallheiser

Significant other? Children? Grand kids? I’m a single childless adult, which means if I ever needed Medicaid coverage in Florida, I’d be out of luck.

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{ insiders’ ADVICE

Defend Your Data


here do we draw the line between effective communication and invasion of privacy? The power of data has transformed the way companies connect with consumers and constituents, giving them a much greater ability to personalize and customize their campaign messaging and outreach methods. While this innovation has led to new opportunities for civic empowerment and political involvement, it has also sparked questions surrounding how personal data is used — and, potentially, abused.

Why is our personal data so valuable?

For businesses and political campaigns, gathering information about consumers serves two primary purposes: research and advertising. For market research, companies compile large data sets of user information to analyze consumer attitudes and behaviors. From this, they can identify underlying trends and address questions like, “Why are people buying a specific product?” or “What would make someone support a particular issue?” For advertising, many companies have found that hyper-targeted ads — those reaching small, super-relevant audiences — allow them to better break through today’s information overload, resulting in a much higher return on investment than blasting general messaging to the masses.

What “personal data” do companies collect on us?

While data policies differ from company to company, most personal data used for market research and advertising purposes falls into two categories: first-party data and third-party data. First-party data includes information you voluntarily provide when creating an account with an advertising entity like Facebook or Google — your name, age,

ryan cohn answers questions about the power of data and what to know about privacy

gender, email address, and phone number. It can also include the content you publish, pages you follow, and websites you visit. Third-party data, on the other hand, is aggregated by big data companies with names you’ve likely never heard of, but that know a lot about you. They collect data from thousands of sources, bridging together public data (driver license and voter records) with private data (websites, locations, and transactions).

What are the real dangers?

Despite the creepiness factor, most consumers prefer seeing an ad for a product they might actually consider buying versus an ad for something they couldn’t care less about, or for a candidate running in their community rather than in a neighboring county. The real threat to our digital privacy is when this data falls into the wrong hands. This is precisely what happened in 2014, when Facebook users gave Cambridge University researcher Aleksandr Kogan permission to access their social media data so they could use his Facebook quiz app. Rather than safeguarding the data, Kogan sold it to political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica, a clear violation of Facebook’s terms of service.

How do we protect ourselves?

While the media’s fixation on digital privacy can make you wonder whether your only choice is to go completely off the grid, there are several steps you can take to protect your digital data: • Find vulnerabilities by scanning major search engines for negative mentions and copycat profiles of yourself. If you suspect anything unusual, report it directly through that website’s appropriate channels. For instance, if you discover a Facebook profile using your likeness that you did not create, report it to Facebook for review and deletion. • Prevent hackers from obtaining your

most sensitive information, like credit card and your Social Security numbers, by using secure passwords, changing them every few months, activating two-step verification, and storing passwords in an encrypted password management tool like LastPass — NOT in an unsecured document named “Passwords” on your desktop. • Beware of phishing scams. You may receive a seemingly legitimate email from your bank requesting that you log in immediately to verify your account. Do not click on the verification link, which could actually take you to a fake website. Instead, call your bank (or whoever the email purports to be from) directly to verify that the request is real and your account is secure. • Think twice before authorizing the release of your personal data to a third-party source. Know who is asking for your data, what they would receive, and why they want to use it. Even dealings with large, recognizable brands require our due diligence, as many request too much data without a clear need or use for it. Protecting your personal data can quickly become a numbers game. The fewer cracks in your shield, the safer you’ll be in the event of a breach.

Ryan Cohn, Partner and Executive Vice President at Sachs Media Group, is a strategic advisor to many of the firm’s largest clients, forecasting and navigating the changing communications and marketing landscape, and leading digital media initiatives. He has taught at Florida State University and contributed to prominent media outlets including Mashable and AdWeek. Ryan has created hundreds of well-known marketing and issue advocacy campaigns, with several featured on The Today Show, ABC World News, Buzzfeed, Daily Mail, Fox News, and Business Insider.


{ insiders’ ADVICE

Do not poll. D

o not poll. That’s right. Don’t do it. Resist! Do not poll. If you are running for office, seriously, why bother? Polls cost money. Done well, they can cost a LOT of money. A well-executed, properly sampled (meaning it includes a large percentage of cell phones) and balanced poll can cost anywhere from $15,000 to $35,000 – or more – depending on the length and sample size. Polls take time. You need at least some opposition research, a serious review of your voting record and a brain dump on issues, concepts and ideas. You also need to research your district, voting patterns and the ability to understand and manage the voter file. It’s a pain in the butt. For most campaigns, heed this advice: Don’t do a poll. Don’t do it if you already know what you want to say to voters. Don’t do it if you already have that great TV spot in mind. Definitely don’t do it if you are going to disregard what it says because, let’s be honest, you know what you want to say, you know what the voters need to hear, and polls are just polls after all. Don’t do a poll if you already have a plan and know how you will run your campaign and how you will communicate to voters. Don’t waste your money if you can look at someone else’s data or if you believe the letters to the editor, the sage comments at the end of news articles, or if the huge number of retweets you got on


steven vancore is being sarcastic about his livelihood. Or is he?

your message last week tell you all you need to know. Further, what the heck do a mere 300 or 400 voters really know anyway? After all, that’s a very small percentage of your would-be constituents and, besides, everybody knows that nobody takes polls anymore. You see? There are dozens of very good reasons to save the money. And, while this advice is obviously dripping with a tad too much sarcasm, there is a grain of truth to it. (OK, more than just a grain.) Too many candidates and too many campaigns only poll because they have to, or they just want to know if they are ahead or not. Too many actually do spend the money on a well-done poll only to ignore it – and ignore their pollster. Take a look at your bottom line. If you genuinely feel you need to know what messaging will work and what won’t; if you really need to understand what voters are thinking; if you honestly seek guidance from a campaign professional, then a good poll is worth every single hard-earned penny you pay for it. But, if you already know the answers, don’t bother asking the questions. Don’t do a poll. Steven J. Vancore is the President of Clearview Polling and Research and has been polling and conducting focus groups in Florida for over 30 years.



For more than 140 years, the Florida Medical Association has been the most influential voice for medicine in the Sunshine State. No other organization can match our track record of successful advocacy for physicians in the legislative, legal and regulatory arenas. By serving the medical profession, the FMA makes it easier for doctors to deliver high-quality care that keeps Floridians healthy. No matter how complex Florida’s health care environment becomes, our mission — Helping Physicians Practice Medicine — will never change. Learn more about the FMA at or by calling (850) 224-6496.



‘People get what they deserve’

PHOTO: Colin Hackley

Ethics reforms now in voters’


ormer Senate President Don Gaetz doesn’t expect “much of a campaign” for a proposed constitutional amendment he sponsored on heightening ethical standards for elected officials. But he does expect an onslaught from forces that oppose it, including its extension of a lobbying ban on former lawmakers from two years to six years. “In my 22 years in Florida politics I have never known of a fundraiser for ethics, nor political consultants for ethics, nor an ethics PAC, nor a $1,000-a-plate dinner to support the ‘Ethical Legislator of the Year,’ ” said Gaetz, a Niceville Republican who served in the Senate 2006-16, including as president 2012-14. He more recently served on the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC), which convenes every 20 years to review and suggest changes to the state’s governing document. He was appointed by Senate President Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican. What’s now known as “Amendment 12” is one of eight revisions he and other commissioners placed on the


November ballot. It needs a minimum of 60 percent support from voters to be added to the state constitution. “For my own part, I am writing to and meeting with civic groups, editorial boards and other outlets who have a passing interest in raising the standard of private conduct in public office,” Gaetz said. “I wouldn’t call it a hot item ... “The anti-ethics campaign, however, is likely to be well-funded, active, but rather behind the curtains,” he told INFLUENCE.

Gaetz explained the amendment’s three main provisions. In turn, it:

—Prohibits persons holding elective office from simultaneously being paid lobbyists. “Here in Florida, a politician can be paid to lobby the county commission to award a hefty contract to his client, then drive to Tallahassee and vote on the House or Senate committee with jurisdiction over the public policy that authorizes or requires the contract or the appropriations panel that funds it,” he said. “County commissioners can be paid private lobbyists in front



of other local government boards who depend on the county. Legislators can be paid by private interests to lobby Congress on issues in which the state and federal government have interlocking, overlapping jurisdiction. It has happened and does happen in Florida. “If you want to represent the people, run for office. If you want to represent private clients for money, be a lobbyist. But playing both ends of the game at the same time is institutionalized corruption and it should be unconstitutional.” —Prohibits elected officials and heads of state departments from paid lobbying for private clients for six years after they leave office. “The secretary of an executive department, a member of the Cabinet, a presiding officer of the Legislature or the superintendent of schools shouldn’t leave public office, set up a lobbying firm and trade on her or his insider relationships with subordinates, colleagues and political partners to help private interests secure lucrative government preferences,” Gaetz said.

“A six-year lobbying ban means that politicians go home, re-enter the real economy and live under the laws and policies they’ve made.” —Prohibits public officers and public employees from abusing their positions to obtain “disproportionate benefit” for themselves, their families, their partners or their investments. This provision empowers the Florida Commission on Ethics, Gaetz explained, “to draw the line between serving your constituents, and serving yourself or your business, and allows the imposition of criminal penalties for those who would twist the public trust into private gain.” Even while the commission was still working, the Florida Association of Professional Lobbyists (FAPL) came out in opposition to what it called “the CRC’s efforts to regulate the lobbying profession in Florida.” The group sent a letter, signed by chairman Mike Hightower, this April to CRC Chairman Carlos Beruff and copied all the commissioners. SUMMER 2018 INFLUENCE | 75


‘If Amendment 12 is approved by the voters in November, Florida will have the strongest code of ethics for public officials of any state in the nation,’ –Don Gaetz

Constitution Revision Commission member Don Gaetz is a proponent of Amendment 12, but says the strengthening of ethical standards faces a tough slog to the 60 percent voter approval needed to add it to Florida’s constitution. Photo courtesy of: Constitution Revision Commission staff Hightower wrote that the organization’s members “do not believe regulation of the lobbying profession should be done through the constitution. “Like many other regulated professions, FAPL is committed to fostering professionalism in a field of work that requires the highest level of ethical and professional standards,” he wrote. “Therefore, we ask the CRC to consider allowing the regulation of the lobbying profession to remain in Florida Statute and allow us to continue to work with the Florida Legislature to adopt strong regulatory standards for the lobbying profession.” Beruff and the others disagreed; the amendment was sent to the Division of Elections for ballot placement. Amendment 12 “does not regulate lobbyists; it regulates politicians,” Gaetz said. The FAPL letter “was written at a time when a change to my amendment was being discussed, a change which would have stopped local governments from hiring lobbyists to try to insert local projects into the appropriations act. “If passed, it would have severely chipped the teacups of the members of FAPL, hence their ‘concerns,’ ” he said. “That change was not adopted in committee because it would have modified my amendment to regulate lobbying. And the change was not included when Amendment 12 was approved in the full commission. There’s not a word in Amendment 12 that tells lobbyists what they can and can’t do.” That said, he added, “I doubt (anyone) could keep a straight 76 | INFLUENCE SUMMER 2018

face (I know no FAPL members could) while making the argument that the Florida Legislature could pass these ethical standards into statute.” Indeed, “making permanent those principles that legislators can’t or won’t enact is what constitutions are for,” he said, mentioning class sizes, environmental preservation, limits on taxation, government in the sunshine, and “even Fair Districts,” the amendment to prevent gerrymandering in political redistricting. “If Amendment 12 is approved by the voters in November, Florida will have the strongest code of ethics for public officials of any state in the nation,” Gaetz said. Outgoing House Speaker Richard Corcoran, a Land O’Lakes Republican, tried to extend the lobbying ban in statute during his two years as Speaker. That effort couldn’t get traction. “After the property tax cuts, it’s my favorite amendment,” Corcoran said. “It will go a long way to cleaning up government corruption. We’ve fought for it in the House for years and are very glad the voters will get the chance to put it into our constitution. Government leaders need to work for the people, not themselves.” And if for some reason Amendment 12 doesn’t pass? Gaetz mused, “My father always said, ‘Democracy is a form of government that guarantees people get pretty much what they deserve.’ ”

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100 THE Curated by: Peter Schorsch

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Most Influential People in Florida Politics The last time we ran the INFLUENCE 100, we said, “Influence is difficult to quantify but you know it when you see it.” Well, if it’s worth saying, it’s worth repeating. You’ll “know it” when you peruse this latest edition of the 100, a review of the most influential people in Florida policy and politics. Once again, the list covers campaign consultants and the people they get to open their wallets. The people who decide who becomes a candidate and who stays home. Then there are the ardent advocates. The media elite. The people who make “The Process” in Tallahassee work. You know, the ones who decide which bills get filed — and which never see the light of a Capitol copy machine. As before, don’t expect to see anybody in elected office, running a state or other government agency, or running for office. We’ll say this again, too: “Influence may be hard to define, but who’s influential is easy to see.”




Adam Babington is a fierce advocate for the causes and organizations he works for, and I’ve seen him grow into a powerhouse. He is incredibly intelligent and one of the most loyal people I know. I’m proud to call Adam a friend. – Jimmy Patronis, Florida Chief Financial Officer

PHOTO: Jessica Friend (Babington) ; Courtesy of Pat Bainter (Bainter)


Tucked away in Gainesville, just off the interstate and far outside of the Tallahassee spotlight, is one of the most brilliant minds in Florida politics. Behind a glass door with just a small sign indicating you’ve made it to the offices of Data Targeting sits our next generation of conservative political warriors receiving a master class from Pat Bainter. He’s humble, yet proud of the work he and his team artfully put forth for his clients and the Republican cause at large. He’s the consultant other consultants call for advice and the mentor young operatives should be so lucky to call their own. The research and data foundation on which Florida’s modern GOP is built is his masterpiece, yet Pat’s the first to introduce the talent pool of 20- and 30-somethings to tell you about the latest strategic developments. He’s not looking for face time or praise with his candidates, he’s looking for results, all the while being the smartest nice guy in the room. If there is a heart and soul of the political consulting class here in Florida, I’d say Pat Bainter’s our guy. Pat would say that kind of self-congratulatory talk doesn’t win elections. – Wilton Simpson, Majority Leader of the Florida Senate 80 | INFLUENCE SUMMER 2018



PHOTO: Colin Hackley (Baker); Mark Wallheiser (Ballard)


Influence is defined as the capacity to have an effect on character, development, or behavior of others. It comes in many forms; in the political arena, it is most often on display at public speeches, press conferences, and other spotlight events. However, there are influencers with a more concealed presence. They may be unseen, but they possess the force of a mighty wind. Such is the influence of Florida Chief Economist Amy Baker. She is Florida’s version of Mary Poppins. She has a gentle voice and kind eyes. Her words are always spoken with great care, but like Ms. Poppins, Amy does not suffer fools. Her commitment to excellence, accuracy and integrity have guided the most powerful decision makers (sometimes begrudgingly) to make fiscally sound decisions. When you consider the information she and her colleagues provide — from how many children will be in our K-12 classrooms to the fiscal impact of the storms that make landfall in Florida, we quite literally could not run the state without her. She speaks truth to power with humility. You may not always like the message, but it is hard to dislike the messenger. She is “practically perfect in every way” and is well deserving of the distinction as one of Florida’s top influencers. – Kathy Mears, Chief Legislative Affairs Officer, Florida State University


I first met Brian Ballard not through politics but through Florida State. (I served on the board of trustees with his wife, Kathryn) … I knew him socially first, then through the Trump campaign. Originally, he wasn’t “on the team,” but here’s a guy who delivers when you need it. That’s in terms of resources and being able to help the president when he needed him here in Florida. Brian came on unlike anybody I’ve ever seen, especially to come into a campaign midstream. He was able to deliver. As a lobbyist, he is everywhere he needs to be. He provides steady and balanced leadership in a way nobody else does. He follows through and is an exceptional member of the lobbying corps. – Joe Gruters, Sarasota state Representative, former vice chair of the Republican Party of Florida and former co-chairman of the Donald Trump Florida campaign SUMMER 2018 INFLUENCE | 81




PHOTO: Courtesy of Gannett (Barker) ; Mary Beth Tyson (Bascom)


The state’s Gannett newspaper chain — “USA Today Network-Florida” as it calls itself — gobbled up newspaper after newspaper to become an (underestimated) force in Florida politics. It’s also absorbed top talent along the way, including Bill Barker, the former publisher of the now-defunct Tampa Tribune and more recently of the Naples Daily News, which Gannett acquired from Milwaukee-based Journal Media Group, itself created by the spinoff of E.W. Scripps Company’s newspapers in 2015. Barker, now Gannett’s regional president for Florida and Tennessee, “leads by empowering others and connecting the dots,” said executive assistant Trish Priller. “He’s the embodiment of a true leader — he supports journalism without hesitation, is a champion for transparency and is all about strengthening communities and helping our clients grow their businesses. Florida is lucky to have such a champion.”


If Hildy Johnson of “His Girl Friday” stepped off a movie screen into Florida politics, she’d be Sarah Bascom. Like the heroine of Howard Hawks’ 1940 screwball comedy, Sarah works in a male-dominated field where she can outwrite, outtalk, and outthink any member of the Boys’ Club. That seems appropriate for a protégé of the late Senate President Jim King, whose own larger-than-life persona wouldn’t have been out of place in an Elmore Leonard novel. Find the biggest fights during the legislative Session or the campaign cycle and Sarah will be in the mix. When things go wrong — and in politics, something always goes wrong — she’s everyone’s first call. Her clients range from presiding officers to corporate CEOs to major lobbyists — and no matter who is on the other end of the line, no matter how powerful or important, her advice is incisive, practical, and always the unvarnished truth. Sarah has an eye for spotting talent and her “Pitch Perfect” team at Bascom Communications has become the premier political communications and crisis management firm in Tallahassee. In a business that is often more fiction than fact, Sarah Bascom is the real deal. – Chris Sprowls, Republican State Representative SUMMER 2018 INFLUENCE | 83


100 Lewis BEAR {LEGEND}

PHOTO: Used with permission, Pensacola News Journal/, Copyright

Lewis Bear is a pillar in the Panhandle community and our state. He’s a good friend, and my family has done business with his family-owned business for more than 30 years. He values family and works alongside them in his business; both things I can relate to and admire. The longevity and success of his family’s business is a testament to their willingness to adapt to new market trends. But, I would say it’s because he stays humble and true to his roots. – Jimmy Patronis, Florida Chief Financial Officer


There’s no doubt Associated Industries of Florida’s Tom Feeney and Brewster Bevis are among the top most influential people in Florida politics. Separately, these fine men boast backgrounds that are long, storied and deeply rooted in Florida politics. Together, they round out the take-no-prisoners approach to advocating for AIF members and business community interests via their all-star public affairs team. A history and economics buff, influenced by the likes of Milton Friedman, Tom is a proud promoter of economic growth and prosperity for Florida. In his time as a Speaker of the Florida House, congressman and an ambassador, Tom led numerous initiatives that focused on job creation, lectured political leaders on policy and government, and held the great responsibility of conducting business for Floridians during the controversial 2000 recount. Brewster’s passion for small businesses and hardworking Florida families runs deep in his blood. Growing up in a small-business-owner household, Brewster will tell you he takes the same drive and determination he learned from his dad and his pawpaw to work with him every day. This family man and avid sportsman built his political career working in Congress, serving as a former presidential appointee in the Bush Administration, and as a state and federal lobbyist. Brewster has settled in nicely overseeing AIF’s public affairs operations. The bottom line is these gentlemen mean business. AIF wouldn’t be the powerhouse business association it is today without their dignified leadership and political know-how. – Jimmy Patronis, Florida Chief Financial Officer 84 | INFLUENCE SUMMER 2018



PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson (Bevis, Feeney, Book, Bradshaw)


Passion, persistence and personality. Ron Book has been going strong for more than three decades and hasn’t lost a step along the way. Always on, always hustling, always animated, Ron Book is the hardest working guy in The Process. Sporting multiple cellphones while talking and texting 24/7, no one knows when he actually finds time to sleep. Ron takes the term zealous advocate to a whole different level and fights for his clients’ interests as if they’re his own. He can always be relied upon to provide wise counsel to his clients and he consistently delivers results even when the odds are stacked against him. With his wealth of knowledge, he knows where all the land mines are buried and, more importantly, how to avoid them while navigating Florida’s complex political landscape. He’s certainly not one to back down from a tough fight and he has never been shy about letting lawmakers know what’s on his mind. Most see Ron as a relentless political warrior, but those who know him see a compassionate and caring person who is deeply committed to important causes that make a real difference in the lives of so many. With two more grandchildren recently joining the Book team, and his newfound responsibilities as their “Coach,” you know he will continue to fight tirelessly to make Florida, and the world, a better place for them to inherit. In a political world filled with cynics and skeptics, Book still remains a true believer, and an influential player, in The Process. – Adam Hasner, Executive VP, Public Policy at The GEO Group


As I look back over my career, I can point to a handful of consequential moments that have shaped my path — a seemingly chance meeting or project that opened my world to new professional possibilities. One of those moments came in the cramped library of the law firm in downtown Tallahassee where I was clerking during my second year of law school. The firm had just hired a 32-year-old lawyer out of the Martinez administration and he invited me to sit down to talk about what I was working on and what I was interested in. I left that very first conversation with Paul Bradshaw feeling smarter about the world, entertained, and with a list of things that I wanted to go read. In the years that followed, Paul continued to be a teacher and champion for me, and I remain struck by his

creativity, turn of a phrase, and boundless intellectual curiosity. Paul sees patterns and opportunities where others don’t. He writes beautiful speeches, crafts compelling policy arguments, and brings substantive depth to every issue. Paul is one of the most influential architects of how the work of influence in Florida today gets done. He originated a business model that many people now take for granted and remains a trusted strategist and adviser for the most powerful and influential people in this state. I know I am just one of many who can count on Paul for a clever take on a challenging issue of the day, and I continue to leave our discussions smarter about the world, entertained, and with a list of things I want to go read. – Mark Kaplan, UF VP for Government and Community Relations SUMMER 2018 INFLUENCE | 85






Walking the halls of the Capitol in his 20s for GrayRobinson, Dean Cannon stood apart — a lobbyist who preferred listening to speaking; a lawyer interested in learning, not pontificating. Running for the House, Dean could not have foreseen his future: The Great Recession, the budget in free fall, Sansom, Greer and Crist. For most, maintaining the state’s fiscal health and the party’s majority would have been accomplishment enough. But where others saw crisis, Cannon saw opportunity. He believed House Republicans should not apologize for being conservatives. He understood the House of Representatives could be more than the governor’s agent or the Senate’s rambunctious little brother. As Speaker, he made subtle and significant changes until he had an institution retooled and revitalized for the post-term-limits era. He deployed that House like a special forces team — disciplined, precise, mobile — and wielded power like a sniper rifle. He focused on the mission — accomplishing bold reforms, like overhauling the entire Medicaid system. Things have come full circle. He is once again a lawyer/lobbyist for GrayRobinson, although now he’s the boss. He still listens more than he speaks and understands how to use power better than anyone. When he walks the halls of the Capitol, he still stands apart; the former Speaker who, amid a hailstorm of problems, discovered a new world of possibilities. – Mat Bahl, Chief of Staff, Florida House of Representatives

PHOTO: Nick Garcia Photography (Braman); Mary Beth Tyson (Cannon)

We were introduced to each other by Marco Rubio, but I really got to know and spend a lot of time with Norman Braman during the mayoral recall in 2011 and have seen him regularly ever since. His wisdom and guidance are sought by business and political leaders throughout Florida and beyond. His lasting contributions will be felt on causes where he’s taken a public leadership role, and more so for him and his wife Irma’s role in things like an apprenticeship program at his dealerships in conjunction with local schools to train young men and women in the automotive industry. In the arts too, there’s the Institute of Contemporary Art. The free art museum does not bear their name, but was built by the Bramans and a few others — with no public dollars — for the benefit of the community. And Art Basel in Miami, an international event that attracts artists and their work from around the globe to Miami. This list could go on and on. But the thing I have found the most impressive about Mr. Braman is humility. Though he and his wife are responsible for these wonderful things, they seek zero recognition and are content in the benefits that their community derives from them. – Carlos Lopez Cantera, Lieutenant Governor Carlos Lopez Cantera




PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson


Gaston Cantens — reluctant icon, understated yet brilliant strategist, modest power broker — is a person whose influence can be felt throughout the halls of the Capitol and in every corner of the Sunshine State, but would never be spoken of by the man himself. Instead, he is nothing short of the best in this business, yet remains defined more by humility, family and loyalty, than by bombast and braggadocio. His dossier of notable achievements are too vast to recount — unifying Miami-Dade County during its most tumultuous time, setting the table for a Cuban-American House Speaker, his calming influence over the House as Majority Whip, and now as the advocate for one of the most successful Cuban businesses in the world, Florida Crystals, owned by his close friends the Fanjul family. But if you asked him about his career, passions and successes, the conversation would inevitably turn to family, most notably his wife, Ana, whose strength and grace contributed as much to Gaston’s success as his own commitment and abilities. He has three legacy-building sons — Mike and Chris, political superstars in their own right, and Joey, a professional basketball head coach in the German Bundesliga and a former assistant on two NCAA Sweet 16 teams. I first met Gaston at a charity event when I was a political newbie and he was already a titan in the process and distinctly remember being taken aback by his unassuming, approachable nature, particularly for a legislator of his stature. For those reasons and more, Gaston remains an anomaly in politics — the unpretentious, unassuming icon that will undoubtedly remain at the top of the list of Florida’s most influential people for years to come. – Heather Turnbull, The Rubin Group SUMMER 2018 INFLUENCE | 87




PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson

As sunlight streams through the blinds of a home office converted out of a spare bedroom in Coral Gables, a middle-aged man sits chatting away on a home phone that would be considered an antique to most of his younger sources. Wearing flip-flops, camouflage cargo shorts, and a Miami football T-shirt that has been through the wash a few too many times, Marc Caputo would blend in easily at a Jimmy Buffet concert or any of the many beachside watering holes nearby. But Marc has always been a little … unconventional. When Marc left the vaunted Miami Herald newsroom to join an online-only, Washington-based blog, it seemed very “unconventional,” but so did “Caputo Cam” at first. Since launching Politico’s Florida operation, Marc has built it into a powerhouse and brought some of Florida’s best reporting talent with him. He’s broken some of the country’s biggest stories and taken down some of its biggest political figures, all while outpacing more traditional outlets with more resources. As newer outlets like Politico and Florida Politics shift the media landscape towards the “unconventional,” the most powerful newsroom in Florida politics may not be a newsroom at all; it may be this converted spare bedroom. – Brad Herold, VP, Something Else Strategies






As incoming Democratic Leader, I am blessed to have Reggie Cardozo at the helm of House Victory. Among the several top-tier politicos on our team, Cardozo is woven within our electoral operation. He is the secret sauce needed to achieve gains in 2018 and beyond. It’s truly remarkable how well Reggie — a well-respected political professional in his own right — complements our mission. The federal experience Reggie gained working in the Obama administration in Washington mixes perfectly with our grassroots organizing. Reggie brings a hands-on approach to candidate recruitment and message coaching. Reggie also is highly experienced in both the public and private sectors, with strategic regional expertise he brings to bear on his work. Reggie is an ultra-savvy, tough-as-nails, no-nonsense operator. I’m proud to have him on my team. – Kionne McGhee, Incoming House Democratic Leader

I am a better Floridian because of the advice, guidance and friendship I’ve received from Tony Carvajal. I first met Tony while he presented a seminar to Leadership Florida about the private sector’s role in economic development. I then began working closely with Tony on a statewide research project regarding trade & logistics for the Florida Chamber Foundation. Today, I’m privileged to work very closely with Tony while serving as the chair for the Chamber Foundation’s board of trustees. I’ve developed a deeper relationship with Tony, and we speak nearly every week. Through this close interaction, he’s been a role model as he demonstrates a tireless, caring commitment for the people of The Sunshine State. Last year, he personally traveled to every county in Florida, visiting many more than once, to facilitate town hall gatherings with local Floridians to understand their hopes and concerns about the state’s future. In total, Tony met with more than 10,000 people face to face to ensure their individual voices were heard. With this unique perspective, Tony now leads one of the most important projects ever created by Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Florida 2030 Cornerstone Study, and will soon publish this work as our state government transitions leadership. I’m honored to maintain my friendship with such an inspiring, involved and visionary Floridian. – Doug Davidson, Bank of America Market Executive SUMMER 2018 INFLUENCE | 89

PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson (Cardozo); Colin Hackley (Carvajal)





Kevin CATE


Kevin Cate is a master storyteller, multimedia prodigy and a thoughtful businessman. You simply won’t find anyone more passionate about the art of politics, or more sincere in their work. From the time he joined my administration in 2007, it was clear he was bound to move our state in significant ways — putting his fellow Floridians first. He is always thinking, crafting and executing bold ideas. I was proud of his work during the historic 2008 Obama campaign, and it’s been a privilege to work with him over the years, including my 2014 and 2016 campaigns. He’s a loyal friend, a talented communicator and a wise counselor. It’s no surprise why he’s the go-to communicator for so many associations, businesses and campaigns — or why he shows up on MSNBC, Fox News and CNN. He loves his job and it shows. Importantly, he’s got a cool head and never lets the pressure get to him — highlighting a commitment to the Golden Rule that we share and earning well-deserved respect from those across Florida’s political landscape. – Charlie Crist, Democratic Congressman from St. Petersburg, former Florida Governor 90 | INFLUENCE SUMMER 2018


One of the best parts of my time in elected office was getting to meet people who tirelessly advocate for their cause. In my mind, the mark of a strong champion for an issue is someone who is authentic, passionate, and has tremendous knowledge of the

process and their issue. To me, one person who possesses all these traits while serving his company, his community, and Florida agriculture exceptionally well is Robert Coker. Robert’s knowledge of the process is virtually unmatched when it comes to agricultural and environmental issues. He has longevity, with a career spanning nearly 40 years, and has been involved in some of the most impactful policy debates in Tallahassee and Washington, ensuring Florida’s farmers can continue farming sustainably, and serving as a pillar of our economy. He is one of Florida’s best advocates for all of Florida’s farmers, and has been a passionate defender of private property rights and advocating for fair water policy for all users. I would estimate thousands of Florida farming families have benefited from his efforts without even knowing, and yet Robert never seeks the credit he truly deserves. It has been said the truest measure of a man is his family, and together with Mendy, they have raised three wonderful children and now have three grandchildren. Florida is a better state because of his hard work, and I’m proud to call him a friend. – Steve Crisafulli, Former Florida House Speaker

PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson (Cate & Coker); Jessica Friend (Cohen)

“Influential” and “powerful” are the words regularly used to describe the top gun of Orlando’s lobbying and advocacy scene. Kelly Cohen is the managing partner of Southern Strategy Group’s Orlando office, and was originally recognized as a key insider, adviser and confidant of Mayor Buddy Dyer. For the last decade, Cohen has transcended that niche to be the strategist and leader for Central Florida’s most impactful issues. While Cohen is a heavy hitter, her strategic advice to some of Florida’s largest companies like Wawa, Uber, and Orlando City Soccer facilitates win after win because she understands the needs, demands and pitfalls of the diverse interest groups across the region. If a coalition, cause or company needs to navigate the bureaucratic layers of government and community, in Orlando, Cohen is the Influential Queen. – Brad Swanson, President and CEO, Florida Internet & Television


Electricity is in Stan Connally’s blood, and serving others is in his heart — a core belief that began years ago. It’s going strong to this day as he leads Gulf Power, a Southern Company subsidiary serving 460,000 customers in Northwest Florida. He’s also executive vice president of operations for Southern Company — one of the largest producers of electricity in the U.S. He’s widely respected across the state as an insightful leader, strategically building relationships and lending resources to provide opportunity for all. Stan is focused on encouraging Northwest Florida — and the state — to work together. On the board of Triumph Gulf Coast, he worked with others to help ensure BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill funds could be used to help transform and diversify Northwest Florida’s economy. And as a Florida Chamber board member and Enterprise Florida vice chair, he’s worked to help the entire state. Turning to education and workforce development, he helped establish Achieve Escambia, a collective effort in Escambia County aimed at creating a shared vision of a thriving community where everyone can achieve success, cradle to career. His leadership, vision and an unrelenting passion for Northwest Florida has left a positive mark — not just for Gulf Power, but for the region and state.

Mantra No 18

PHOTO: Colin Hackley



Public Affairs firm in Florida by O’Dwyer’s I I #wearemoore





Most know Gus Corbella as the super-cool chief of staff who worked for the late Senate President Jim King and later joined the behemoth international law firm of Greenberg Traurig. But many may not know the backstory that brought this NYC-loving, former Sting assistant to be a fixture in the Capital City. While most young people in this business expect to come out of college and get top billing inside government or the private sector, Gus started his climb to the top the old-fashioned way — with hard work and long hours. To this day, Gus is the only person to serve as both the staff director of the House and Senate Majority offices and then later becoming Senate Chief of Staff … all by the age of 30. Gus’ love of film and the arts is also a defining characteristic for this die-hard Gator fan, who can often be seen walking the red carpet at the Grammy Awards or dining at the latest hot spot in his beloved New York City. Serving as the chairman of Opening Nights at Florida State University and being a leading advocate for film and television as past-chairman for Florida Film and Entertainment Advisory Council, Corbella is consistently advocating for Florida cities to be home base for production companies and movie backdrops alike. Gus has also been an outspoken critic of local Tallahassee government and their lack of governing and was rumored to be courted to run for local office. If you ask Gus what he is most proud of he will undoubtedly say his “smoking-hot wife, Tanya” and his wildly intelligent son, Miles who too has been reading The New York Times since he could string two words together. But we all know that second to all of that is his ability to rock the no-sock look with pride and shimmy into skinny jeans with ease by always ordering a healthy salad for lunch ... with a side of steak fries. – Sarah Bascom, President Bascom Communications & Consulting

PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson (Corbella, Corcoran, Cruz)


Michael Corcoran is truly a self-made individual. Although he comes from a strong political family, he worked his way to the top of his profession by doing just that — working. He never traded in on one of the most powerful names in Tallahassee; instead, he climbed the ladder one rung at a time. Michael began his career in state politics as a legislative assistant and has built one of the most successful lobbying firms in the capital. Michael will do all he can to accomplish his clients’ goals. He is, however, a realist when it comes to what can and can’t be done. When he assesses the legislative landscape for those he represents he tells it like it is, not what he thinks his clients wish it to be. That is a rare quality to find in any lobbyist. In addition to his strong work ethic, Michael’s honesty and integrity have brought him as far as he has come. He is as good as his word, which is really the one asset that anyone in politics has. Michael enjoys a reputation that is well deserved and jealously guarded. Michael Corcoran truly deserves a place on any list of Florida’s most influential people. – Mike Fasano, Pasco County Tax Collector, former Florida House and Senate member 92 | INFLUENCE SUMMER 2018




Ana Cruz is a consummate professional. Whether she’s delivering food to police officers protecting the great City of Tampa, fighting for policies that would move the state forward, or throwing a fabulous dinner party, you can always count on her doing it with a big smile, boisterous laugh and generous nature. Ana’s reputation precedes her. For decades, she’s been a fighter for those without a voice, a progressive leader, and an advocate for what is right. Her work on national, state and local political efforts has made her one of the most sought-after political operatives in the state. She represents her deep client base with unmatched tenacity and heart. Her competitive nature makes her a force to be reckoned with and a tireless champion when she’s on your team. Ana’s never met a stranger and never misses an opportunity to listen or lend a hand. I couldn’t be prouder to call Ana a friend and mentor. – Ashley Bauman, City of Tampa Director of Marketing & Communications




Husein Cumber is the executive vice president for Corporate Development at Florida East Coast Industries. While he is a good friend, he also is one of the primary visionaries behind Brightline, the intercity passenger rail system that will initially connect South Florida and Central Florida. Husein’s influence on Florida’s transportation system runs deep. It includes developing major projects at Port Miami and Port Everglades, which have significantly increased the ability to move freight quickly and more cost efficiently. His background in transportation also was recognized in 2005 when he was asked to serve in the Bush 43 administration as deputy chief of staff at the U.S. Department of Transportation. Husein’s political involvement started as an intern with Gov. Jeb Bush’s 1998 campaign. While young Husein has been in politics for quite some time, in 2004 The New York Times profiled him as the youngest bundler for the Bush 43 re-election campaign. Husein is also currently the vice chair of JEA, the eighth-largest community-owned electric utility company in the U.S., and a board member of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Florida State College at Jacksonville Foundation and Take Stock in Children. Husein is a graduate of Duke University and his wife, LeAnna, is a candidate for the Jacksonville City Council. – Will Weatherford, Former Florida House Speaker SUMMER 2018 INFLUENCE | 93




We’ll let DeFede’s CBS4 News bio tell his story: He was born in Brooklyn and his family remains in the same rent-controlled apartment building where he was raised. DeFede left Brooklyn when he was 19 to attend Colorado State University. “Much to his mother’s continuing disappointment, however, he never graduated from college,” it says. In 1991, he became a staff writer with the weekly newspaper Miami New Times, where he won numerous awards during his 11-year tenure. Then, from 2002-05, he was a metro columnist for The Miami Herald before joining CBS4 News in January 2006, serving as an investigative reporter and host of the Sunday morning public affairs program, “Facing South Florida.” There, he exposed Florida’s military style corrections center for young offenders; the care and treatment of animals at Miami’s zoo; the failure of so-called ”Everglades restoration,” and he covered the 20th anniversary of fashion designer Gianni Versace’s murder by spree killer Andrew Cunanan. No surprise that he’s won five regional Emmy Awards for his work. As bestselling author, journalist and attorney Gerald Posner once said of DeFede’s 2003 book on 9/11, “The Day the World Came to Town”: “DeFede is a natural storyteller who effortlessly weaves the serendipity and charm of a story that is new to all of us.”

PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson (Diaz)


It has been a true honor to work hand-in-hand with Nelson Diaz over many years. Nelson is many things: He is a doting father, a steadfast husband, chair of the Republican Party of Miami-Dade County, managing shareholder of the Southern Strategy Group office in Miami-Dade County and my friend. Nelson got his start in politics in the presidential campaign of Bob Dole. It was there he became close friends with now-Sen. Marco Rubio, who ultimately became his boss and gave him his start in Tallahassee. Quiet and unassuming, Nelson was not your typical Tallahassee operator. He was substantive, hardworking, and committed to certain ideals. For all these reasons, he quickly rose to the top of Sen. 94 | INFLUENCE SUMMER 2018

Rubio’s team and, subsequently, became a very big success in the private sector. Nelson’s clients are like family to him and his team. He has built many relationships over the years that feel more like an extension of his big Cuban family than just business-as-usual. It is this sort of personal touch that has made his tenure as chair of the local party extra special. Nelson Diaz cares, and people can sense it. That is why he is one of the true stars of Miami-Dade County’s political world. – Carlos Trujillo, U.S. Ambassador to the Organization of American States, former Miami-Dade state Representative




PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson

“If you see Matt Dixon coming, run the other way.” A phrase you often hear members of the Legislature and lobbyists alike utter when asked about the no-holds-barred POLITICO reporter. And while to many that may not sound like a good thing, in the world of Capitol politics, it’s a badge of honor. To say he is one of the most influential people in Florida politics is an understatement. Not only does Matt have more sources and elected leaders on speed dial than many lobbyists have drink tickets for the annual AIF pre-Session party, but his reporting has brought down elected officials and shapes the political landscape of Tallahassee day in and day out. One tweet from Dixon on a pending story or even the hint of a scoop sets the rumor mill ablaze and many ducking for cover. This level of high-impact influence proves Dixon is indeed a master of his craft. He is a journalist’s journalist, a detective at times and a Twitter storyteller who is a must-follow during Session and committee meetings, if not to be informed, but also to be thoroughly entertained. But even after becoming a caricature in our morning emails and teaming up with the likes of powerhouse media legend Marc Caputo, Dixon can still be found at a local watering hole grabbing a beer with many of Tallahassee’s best-known politicos — they just make sure it’s off the record and they aren’t on the menu. – Sarah Bascom, President, Bascom Communications & Consulting




Chris Dudley is a champion on the field and off, as the saying goes. I met Chris when he was a very young man through his politically connected father. But it isn’t the family name that makes him a champion influencer. Chris’ integrity, strong work ethic and quickness in grasping complex issues are the reasons he garners respect and affects decision-making in the halls of the Capitol. I worked with Chris for nearly a decade. His youthful energy and keen instinct are game changers when it comes to changing minds. Somehow, he manages to be approachable and debonair at the same time, transcending old school lobbyists like Paul Bradshaw and me. The one exception, he doesn’t like to carry a wallet! A great tactic, I suppose, to influence me to buy our many lunches. For those who know Chris well, it is impossible to talk about him from an all-business perspective. Chris is a champion on the home front as well. As a husband, a father and tennis fanatic, he’s found a way to balance a demanding career with what is most important in life. And, he does it with a big heart, quick smile and competitive spirit. – John Thrasher, President, Florida State University and former House Speaker


PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson


Exceptional. Extraordinary. First Class. Those are accurate descriptions of Carol Dover. As the president and CEO of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, Carol has turned the trade association into a major player in the Florida political arena and a national leader in providing educational programs on food safety and hotel management. Years ago, Carol had the vision and skill to merge two longtime separate state associations, the Florida Restaurant Association and the Florida Hotel and Motel Association, into one unified and powerful voice for the mega-tourism industry in Florida. Under her leadership, FRLA has grown into the largest statewide tourism association in the country. Carol also grew the political clout of the industry by increasing the industry’s grassroots activity and forming successful political action committees to aggressively participate in campaigns. Her key to success is a combination of skill, determination, intelligence and work ethic. But what makes her truly extraordinary is the grace and family connection she brings to her professional life. She involves her family in as many activities with the association as possible, from her husband Walt singing at various events to her children traveling and participating at the many food shows and tourismrelated events held throughout the state. Any event involving Carol is always exceptional and first class. Just like her. – Steve Metz, Metz Husband & Daughton 96 | INFLUENCE SUMMER 2018




PHOTO: Allison Davis


Every city has its special leading patron. For St. Pete that man is Bill Edwards. Without Edwards, the St. Petersburg downtown today might still be struggling with a failed BayWalk retail center overrun with business closures and bored teenagers. Instead, St. Pete now has the thriving Sundial. Without Edwards, the Tampa Bay Rowdies soccer team would be an undercapitalized, third-string team with limited prospects and dated uniforms. The team would not be playing in a recently renovated Al Lang Stadium. There would be no talk about dreams of joining Major League Soccer. Were it not for Edwards, an aimless dusty parking lot in the heart of the city might be hindering decades of plans for high-density development. Now that land springs forth the ONE tower and the newest downtown hotel. Courtesy of Edwards, the city boasts welcome signs on I-275 and I-175. Originally built to guide visitors from the Tampa-hosted 2012 National Republican Convention to St. Pete, they now welcome all tourists. St. Petersburg has become a cultural epicenter for the arts. For many years, Edwards has managed and upgraded the Mahaffey to bring superlative entertainment to St. Pete. The venue is no small part of the city’s artistic progression. Some could say that I am an unlikely admirer of Edwards. I have a healthy skepticism of the influence of powerful developers in local government. Our politics mostly differ. But I know that Edwards is a person who loves St. Petersburg. From the support of the Mahaffey to the Rowdies to even making sure we have a proper welcome sign for out of towners, Bill Edwards will go down in the history books as a patron of our Sunshine City. – Darden Rice, St. Petersburg City Councilmember






Tony Fabrizio is brilliant, plain and simple. There is a reason Tony has successfully guided presidents, governors, U.S. Senators, and on down the line to electoral success ... not to mention some of the world’s most prestigious companies and private organizations through their greatest challenges. He wouldn’t tell you that ... but I will.


PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson


Alia Faraj-Johnson has over 25 years in this business, working media from all angles — as a spokesperson and fierce advocate for Gov. Jeb Bush, as a member of the Capitol Press Corps and in private practice. Alia utilizes this experience to expertly navigate her clients through issue messaging and crisis management. She is widely respected by the press corps for her honesty and integrity. Alia adroitly does her work without the interminable attention-seeking and spotlight-craving that define so many people in the political arena. She is thoughtful, calm and precise. While her skills in crisis management are among the best in the business, her clients know they can count on her to manage the message from the beginning and avoid the crisis altogether. – Joe Negron, Florida Senate President 98 | INFLUENCE SUMMER 2018

Tony as an expert pollster obviously knows how to figure out what people are thinking — but more importantly, he is perhaps the single best GOP messaging expert/ strategist out there in terms of being able to convert that general knowledge into a concrete strategy, a clear message, and a tangible plan for his clients. Any person or organization that gets a chance to work with Tony Fabrizio will be much smarter for it. – James Blair, Republican Party of Florida

Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) proudly recognizes the 2018 winners of the Champion for Business award and the 100% Voting Record club. We extend our gratitude for extraordinary efforts by these legislators on behalf of the business community.

2018 Sen. Rob Bradley (R-Orange Park) For his diligent work to pass glassware legislation during the 2018 Session, thereby allowing Florida businesses to accept beer branded glassware from a wholesaler at no cost. Sen. Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples) For her effort to introduce bad faith reform language to every iteration of automobile liability legislation during the 2018 Session. Sen. Passidomo proved to be a fierce advocate for common sense in our tort system. Sen. Dana Young (R-Tampa) For her committed work in advocating for sector plan language during the 2018 Session. Her unwavering pursuit to ensure the rights of Florida landowners was exemplary. Rep. Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota) For his diligent work to pass glassware legislation during the 2018 Session, which reduces the operating costs for businesses within our state. Rep. Mike Miller (R-Orlando) For his committed work in advocating for sector plan language during the 2018 Session. His dedication to ensure the rights of Florida landowners was exemplary.

Rep. Thad Altman (R)

Rep. Matt Caldwell (R)

Rep. Chuck Clemons (R) Rep. Richard Corcoran (R)

Rep. Bryan Avila (R)

Rep. Jim Boyd (R)

Rep. Bob Cortes (R)

Rep. Travis Cummings (R)

Rep. Byron Donalds (R)

Rep. Brad Drake (R)

Rep. Randy Fine (R)

Rep. Jason Fischer (R)

Rep. Julio Gonzalez (R)

Rep. Gayle Harrell (R)

Rep. Blaise Ingoglia (R)

Rep. Sam Killebrew (R)

Rep. Mike La Rosa (R)

Rep. Chris Latvala (R)

Rep. Tom Leek (R)

Rep. Amber Mariano (R) Rep. Ralph Massullo (R) Rep. Lawrence McClure (R) Rep. Kathleen Peters (R)

Rep. Cary Pigman (R)

Rep. Mel Ponder (R)

Rep. Elizabeth Porter (R)

Rep. Jake Raburn (R)

Rep. Paul Renner (R)

Rep. Rick Roth (R)

Rep. Ross Spano (R)

Rep. Charlie Stone (R)

Rep. Matt Willhite (D)

Rep. Jayer Williamson (R)

Associated Industries of Florida

The Voice of Florida Business Since 1920 SUMMER 2018 INFLUENCE | 99





No one personifies the up-and-coming generation of Tampa Bay leaders more than Mike Griffin. From USF student body president to the youngest chair in the history of the Tampa Chamber, to a leading member of the Tampa Port Authority Board, Mike has only begun to make his mark in our community. If you asked Mike, he would say his greatest accomplishment is being a new father to baby Maverick. He is a wonderful, kind and capable person and I am honored to call him my friend. – Dana Young, State Senator from Tampa 100 | INFLUENCE SUMMER 2018


The Hispanic business community accounts for $90 billion — or 25 percent — of Florida’s economic output every year. This segment of the state’s business community is influencing Florida’s economic, political and policy spheres. This is due in large part to Julio Fuentes, founder and president of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. FSHCC was started by Fuentes in Jacksonville over 18 years ago, and today his chamber represents thousands of Hispanic business owners from Key West to Pensacola. Partnered with over 40 local Hispanic chambers, Fuentes has a real-time database of over 80,000 Hispanic business owners and opinion leaders who closely follow his advice and endorsements. “Hispanic business owners are concerned about free enterprise, quality education and working on a leveled playing field,” said Fuentes. “Florida’s future success will be driven by the Hispanic business community, so our influence will be much more prominent in Tallahassee.” FSHCC has made its presence felt in Tallahassee over the last few legislative Sessions: Fuentes brought on INFLUENCE Magazine’s “Great Communicator” Patrick Slevin and “Lobby Avenger” Jonathan Kilman as senior advisers. Recently, FSHCC partnered with Florida TaxWatch to work on the Vote Yes to Amendment 2 effort. – Patrick Slevin, Founder & CEO, SL7 Consulting

PHOTO: Mark Wallheiser (Fineout); Mary Beth Tyson (Griffin & Fuentes)

What makes Gary Fineout stand out to me is simple. He isn’t chasing a sound bite or a headline. He is chasing the facts and the story, and has an ability to articulate detailed policy like no journalist I’ve seen. He doesn’t just report, he understands and challenges the talking points. He’s tenacious, diligent and focused. During Session, he’s in his element and you can see he has a passion for what he does. A purpose in his day. When Gary tweets “Boom,” everyone stops and waits to see what he found out. Gary can cover any topic and make it seem like he’s an expert in it. He’s smart, intense, quick witted, sharp-dressed and has a penchant to drop song lyrics to further tell a coming story. Gary is unique among his peers and a force all at the same time, but his influence is not to be taken lightly. To me, he has filled the void left by Lucy Morgan. – Travis Blanton, Johnson & Blanton Government Relations





PHOTO: Mark Wallheiser (Hammer); Colin Hackley (Hart, Ousley, Walker)


Marion Hammer has the best email list in Florida politics, estimated at over one million. Decades of experience lobbying legislators following her service as NRA national president have given her a keen understanding of legislative process and personalities. She is strident in her views and cutting in her frequent committee testimony. Hammer is, essentially, the voice of gun owners in Florida. And with millions of Floridians sharing the goals and values of the NRA, Marion can harness instant political influence with several keystrokes or a “call to action” to her loyal followers. Legislators are known to swing by Marion’s office early before votes for advice, counsel and occasionally forgiveness. She’s usually already working by 4 a.m. This grandmother and cat lover has been a workaholic longer than some young legislators have been alive, with no signs of slowing down. As Second Amendment protection and firearms policies continue to swirl in our national debate, Marion will be on the front lines for freedom. – Matt Gaetz, U.S. Congressman

I think of them as “The Terrific Trio,” driving the business agenda in Tallahassee. Augmenting the outstanding leadership of President Mark Wilson at the Florida Chamber of Commerce, three senior members of his team are in the trenches every day, fighting to secure the state’s economic future: Executive Vice President David Hart, Vice President of Public Affairs Edie Ousley, and Vice President of Governmental Affairs Frank Walker. These three public policy pros form the nucleus of a seamless, cohesive chamber team that seems to pop up everywhere important conversations are taking place around Florida: at major state policy conferences, at the media events of newsmakers and at crucial legislative committee hearings. Hart always maintains a sense of perceptive calm as he steers numerous hairy, heavy-lift issues through the House and Senate. His demeanor is understandable: After all, this is a guy who spends vacation time testing his limits by scaling big mountains such as Denali in Alaska. Tough legislative issue? No sweat. Ousley is one of the hardest-working, most multi-tasking PR pros in the capital city. With her rich background in politics and media relations, she runs a communications shop that churns out a seemingly endless stream of messaging and content on issues running the gamut from Assignment of Benefits reform to infrastructure investments to state water policy. Leading the chamber’s team of 20 lobbyists is Walker, a Tallahassee native who previously spent 11 years in Washington, where he held key policy and leadership positions with U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster, along with former U.S. Sens. George LeMieux and Mel Martinez. Walker is also omnipresent at legislative events and committee meetings, calling the audibles as the chamber’s lobby team fans out for their diverse assignments. I have had the pleasure and privilege to work with this Terrific Trio often over the years and am always impressed by their upbeat drive and determination to continually improve Florida’s business climate and to score wins for hardworking families. If there’s a public policy battle to be had, I want this trio on my side. – Ron Bartlett, Managing Director, Hill+Knowlton Strategies





PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson

Inside the door to Rich Heffley’s office is a sign: “Boil them in oil, grind their bones to dust, salt the earth with their ashes. Leave them nothing but the memory of defeat.” That’s his soft side. Heffley has made governors and broken them. Presiding officers credit their majorities to his strategic skills. A hundred ex-politicians owe their “former” status to the precision of his kill shots. Hunched over spreadsheets, he foresees and navigates the fault lines of Florida politics as no one else I know. Almost every time, Heffley’s candidates win. But Rich is more than a political alchemist. He is one of Tallahassee’s most highly effective, highly selective lobbyists. Intentionally operating a two-person shop, he and Kelly Horton are among the most nimble, creative problem-solvers and coalition-builders in the Capitol. More than lobbyists, they are issue mavens who craft policy solutions, not just advocate for them. That’s why their clients win and why their clients stay. Rich is not a boom-and-bust operative, riding high with one presiding officer and then consigned to the wilderness when that one leaves. Year after year, speaker-after-president, as governors come and go, Rich Heffley is the king’s friend because Rich Heffley makes kings. – Don Gaetz, Former Florida Senate President 102 | INFLUENCE SUMMER 2018



Alex HECKLER AND Jon ADRABI {PLAYERS} For almost a decade I have gotten to know Alex Heckler. Having spent a lifetime meeting political and business leaders around the globe I have had the opportunity to see the leadership qualities necessary for success. Not only does Alex possess those qualities but he is a dedicated family man and a caring human being, Alex represents his clients with professionalism and vision. He is energized and creative, without ever compromising his integrity. Alex has been one of the most effective Democratic fundraisers in the United States. As hard as I try, he makes it very difficult to say no. I have developed a deep respect for Alex, and I am blessed to call him my friend. – Ambassador Steven Green Jon Adrabi is one of my best friends in politics and in life, so I know he’ll be at least slightly disappointed that someone older, richer and better respected than me didn’t write his blurb for the Influence 100. But the fact of the matter is, there are plenty of

people who fit that bill — former presidents, almost presidents, wannabe presidents, current and former U.S. Senators and members of Congress, Democratic Party leaders and major donors, other operatives — who would happily have done so. Adrabi is in a rarefied class of Democratic fundraisers, not just in Florida, but nationally. Every Democrat seriously considering running for POTUS in 2020 is likely to have Adrabi on the short list to run their national fundraising operation — and for good reason. He’s not only run major, multistate fundraising operations but also has the friendship, respect and loyalty of some of the biggest check writers in Democratic politics post-Citizens United. And candidates for office across the country have felt Adrabi’s influence when they’ve hired one of the countless young Democratic operatives he’s mentored over the years. I’m proud to call Jon my friend. – Ben Pollara, Democratic Operative





PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson (Heuchan)


Expertise in issues and valuable relationships are the bread and butter of any good lobbyist or consultant. Those that are great also have impeccable character and instinct that you come to trust, and upon which can base high-value decisions. However, it’s only the select few who have done all of that and innovated politics in a way that makes everyone up their game. Brecht Heuchan is one of the very few in this especially elite category. Anyone close to Brecht knows he is a competitive triathlete, which is apropos for the symbolism of what he represents in the arena of politics and policy. He is truly a triple threat — a tireless advocate for his legislative clients, a brilliant strategist for candidates he advises and an innovator in the space of political analysis through software engineering. The best part of what I have come to appreciate from him is that Brecht does all of this with a style that is humble, approachable and with a sagaciousness that makes his advice always worth seeking. I have appreciated the compassionate diplomacy and spoton acumen Brecht offers, which undoubtedly have served to balance my penchant for bringing a “missile launcher to a knife fight” approach on more than one occasion. Brecht has channeled his competitive spirit to the benefit of a well-curated list of clients and candidates looking to draw from his experience. The decorous tactician has advised multiple presiding officers, led the staff for the Republican takeover of the House, created software and a company to analyze and peel back layers on political contributions, advised our current governor and countless legislative candidates and served as a commissioner on the 2018 Constitutional Revision Commission, all while wearing his trademark bow tie. – Jeff Porter, Legislative and Political Director, Florida Justice Association 104 | INFLUENCE SUMMER 2018


Any savvy politician with statewide ambitions knows that conventional maps are for rubes. Political cognoscenti understand Florida is really subdivided among warlords; a loose collection of political fiefdoms controlled at the local and regional levels by people of intellect, wealth and power. It’s a place where the lines are no less important because they are invisible; lines that denote where one’s power ends and another’s begins. If a candidate happens to be in the Middle Kingdom along the Atlantic seaboard above the I-4 corridor, he or she will seek the approval of Mori Hosseini. An Iranian immigrant who started life as a Floridian in a $125-a-month apartment in Daytona Beach and rose to create ICI, a billion-dollar construction company, Mori is the embodiment of the American Dream. His accomplishments in the civic realm match his mastery of business. Hosseini, the current vice chair of the University of Florida’s board, also was chair of the State University System Board of Governors during 2014 and 2015. He also sits on the board of Embry Riddle. His family founded Food Brings Hope, a charity aimed at feeding poor children. What is less obvious are his accomplishments in the political realm. His sphere of power stretches from Florida to the White House, and he’s the rare mega-donor whose grasp of the nuances of the political process equal his generosity in supporting candidates. He exudes the polished grace of the diplomat, and his style of influence relies much more on charm than table-pounding. Maybe that’s because Mori has learned the lesson that, sooner or later, you’ll end up at his table. – Paul Bradshaw, Founder, Southern Strategy Group

The Florida Retail Federation welcomes Lorena Holley to our team









“The true character of a man is not defined by what he does when in front of a crowd, but what he does when no one else is around.” Author Unknown There is no doubt that my husband, Nick Iarossi, is one of the most influential people in Florida Politics. I have watched Nick work tirelessly to become the man he is today, working day in and day out, with the same commitment and hard work every day. What is amazing about Nick, is that he has never brought a bad day at work home with him. He is a happy, unbelievable man who loves his family and life with everything he has. Nick’s favorite quote is, “When you think you’re coasting, you’re really going downhill.” And that is what he teaches our daughters about hard work and life. When Nick is not taking them on carriage rides in New York City, to shows on Broadway, or to the race track to show them his love of racing, he is teaching them how to throw a spiral, with a side of life lessons to carry with them. And while this recognition is well deserved and Nick’s career is truly amazing, let me tell you who Nick is to two of the most influential people in his life – our two daughters, Kayla and Ella. “Daddy motivates me to be my best. He gives the best advice,” Kayla Iarossi. “Daddy protects me, I just love him. My favorite is when he takes me to work with him,” Ella Iarossi. Congratulations, Nick. We are so proud of you and love you very much. – Debbie Iarossi

PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson

She is the savvy legislative aide to Senate Majority Leader (and likely future Senate President) Wilton Simpson. He is the hard-driving political engineer behind dozens of successful campaigns and public figures, currently serving as chief of staff to Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry. Together, Rachel Perrin Rogers and Brian Hughes form one of the state’s premier political power couples. They are equally comfortable whether huddling with decision makers, organizing a fundraiser, rallying crucial votes in the state Legislature or city hall, or talking with Florida’s top political journalists. They have collectively advised, served or helped Florida’s most powerful and highestprofile public figures get elected, including Curry and Simpson, Gov. Rick Scott, State Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, former State Sen. and gubernatorial candidate Paula Dockery, former Senate President and Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, and many more. This past year, those same public figures rallied around Perrin Rogers and Hughes when they stood together against one of the most powerful political leaders in the state — and prevailed. Looking ahead, this duo will only wield more and more influence as both Mayor Curry and Sen. Simpson are ascending leaders who will play even bigger roles in Florida’s future. – Brian Burgess, The Capitolist




The term “political power couple” is often overused in capital cities around the country. But for those who follow politics in Florida’s capital city, David (known by all as DJ) and Christina Johnson are the definitions of that term. The married Tallahassee duo have been on the front lines of everything political in Florida for more than two decades now. They have worked for presidential campaigns, for governors, on ballot amendments, state cabinet members, members of Congress, in key state government jobs, the national and state GOP, and for candidates at all levels in Florida. Not only do they always have their fingers on the political pulse of the Sunshine State, but they go about their business as true professionals. Sure, they can mix it up with the best when a campaign requires it, but they remain above the pettiness that slithers into politics far too often, and remain universally respected by anyone who has worked with them or against them on a campaign. Through all the political battles they remain the gold standard, with friends on both sides of the aisle, and they are the couple Florida politicos continue to turn to in times of need. – Cory Tilley, President, CoreMessage

PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson


If you enter South Florida, know that you are entering Eric Johnson’s domain. Johnson has managed to navigate the complex web of relationships, friendships and factions with consistent insight and intelligence. He is the Wayne Gretzky of South Florida politics, often knowing where the puck is headed before anyone else, and he has a list — a very long list — of elected officials who owe at least part of their success to him. As Democratic Congressman Ted Deutch notes, “Eric is not just a good friend and confidante, but one of the best political minds, not just in Florida, but in the country. His counsel is invaluable, and his insights are second-to-none.” SUMMER 2018 INFLUENCE | 107


“I met Travis Blanton in 1995, and he was the most eager human I had ever encountered,” says David Johnson. “Travis would run through walls or over people to accomplish any mission in the Senate campaign operation, including the 3 p.m. run to Baskin-Robbins at the old Thomasville Road location. “He used the same fierce focus and enthusiasm after the 1998 elections when he went to work in the Jeb Bush administration and learned all he could about the health care system, later becoming a tremendous advocate for his clients.” And don’t call Johnson & Blanton a boutique operation, not with the numbers they throw up on the board. The former one-man shop started by Jon Johnson in 1995, still specializing in health care issues, is several bodies larger — yet still holds to the small-isbeautiful philosophy. “They remain fierce allies, fierce friends and fiercer family men. And Travis, though an ardent triathlete, can still consume more ice cream per capita than any human I have ever known,” says Steve Vancore.

Fred KARLINSKY PHOTO: Mark Wallheiser (Karlinsky); Mary Beth Tyson (Johnson & Blanton)


I’ve known Freddie K for over 25 years. We met when I owned an insurance agency and he worked for the state, long before I was a state elected official. He was aggressive and focused, and it was not a surprise to me that he became one of the nation’s top experts on insurance regulation and public policy. Fred may not always be the warmest and fuzziest guy in the room, but he will likely be the most hardworking. I guess you could say he is a bit of a risk taker too. When I first ran for the Florida House in 2004, there were only a handful of Tallahassee lobbyists that took a chance on me and he was one. I will always be grateful. When you consider what it takes to succeed, no one should doubt why Fred made the list of 100. There are those that influence by taking the stage and there are those, like Fred, that influence through strength and intellect. That’s the Fred I know. – Ellyn Bogdanoff, Former State Senator, Becker & Poliakoff 108 | INFLUENCE SUMMER 2018




PHOTO: Courtesy of Shad Khan


Because of Shad Khan, the Jaguars will stay in Jacksonville now and forever. When Shad purchased Jacksonville’s NFL franchise in 2012, the conventional wisdom was that the Jaguars were going to relocate. The team was a perennial loser and tarps covered seats in the upper deck. Rather than complain about the challenges of owning a team in one of the NFL’s smallest markets, Shad did something novel for a professional sports owner. He took full responsibility and turned challenges into opportunities. The stadium now has the world’s largest scoreboards and iconic swimming pools in the end zone. With cabanas and brand-new club areas, the game day experience was recently voted the best in the league. Attached to the stadium are a concert venue, indoor practice facilities and locker rooms that attract world-class talent on the stage and world-class free agents on the field. Next is a multibillion-dollar investment in making the area around the stadium a destination for downtown shopping, entertainment and living. In 2018, the tarps are gone, and the Jags have a team that was one play from the Super Bowl. Look out Florida and the NFL, this thing is just getting started. – Rob Bradley, State Senator, Senate Appropriations Committee Chair

If ever there is proof that one man can make a difference, it’s John Kirtley. You see, it’s so easy and pathetic to throw money at a problem and call it a solution. What is truly difficult is changing a system and a worldview — even more so when you do it selflessly on your own dime and your own time. It takes a rare kind of person to take it upon himself to rescue a child’s future from the clutches of the status quo. Who takes note of a burgeoning catastrophic crisis of young, poor, predominantly minority children receiving a substandard education — and being robbed of their dignity and hope — and step up and do something about it. He never asked if a child was a Republican, Democrat or whether they are a union member or not. His platform was justice and opportunity and his party was humanity. Today, his legacy is hundreds of thousands of poor children having their lives transformed and their futures made bright. The success of the program is unprecedented and is now spreading all over our nation. No elected official, no other individual can lay claim to the breadth of the transformational work of Kirtley in education. One man can, one man did, and one man is making a difference. When Kirtley entered the arena, our communities, our state and our nation became better and more beautiful. – Richard Corcoran, Speaker of the Florida House SUMMER 2018 INFLUENCE | 109




“What does Patricia say?” It seems no matter who I am speaking to on education policy ideas, they want to know what Patricia Levesque thinks. Whether in her service on the Constitution Revision Commission or as the chief executive officer at “The Foundation” (she’s so influential, everyone knows “The Foundation” means the Foundation for Excellence in Education), Patricia is the wise, experienced leader people look to for advice and historical perspective. From the Speaker’s office to the Governor’s suite and now as a maven of the nonprofit sector, her 20-plus years in the Capitol have given her matchless expertise on education in Florida and across the nation. She is universally trusted as someone extremely intelligent, thoughtful in her approach and, not the least of all, connected. Patricia is a quiet storm. She’s rarely verbose, but when she speaks people listen and her words always have the intended effect. She brings the thunder when it comes to advocating for policies that benefit students, support great teachers and empower parents. Florida is fortunate to have one of America’s greatest minds and biggest hearts for education in Patricia Levesque. – Erika Donalds, Collier County School Board Vice Chair, Constitution Revision Commission member


PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson (Lavesque)

Editorial Illustrations have played a seminal role at the intersection of the press and public square since the founding of our democracy. We often think the politics of today are far more strident and personal than ever. However, if you look back to the time of Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Stonewall Jackson and throughout the Civil Rights era, those editorial cartoons depicted difficult struggles and poignant moments. In Florida, we are blessed to have talented editorial cartoonists who present the issues of the day through illustrations. Andy Marlette of the Pensacola News Journal is an editorial journalist who has captured and held my attention. His drawings provide deeper meaning to issues in illustrations that are sometimes painful, occasionally controversial, frequently provocative, often humorous, yet always thoughtful. While I know not everyone likes or agrees with his artwork, I applaud his talent and his dedication to continuing this important discourse, which is vital to our democracy. – Jay Galbraith, VP of Public Affairs, Valencia College





PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson

The run of the Jimmy Breslins, Mike Roykos and Molly Ivinses may be sneaking away, stage left, with hardly a bow. It’s not because, sadly, that trio in particular has departed, but because newspaper stages are getting too small to feature smart, righteous, loudmouthed and bare-knuckled local columnists. In Florida, there’s still Scott Maxwell at the Orlando Sentinel. With 20 years reporting in Orlando, Maxwell has the sources, reporting skills, institutional knowledge, bull-terrier’s teeth and jaw muscles, writing flair, and something that makes him particularly dangerous to most of his targets: a conscience. So, when he comes down on Chris Dorworth’s sextracurricular activities, Teresa Jacobs’ texting habits, Pam Bondi’s Trump University case, or Visit Orlando’s dark money, people pay attention. And nobody ever seriously buys that old Maxwell-doesn’t-know-what-he’s-talking-about line. Still, as with anyone else in newspapers, his stage is shrinking; his spotlight, dimming; and his audience, dwindling. So, whether he’s going after a new cause, ridiculing Scott Plakon’s antiteacher’s union bill, or an old favorite, crusading against wrongful convictions in Central Florida, more and more targets may feel they can survive him. – Scott Powers, Central Florida Reporter, Florida Politics





When someone needs to get something done politically in Miami they end up in the Floridian Partners office, managed by Brian May. A former top aide and political alumnus of Bill Nelson and Alex Penelas, May has emerged over the last decade as the top political navigator in Miami’s complex political environment. May and his Floridian Miami partner Rodney Barreto handle clients ranging from the Miami Dolphins to the ever-needy technology companies Microsoft, Uber and Airbnb. May combines his years of inside experience with a willingness to roll up his sleeves, understand his clients’ business needs and match his political and public affairs prowess to get results. From Miami Beach to the county; from the School Board to the City of Miami, May is the top inside player to get things done. – Charlie Dudley, Managing partner, Floridian Partners


PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson

Tracy is an incredible ally and resource to have on your side, whether it’s dealing with a complicated, highstakes issue or a substantial appropriations item. From my experience, she is always prepared, fun to be around and has a great political sense of how to get things done. Interestingly enough, I have seen Tracy from both sides of an issue, and she is fierce, informed and always represents her client well. In an industry dominated by men, Tracy has navigated a highly competitive industry and risen over the years to be known as one of the top lobbyists in Florida. In addition to being well respected and liked, she also works tirelessly on behalf of her clients while juggling family life and ensuring quality time with her two young daughters. – Kelli Stargel, Republican State Senator and Deputy Majority Leader


120 S. Monroe Street, Tallahassee, FL 32301 O: (850)727-7087 | F: (850)807-2502 WWW.RAMBACONSULTING.COM



PHOTO: Used with permission, Pensacola News Journal/, Copyright





The Miami Herald’s Carol Marbin Miller has long caused the state’s various social service agency heads to wonder: “How did she find out about this?” No secret, really: She talks to a lot of people. People who’ve been told they shouldn’t talk to her. And some of those probably would be fired if it were known they talked to her. Most often, they’re the real “people in the know.” They’re the caseworkers and the clients nobody listens to, trying to get their message to somebody, anybody in a position to change policy. She’s scored twice with high-impact series in recent years, first in 2014 with “Innocents Lost,” explaining how “after Florida cut down on protections for children in troubled homes, deaths soared. The children died in ways cruel, outlandish, predictable and preventable.” Then in 2017, with “Fight Club,” on Florida’s Department of Juvenile Justice. “Over and over again, poorly qualified corrections workers baited detainees into fighting, often by dangling food: Snickers bars, Chinese food, and honey buns from vending machines,” the Columbia Journalism Review explained. “Juvenile detention workers were rarely held to account, and problems persisted in facilities run by the government as well as those by private companies contracted with the state.” The veteran reporter “knows how to collect and master a vast volume of data, distill it down to a story that moves you to tears and sometimes moves mountains,” said Florence Snyder, a longtime First Amendment lawyer in Florida. “And she is patient.” Marbin Miller adds: “Facts are stubborn things. (But) sooner or later, they all find their way to the light of day.”

PHOTO: Emily Michot (Marbin Miller)

There are a handful of heavy hitters in Florida politics whose names are universally known and whose reputations are equally above reproach. In Pensacola, we’ve got Collier Merrill. Those who don’t know any better may assume Collier’s biggest contribution is the checks he writes. It’s not. It’s his sushi. Let me explain. When you’re as well-liked and deeply respected as Collier, people answer the phone when you call and listen when you talk. So, it is only fitting that the road for local, state and national political aspirations leads directly to his family-owned restaurant. The Fish House is where friendships are born, disputes are solved, bridges are built, fences are mended, and elections are decided. Sure, Collier and The Fish House have played host to presidential nominees, governors and the like for the occasional retail politics grip-and-grin. But Collier’s real strength is bringing together folks on opposite sides of an issue to meet somewhere in the middle. That’s when — separated by nothing more than today’s fresh catch and an array of hand-rolled sushi — Collier turns adversaries into allies before anyone’s even had time to think about ordering the always-delicious Key lime pie. I call it The Fish House Diplomacy. – Frank White, State Representative and Florida Attorney General candidate




PHOTO: Benjamin Todd (Morgan)


John Morgan has been instrumental in changing the entire paradigm for the acceptance of medical marijuana for people with significant health conditions. He started the initiative of getting a medical marijuana amendment on the ballot, and when that first failed by a slight margin, he chose to continue to invest his time, money and reputation in getting it passed in 2016. The entire industry owes him a tremendous debt of gratitude for his personal conviction and belief that medicinal cannabis will make a difference in people’s lives. Too often, people think John and other trial lawyers are in things for personal gain. In fact, if you know John, if you heard his personal story about his brother and his father, you would recognize he’s very committed to the view that cannabis can have a remarkable and positive effect on people. He’s been willing to put his money not only in getting the amendment passed, but also toward ensuring that the regulatory system accurately captures the intent of the amendment, which is to allow people to use cannabis as their doctors prescribe. – Jeff Sharkey, Executive Director, Medical Marijuana Business Association of Florida


Honesty is too often a casualty in politics. Not for Ana Navarro. On any given day, on any given topic, Floridians can find the Coral Gables Republican on national television bluntly breaking down the day’s political news and moments of national conversation, offering insight and analysis gleaned from her decades of insider experience at both the state and national level. Listen to Ana, and you quickly realize she speaks with an honesty that more often reflects what voters are thinking than what politicians are saying. If you’re a presidential candidate serious about winning Florida, or a Florida pol running statewide, you’ve likely sought out Navarro for her honest take. She’s advised Jeb Bush, John McCain, Marco Rubio, Rick Scott, and so many others. Importantly, Ana’s counsel always reflects not just political strategy, but matters of conscience. She is guided less by where the GOP has been, but where she believes the party needs to go. A leading voice on moving the Republican Party to better solutions on comprehensive immigration reform, gun control, criminal justice reform and, yes, calling out establishment misogyny, she’s rightfully trained her criticisms on just as many politicians as she’s advised. It’s hard to predict what political direction our country and our political parties choose next, but that direction will undoubtedly be influenced by Ana Navarro. – David Jolly, Former Congressman from Pinellas County SUMMER 2018 INFLUENCE | 115


100 Rosemary O’HARA {MEDIA}

PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson

As the head of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board, Rosemary O’Hara knows speaking truth to power is a big part of the job — and she does it well. She is a fighter. She is a trailblazer. And she is not afraid to mix it up when she believes it is needed — such as when she called for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio to resign because he stopped showing up for work. She refused to endorse a Republican candidate for president in the 2016 Florida primary because she didn’t believe any of them were fit to serve. That was not the first time she did that, either. While editorial chief at the famously conservative Tampa Tribune, she withheld the newspaper’s endorsement rather than support the re-election of George W. Bush. Her corporate masters at Media General in Richmond were not amused. But she is willing to be vulnerable. She admitted she sobbed during an interview with Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie in the aftermath of the Parkland massacre. That is the essence of Rosemary O’Hara — tough, principled, fair and human. Put it all together, and it explains why she is a “must-read” for the powerful and the everyday person. – Joe Henderson, Columnist



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PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson (O’Rourke, Pedicini, Pittman)


For the past two decades in Florida, political fundraising has become synonymous with the name Meredith O’Rourke. As my older “firstborn” sister I’ve always looked up to Meredith over those years — both literally and figuratively — as she has steadfastly built and maintained the top political fundraising consultancy in Florida. When her name pops up on donors’ cellphones, they know it’s going to be a short but focused call and the checkbook needs to be within arm’s length; but they instinctively answer the call because she has developed close, long-term personal relationships with Florida’s leading political donors. She is their trusted source for insight on candidates and exactly where to maximize the impact of their financial commitments. Most importantly, she keeps the politics out of politics. She doesn’t let the proximity to power change who she is and continues to be inspired by the positive impact her clients have on the future of Florida. She has traversed the state a thousand times over from event to event, raising dollars from each corner of Florida yet still made sure that once the event is successfully completed she’s back home for the morning school drop off. With a husband deployed to Iraq for a year and a newborn at home, she worked on all four cabinet races in 2010 and later raised a record $100 million for Gov. Scott’s re-election. That achievement complements a long list of fundraising successes too numerous to mention that reset the benchmarks and landscape of political giving in Florida. Shattering old and setting new fundraising targets have been her forte. And she continues that work as we speak today. Meredith, now leading the funding efforts for Commissioner Adam Putnam’s energetic campaign for governor, continues to be on the cutting edge of electing the future leaders of Florida. – Carrie O’Rourke, VP Public Policy, Florida Realtors



Anthony Pedicini is probably responsible for more members serving in the Florida House than any other political consultant in the state. He can be a prick and a mean SOB, but he gets the job done. Anthony also has a heart of gold when it comes to his family and he is loyal to his friends. There are few others that I would rather have in a foxhole next to me than Anthony Pedicini. – Chris Latvala, Clearwater Republican State Representative



Lenny Curry said in 2016: Tom Petway is one of Florida’s most influential and successful business and civic leaders. A self-made man, his philanthropic efforts and time spent in public service demonstrate that Tom cares about his community. The impact of this service goes beyond the First Coast. He’s played major roles in gubernatorial and presidential races, as well as bringing the NFL and other national exposure to Northeast Florida. Tom is a statesman, always bringing people together and setting politics aside to accomplish goals that are in the best interest of our community. He is a lifelong Jacksonville resident, graduated from Terry Parker High School, and remains a strong


advocate for his hometown. Having been instrumental in bringing both the Jaguars and a Super Bowl to the First Coast, Tom also served two terms as chair of the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission to bring new jobs and opportunities to Jacksonville families. Whether cheering for his alma mater, supporting Republican efforts statewide or setting a standard of excellence for First Coast business leaders, Tom is a steady hand in Northeast Florida and beyond, reminding us all of the importance of giving back. For this and much more, Tom has my deep and abiding appreciation. – Lenny Curry, Jacksonville Mayor, former Chair of the Republican Party of Florida


I met Sean Pittman a few days after my 18th birthday, so we have been friends for literally my entire adult life. The young man I knew then and the man I know now still share a common trait: a refusal to allow others to define their limits. Sean has spent his career overcoming big obstacles and taking bigger risks. He has built a thriving law firm unencumbered by caveats or qualifiers. As a lobbyist, he has earned the respect of lawmakers, Republican and Democrat alike, with his professional, smart and articulate advocacy on the issues. He works tirelessly on behalf of his clients and never settles for just good enough when he can achieve something great. His dizzying array of boards, charities and causes have made him a prominent leader not only in the Tallahassee community but also statewide. Lawyer, lobbyist, campaign strategist, president of this, chairman of that, husband to his intelligent and talented wife Audra, father to their three beautiful daughters — whatever role he is called on to play, Sean never gives less than all of himself and he never stops believing in the possibilities of a brighter future. As a young man, Sean Pittman had big dreams. It is a testament to a life well-lived that he has made so many of them come true. – Mat Bahl, Chief of Staff, Florida House of Representatives SUMMER 2018 INFLUENCE | 119



You may think Ben Pollara is a grizzled veteran of Florida politics. He is a veteran, but he is not grizzled. He has been working in politics for almost two decades — and he’s only 33. The guy, who many people statewide met as attorney John Morgan’s medical marijuana campaign guru, has been a mainstay in Democratic inner circles since he burst on the scene working with I-4 political campaigns like Bill McBride for governor or Bill Nelson’s Senate campaign. He was just a teenager, but he had the gravitas of a senior campaign staffer. After acquiring a Swiss Army knife set of campaign skills, from fundraising to messaging, he moved to South Florida where he has been a mainstay in an array of local, state and national campaigns. There are few campaigns or races that Ben hasn’t influenced in some form or fashion. His crowning achievement was the 71 percent approval statewide of Amendment 2 in 2016, which legalized marijuana for medical use. Ben ran the campaign from the petition collection to the Election Day operations. With the rare combination of youth, experience and major statewide victories, the future is bright for Ben Pollara. – Oscar Branyon, State Senator

PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson


Catching politicians doing the wrong thing or looking bad is the forte of WTSP Investigative reporter Noah Pransky. Pransky, a tenacious pain in the butt —which all good investigative reporters should be — caught Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn in the biggest on-camera meltdown of his career. Buckhorn lost it on camera when questioned about media consultant Beth Leytham’s influence on the failed “Go Hillsborough” transportation proposal. He has repeatedly made Hillsborough Commissioner Ken Hagan look like a bumbling fool for his refusal to answer questions about the financing for a plan to bring the Rays to Ybor City. Pransky, in a national investigation, helped uncover politicians no longer in office living high on the hog with leftover campaign money. Polk Sheriff Grady Judd was exposed for his overzealous stings; red light cameras came under scrutiny, and tow truck companies violating Tampa’s towing ordinance were other Pransky targets. One of the most important methods of influencing Florida politics is to ensure 120 | INFLUENCE SUMMER 2018

those in power don’t abuse it. Noah Pransky is at the top of the list of watchdog reporters speaking truth to power, to make sure politicians are doing their job, or at least let the public know when they don’t. – Mike Deeson, Investigative Journalist



Emmett REED

PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson


Emmett Reed defines balance. In a process where many become consumed with the day-to-day grind of navigating political opportunities and landmines, Reed has found a way to manage his responsibilities in advocating for Florida’s elderly and long-term care population while remaining a well-rounded man who will always put his family first. Emmett is the type of person you’d like to be your father, your brother or your colleague. He’s always smiling and ready to talk about how you’re doing and what’s new in your life. Don’t underestimate his demeanor for weakness because he’s as strong a policy advocate as you can find in this process. He’s passionate about his advocacy role and he knows the political process better than most. He’s a rare type of leader — and it showed during the 2017 hurricane season. His team spent countless hours in the Emergency Operations Center during the storms and on the ground in the aftermath. What people don’t know is the number of lives his work saved during those storms. Florida’s nursing home residents, caregivers, and their support network are blessed to have such a well-known and well-respected professional leading their team. Emmett is a transformational leader in his industry and an asset to every community in Florida he serves. – Ashley Ross, Senior Finance Consultant, Ron DeSantis for Governor


To say Marc Reichelderfer is a brilliant political consultant would be an understatement. He advises some of the top political leaders in our state, and has helped win many important congressional, legislative and statewide races — including my re-election in 2014. Marc approaches each campaign and every move with the end game in mind. The calm, thoughtful approach he brings to the full-contact sport that is Florida politics is priceless when facing any campaign issue. His deep knowledge of Florida’s political landscape and its electorate is invaluable, and Marc uses this knowledge and his decades of experience to guide newcomers and veterans alike to victory. His instincts are razor sharp, and when it comes to strategy there are few on his level. But you would never hear any of this from him. Marc is extremely humble and soft-spoken. A true gentleman in a national business infamous for attracting scoundrels. At a time when more and more women are seeking higher office, Marc is one of the best at helping elect strong, Republican women to positions of power in Florida. He has been an invaluable member of my team, and I am proud to call him a dear friend. – Pam Bondi, Florida Attorney General SUMMER 2018 INFLUENCE | 121



“A heroine of the resistance” is how The New York Times described Joy-Ann Reid earlier this year. A progressive-minded firebrand, Reid’s weekly program “AM Joy” pulls in nearly a million Saturday morning viewers on MSNBC. Her 2015 book “Fracture,” an Amazon best-seller, studied 50 years of civil rights and race relations in American politics — a topic never more salient than right now. She’s eminently quotable and a prolific tweeter, never hesitating to directly take on another prolific tweeter and bête noire — President Donald Trump. Despite growing up a child of Brooklyn, Reid’s Florida roots are deep. She cut her teeth in local television at WTVJ and WSVN in the ’90s, mastered talk radio in Miami’s African-American community in the 2000s, and enlightened readers (or is that #reiders?) at the Miami Herald throughout this decade. Reid isn’t a stranger to Florida politics in the trenches, having worked in Florida press operations during the 2004 and 2008 presidential campaigns. But to a national audience, she’s known for speaking truth to power on race, gender, and our inconvenient history with both. Joy-Ann Reid is sometimes controversial, always indefatigable and never inconsequential. – Franco Ripple, Vice President of CATECOMM, adviser to Mayor Andrew Gillum, former White House advance staffer for former Vice President Joe Biden 122 | INFLUENCE SUMMER 2018


You want to run a successful campaign in Florida or lobby an issue in Tallahassee? Let me introduce you to Jim Rimes of Enwright Rimes — the man behind the curtain on hundreds of winning campaigns and initiatives. If you were to build in a lab the perfect political guru, Jim Rimes is what you would get — brilliant, dedicated, loyal, organized and insanely likable.

With over two decades quarterbacking campaigns in the Capitol and around the state you will not find anyone who works as hard, or as smart, as Jim. Campaigns are messy, loud, personality-driven nightmares — Jim has the uncanny ability to bring order, cohesion and harmony to them all. He thinks of every angle on how to best position his clients, while at the same time never mincing words when speaking truth to power. Jim empowers those around him to advance and excel. If you’ve ever gone into battle with Jim, you can’t imagine doing it again without him. Jim’s dedication to his craft and his clients is only matched by his generosity and love for his friends and colleagues. I have had the privilege to work with and for Jim Rimes — and I am thankful never against. – Nick Hansen, CEO, Poli Solutions Consulting

PHOTO: Bryan and Kelly @ Black and Hue Photography (Rimes)



PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson (Rivers), Denise Ho (Rood)


Often, we hear people talk about those who attain high success as possessing a certain “it” factor. The “it” factor is instantly recognizable yet inexplicable, but we all know it will lead to great success. I met Kim Rivers when she was just a freshman during a Florida State University student government campaign. However, it was clear to me and the other upper classmen on the campaign that she had what it took to be a success. We were right … Kim was eventually elected FSU student body president, finished law school, and moved to Atlanta where she helped companies wade through mergers, acquisitions and other complex business transactions. After moving back to Tallahassee, she began a successful real estate, development and entrepreneurial career. However, Kim’s highest achievement came most recently as the CEO of Trulieve, the state’s largest licensed medical marijuana provider. Under Kim’s vision and leadership, Trulieve set the standard for a brand-new industry within a high-risk and uncertain regulatory environment. Her quest for highquality products, an unmatched patient experience, and effective branding made Trulieve a market leader. Congratulations on all your successes, Kim, and for being one of the most influential people in Florida politics. – Nick Iarossi, Lobbyist


Ambassador John Rood is the most persistent person in the process. He builds genuine relationships that transcend term limits and the shallow brevity common of Tallahassee-centric alliances. Whether through investment partnerships, business developments, community involvement or his political relationships, Rood approaches each with a commitment and dedication that is second to none. Every member in line for legislative leadership and those seeking statewide office has his name in their Rolodex and seeks out his counsel on a wide range of matters of state policy. Each of the last three governors has sought Ambassador Rood’s expertise through appointments to some of the state’s most challenging boards and commissions. There is arguably no one more connected and more respected than Ambassador Rood. He is a dynamic problem solver, takes on issues with unmatched passion and is the one person you want in your corner. – David Browning, Southern Strategy Group SUMMER 2018 INFLUENCE | 123




Growing up on the lower east side of New York City can be rough for some kids, but for Harris Rosen it was exactly where he needed to be to get to where he is today. From his current vantage point — as founder and chief operating officer of Rosen Hotels & Resorts, a $500 million business — life is good. But he knows there are always things that can be done to make life better for those who need a little bit of hope. The hope Rosen spreads to Central Florida is through his philanthropic endeavors, which include a $25 million donation in 2002 to the University of Central Florida plus the land to develop the successful Rosen College of Hospitality Management. Before that, though, Rosen had an idea. What if he “adopted” students in Tangelo Park — a geographically depressed area of Orange County — and offered free preschool and then fully funded the college educations for high school graduates? That idea became a reality in 1993 and, as of 2012, the high school graduation rate there was nearly 100 percent. His idea cost him around $10 million and gained him a lifetime of gratitude from the families he touched along the way. Rosen is a philanthropist born in New York, but his heart — and influence — belongs to Florida. – Michelle Y. Ertel, President of Florida Strategic Advisors, Republican political analyst

William ‘Billy’


PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson (Rubin)

Among William “Billy” Rubin’s many qualities that help make him among the best in the lobbying business, his commitment to loyalty stands out. Billy got his start in the influence business at the University of Florida where he was inducted into the Florida Blue Key and the UF Hall of Fame. He was first hired in the Office of Attorney General and later in the Department of Insurance where he worked his way up to assistant insurance commissioner and treasurer. There’s a saying that loyalty is black and white. You’re either loyal completely, or not loyal at all. Billy is completely loyal. So, when his friend Rick told him he was running for governor, Billy was completely behind his friend. While his unwavering support may seem logical in retrospect, at the time Rick was a long shot at best. He was a guy with little political experience and virtually zero name recognition who would have to defeat two sitting statewide elected officials. But, as Gov. Scott likes to say, Billy never blinked. Billy was among the influence elite long before he helped elect Gov. Scott. Billy began lobbying in the private sector in 1985 and started his own firm in 1992. He has been successful regardless of who was serving as governor or which party controlled the House and Senate. He is also a go-to player in South Florida for clients seeking assistance on local matters. – Hayden Dempsey, Chair, Florida Government & Policy Law Practice, Greenberg Traurig 124 | INFLUENCE SUMMER 2018

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By its selection of Chris Ruddy as one of Florida’s 100 most influential people, INFLUENCE Magazine confirms what those of us who know Chris personally or from afar already knew. Influence is earned in one of two ways — accomplishment and innately. Chris is one of the few people I know that has earned influence both ways. He, certainly, has accomplished much in his career as a journalist, entrepreneur and as founder and CEO of Newsmax. As a journalist, Chris worked at the New York Post and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. A Newsweek cover story named him as one of America’s Top 20 most-influential news media personalities. And, ranks consistently as one of the country’s most trafficked news websites. Chris has become a force, a gentle one at that, who Floridians need to know. But people are drawn to Chris not only on the basis of need but also because they want his advice and counsel. Three things, the combination of which is unique or innate to Chris, separate him from other influential people. First, his judgment. Second, his steadiness. And, third, he is an active listener, which is the most underused communications skill. Chris has been, and still is, a friend and mentor to me and it has been my pleasure sharing my thoughts about him. – Steve Hantler, Author, former Republican lobbyist


Historically, Florida hasn’t been a labor-friendly state. It takes a special type of visionary and limitless fighter to demand and earn a seat for the working men and women of Florida at the proverbial table. Monica Russo is that fighter — someone who has been in the trenches of Florida’s labor movement for years and years. The current president of the Service Employees International Union Florida State Council, Monica comes from a long, storied background of defending the interests of working families against the powerful, and fiercely advocating to ensure that women of color have a voice in the workplace. 126 | INFLUENCE SUMMER 2018

In 2008, Monica was appointed as the first labor leader by thenCFO Alex Sink to be on the Florida Commission on the Status of Women. Her array of experience is vast, leading SEIU in various executive roles for the past 25 years, advocating on major issues our state faces from immigration, to health care, to education. When our workforce is organized, we all do better — Florida is a much better state for all her efforts. And while Monica’s past work fighting for labor is legendary, mark my words — she is destined to have a lasting transformative influence on Florida’s future for years to come. – Philip Levine, Former Miami Beach Mayor, Democratic candidate for Governor



PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson


From legends, legends are born, and such is the provenance of Florida public relations legend, Ronald Lee Sachs. A newspaper reporter when print was king, a magazine editor, a television editorial director, and one-time communications guru for the FEA, Sachs made his political bones as the speechwriter for Reubin Askew and the communications director for Lawton Chiles, two of the tallest trees in the Florida political forest during the last half-century. He struck out on his own during Chiles’ second term to found what has become perhaps Florida’s premier homegrown


public relations firm, where he built a go-to team headed by the omnicompetent Michelle Ubben. If you need a 30-second spot, a 30-minute program, crisis management in a tight spot, social media saturation, spot-on analysis of headache-inducing, complex issues or general press relations work, call Ubben. Fierce competitors, neither Sachs nor Ubben are afraid to work in close, a fact to which I can attest. I still have Sachs’ boot prints on my face from the ’94 gubernatorial campaign. While Ubben is a woman of many parts, she is up front and out there. Sachs, however, has a secret or two that add texture to the legend. For example, Ron Sachs is not even his real name. His birth certificate says he is Lawrence Jay Sachs. Ask Larry to tell you the story when you see him. – Mac Stipanovich, Legendary Republican activist and lobbyist.





Florida politicos know him as the wizard behind his eponymous website. His comrades know him as an incredibly loyal friend. I have had the privilege of watching Justin Sayfie positively influence Florida’s political dialogue in both unconventional and traditional ways over the course of our 20-year friendship. Justin is one of Florida’s strongest futurists, a man who is always a few moves ahead, seeing around corners and through walls with enthusiasm. Justin has represented Google in Tallahassee since 2010 on issues such as autonomous vehicles, drones, electronic communications privacy and copyright laws. A unique symbol of his influence is the Sayfie Leadership Summit, the invite-only equivalent of the Davos World Economic Forum for Florida. The Summit has brought together Florida’s top influencers and convened some of the nation’s most interesting thought leaders. He also has played an important role in shaping Florida’s judiciary over the past two decades, sitting on federal and state nominating commissions and helping appoint state and federal judges and U.S. Attorneys. At the federal level, President Trump recently appointed him for a second tour of duty on the President’s Commission on White House Fellows, where Sayfie previously served under President George W. Bush. Although his impact on political discourse is significant, his greatest influence has been upon the three exceptional young children he has helped raise. They have learned from their dad to dream big, unconventional dreams and they represent a continued strong future for the Sayfie name. – Slater Bayliss, The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners 128 | INFLUENCE SUMMER 2018



Steve Schale is the ultimate Florida man. When not mowing his lawn, working on his house, or enjoying one of Tallahassee’s craft breweries, you can rest assured he’s hard at work to benefit the lives of his fellow Floridians. When I first decided to run for public office, my father, former Sen. Bob Graham, advised me to meet with Steve. He agreed that North Florida desperately needed new representation and from that day forward he has been an integral part of my team. His friendship, steady hand and wise advice helped us win in 2014 and are a key part of our success today. If helping elect President Obama, flipping seats in the Legislature, and working to turn our state blue for the first time in 20 years weren’t enough — Steve also contributes immense time to helping develop democracy and new young political leaders across the world. Steve Schale is devoted to making life better for others and I am incredibly proud to call him my friend. – Gwen Graham, Democratic gubernatorial candidate




He may not see himself as very political, but Chris Searcy has made a tremendous impact in doing good for our state. In everything he does, Chris acts with his heart. Along with the great success he and his powerhouse firm have had, Chris still has a strong and abiding concern about dealing with injustice in the political arena. He is one of the most outstanding trial lawyers in the state — if not the nation. No viable candidate considering a run for higher office in Florida doesn’t first seek his support and counsel. There are too many accolades and awards Chris has won in his career to list in this feature, but one accomplishment stands out to me and my family. Chris was instrumental in the fight to bring fair districts to our state. I know because my father took the State of Florida to court — and won. With his counsel and generous giving, the people of Florida forced their leaders to redraw the political maps to put voters back in charge. It was a monumental achievement and we will always be grateful to him. – Chris King, Orlando entrepreneur, Democratic gubernatorial candidate

LEGISLATIVE, LOBBYING AND GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS With over 85 years of combined experience representing clients before the Florida Legislative and Executive branches, LLW’s Legislative team zealously advocates for our clients throughout the state, helping them navigate through the governmental and regulatory processes.

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PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson

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The Florida Power & Light president and CEO, aside from being a prominent business leader nationally, is also a shirt-off-his-back kind of guy when it comes to his Florida neighbors. After 2016’s Hurricane Hermine rolled over north Florida, for instance, Silagy extended a helping hand to municipal and other utilities that were trying to get the lights back on, offering to send FPL personnel where needed. “Whatever is necessary, we’re happy to help,” Silagy told Gov. Rick Scott at a meeting that September. Juno Beach-based FPL is the nation’s third-largest electric provider and the state’s largest utility, with more than 4.7 million customers. Silagy has been with FPL, and parent company NextEra Energy, for more than a decade, in a range of positions, including senior vice president of regulatory and state governmental affairs, chief development officer, and vice president of business development. “All Floridians benefit from Eric Silagy’s enlightened leadership,” says Syd Kitson, CEO of Kitson & Partners, a former NFL player, founder of Babcock Ranch and immediate past chair of the Florida Chamber. “When Hurricane Irma’s unprecedented path put all of Florida in its path, FPL’s preparation and response proved to be a model for disaster preparation and response. And FPL’s historic expansion of solar energy generation is moving the Sunshine State toward its rightful position as a model in clean, renewable energy.”

PHOTO: Coutesy of FP&L (Silagy)

President Kennedy observed that “one person can make a difference, and everyone should try.” Ambassador Mel Sembler is one of those rare individuals who makes a difference at everything he tries. In addition to his remarkable business accomplishments, Sembler is universally known for his civic and political activism. He played a key role, both as fundraiser and advisor, in the election of President George H. W. Bush in 1988. Sembler was Florida’s National Committeeman to the Republican National Committee from 1994 to 2000 and Finance Chairman for the Republican National Committee from 1997 to 2000. In 2001, President George W. Bush appointed Sembler as U.S. Ambassador to Italy where he served until 2005. While best known for his political activism, statesmanship and business leadership, Sembler is also widely respected for his passionate activism in the anti-drug movement. In 1976, Mel and Betty Sembler founded STRAIGHT, a drug treatment program for juveniles. During its 17-year history, STRAIGHT graduated more than 1,200 young people from its program. Subsequently, Mel and Betty established the Drug-Free America Foundation and SOS, organizations dedicated to educating people worldwide about the danger of drug abuse and substance addiction. The Semblers remain critically active in both organizations. Sembler is now on numerous boards including American Enterprise Institute, Freedom’s Watch, The Republican Jewish Council and the Moffitt Cancer Center. He’s also a member of the Florida Council of 100. – Jim Holton, President of Holton Cos. and former chairman of the Florida Transportation Commission.




PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson (Smith); Jessica Friend (Sowinski & Evers)


To know Nadine Smith is to know a future Florida Women’s Hall of Fame inductee. Her influence spans the state, frustrating regressive forces who oppose equality and inspiring a generation of LGBTQ advocates at the vanguard of moving Florida toward a discrimination-free future. I met Nadine 10 years ago at a gathering of progressive leaders. I was there to introduce a new, multi-issue communications organization I was planning to launch. Nadine introduced herself and said she had by chance already bought the website name for my group, and then she graciously transferred it. That first interaction epitomized two things I would come to know about Nadine — she’s always two steps ahead as an organizer and she embraces movement building. These are just two reasons why her organization has amassed an incredibly impressive track record. Despite repeated efforts by far-right legislators, not a single anti-LGBTQ law has passed since Nadine co-founded Equality Florida in 1997. Quite the opposite. Marriage equality was won, the ban on gay and lesbian adoption was repealed, anti-LGBT bullying in our schools is on the decline, and more than 170 local antidiscrimination policies have been enacted. That’s using influence to improve lives. That’s Nadine. – Mark Ferrulo, Executive Director Progress Florida

It’s been my pleasure and honor to have worked closely with both John Sowinski and Tre’ Evers — long before and ever since they formed Consensus Communications in 1995. In many ways, Sowinski is the “Father of Ballot Initiatives,” having thoughtfully leveraged this democratic process on multiple occasions beginning in 1992, with the “8 Is Enough” statewide campaign, successfully establishing term limits for elected officials. It was his insight and innovation as special assistant to Orlando Mayor Glenda Hood that first brought Tre’ Evers into my life; meeting him in 1992 and staying “connected” to his talents during his service as a presidential appointee in the U.S. Department of Transportation. As the Founders of Consensus Communications, they have brought their varied experiences together and successfully combined them with an outstanding team of professionals. They continue to serve a wide variety of issues and opportunities, while remaining committed to their families and, too, to our “family of communities.” Much more than political consultants or lobbyists; the reputation of Consensus Communications is both protected and perfected by their positive energy and special magic as they continue to successfully serve the multiple needs of their many prestigious clients. As a tireless advocate and positive influencer, Consensus Communications is working for a better Florida; and leading the way are John Sowinski and Tre’ Evers, faithful stewards of the resources and wishes of those they serve. – Jacob Stuart, Former President of Central Florida Partnership SUMMER 2018 INFLUENCE | 131



PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson


It has been said that the true measure of a man is exemplified by his kindness to children and animals. Tim Stapleton’s devotion to his son, Nicholas, and his other “good boy,” Lincoln, are well known to all his social media followers — along with his penchant for fine wine, and of course, his beloved Chicago Cubs. You always know what you get with Tim: Fiercely loyal, a true gentleman, and community philanthropist. I first became acquainted with Tim through the political process many years ago, running local campaigns that were also supported by the Florida Medical Association. We became personal friends throughout the years that followed, with Tim becoming the driving force behind Florida’s health care policy, leading more than 20,000 physician members across the state. His 20 years of service with the FMA, rising from vice president of public affairs, to executive director of the FMA Political Action Committee, to CEO, is a testament to not only his political acumen, but his genuine passion for policy. Congratulations, my friend, on this designation. – Marc Reichelderfer, Republican political consultant 132 | INFLUENCE SUMMER 2018


Melissa Stone is a wife, a mother, a businesswoman and a winner. To her core, she is a loyalist. She is loyal to her family, her friends, her faith and her focus. She is one of the best at what she does, but she works as tirelessly as someone who is just getting started with a point to prove. I have been blessed to be in the trenches with her, and I would gladly do it again any day. There’s a reason she’s on the radar of many statewide and nationally. She’s strategic. She’s methodical. She’s trained. She’s driven. I can attest to her zeal, especially when it seems as if the mainstream has attempted to write the concluding narrative (based on polls and not the final numbers). – Darrick McGhee, Vice President, Government Relations, Johnson and Blanton





Ryan Tyson has proved to be one of the most important strategists and power players in the state of Florida. The man who helps lead the charge for the powerful and well-funded Associated Industries of Florida has been building a data and polling operation that should keep Democrats awake at night. For years, Democrats have argued the GOP’s money advantage could be countered by their data advantage. However, under Tyson and his leadership at AIF, the “data gap” between the two parties in Florida is no longer something Democrats can rely on. Tyson and his team understand the importance of demographic analysis, microtargeting, constant polling and message testing. Their well-financed operation is a major jewel for GOP and business-aligned candidates. Tyson is unafraid to tell GOP allies what they don’t want to hear and offers clients what the data says, not what people wish it would say. – Matthew Isbell, Pollster

Better Than Ever 44 Years and Counting





Christian Ulvert is grace under pressure. Part of his success is his ability to keep calm in the midst of the nastiest political storm, the tightest deadline or the snarkiest press question. Christian is smart and articulate, with excellent judgment and innate political instincts, but perhaps his greatest asset is his internal calm, which will soothe and elevate even the most beleaguered clients — or at least will keep them from digging a deeper hole. – Dave Aronberg, State Attorney for Palm Beach County


PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson


Eight years ago, I ran in a Democratic primary election. It was a hard-fought campaign. Even though I was the better-funded candidate with a better geographical base for the district, the race became very competitive. At every turn, I was being attacked by my opponent. And, the attacks were really well done. Not only did I stop liking me, but my wife, Rabbi Amy Rader, stopped liking me! Some guy named Steve Vancore from Tallahassee was causing me “tsuris” (look it up, Tallahassee) in my backyard of Palm Beach. 134 | INFLUENCE SUMMER 2018

Well, I managed to win that primary election anyway and my wife mostly grew to like me again. However, when the next election season rolled around, my friend and consultant Eric Johnson and I discussed it and immediately agreed there was one person who needed to join the team. I called up that consultant who ran my opponent’s campaign. I asked him if he’d help me in my next campaign. I’ll never forget his reaction. “Kevin, I ran a campaign against you. I trashed you the entire time, made you look like a fraud, an idiot, an incompetent cheat and a scumbag. And now you want to hire me?” And I said: “Absolutely! If you can make voters hate me that easily with lies I want to see

how much you can get them to love me with the truth!” And that’s the beginning of my relationship with Steve Vancore. Steve is one of the best campaign strategists, pollsters and writers in the business. He is one of the few that can create the plan at the 30,000-foot level and make sure it’s executed at the 5,000-foot level. I consider him one of my best friends, not only in politics but one of the most genuine people I’ve ever met. I know that’s true because he wrote it for me himself. I hope he kept this to 200 words like I asked. – Kevin Rader, Owner Beekeeping Insurance Services

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“No surprises.” When I started working with Ashley Walker a decade ago, I was told you will get along great with her as long as you live by those two words. Quickly I learned that isn’t only what she expects, but what she also gives. Almost as soon as Ashley takes on a campaign or client, she has a plan to win. She will tell you exactly what is needed — from field and community outreach, to earned and paid media, and more — and the resources required to make it happen. She will write the plan — and then go make it happen — executing it almost exactly how she spelled it out on paper. That is how she ran President Obama’s successful re-election

campaign in Florida. And that is how she wins for her clients as a partner with Mercury today. After moving to Florida to earn her master’s degree at FSU, she found more than just an education in Tallahassee. She also found her career when Sen. Bob Graham took a chance and hired her, and she quickly chose to make the Sunshine State her permanent home. While retaining the “Midwest nice” from her rural Indiana roots, which has helped her charm and disarm even the most hotheaded stakeholders, anyone foolish enough to confuse Ashley’s kindness for weakness ended up regretting it. There are many other smart strategists in Florida. But as anyone who has hired her has learned, as she racks up win after win, it is never a surprise to her clients. – Eric Jotkoff, Vice President, LMG

PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson (Walker)

Jeff Vinik is a true community champion. A servant citizen in every sense of the word, Jeff embodies what every team owner should be as demonstrated by his commitment to his adopted city. He has by every measure become one of Tampa Bay’s best advocates. A transformation like what we have seen in Tampa over the past several years doesn’t happen by accident. It was not written in stone that Tampa would emerge as the next great American city. It takes people who believe in what we are as a community and champions who don’t take what we have always done as a measure of what we can do together. Jeff, along with his wife Penny, have an unparalleled record of charitable giving through the Vinik Family Foundation and Tampa Bay Lightning Community Heroes Program, which has honored hundreds of Tampa’s own community champions and given more than $13 million to local nonprofits. Together, they have brought cultural experiences to Tampa that were available to all of our neighbors who otherwise may have never had the opportunity to see a great traveling art exhibit or fun and modern interactive installation. Water Street, at its conclusion, will be the culmination of Jeff’s vision and persistence. It is a project that will have a generational impact on Tampa. Jeff saw a 50-acre blank canvas where others saw blight and dilapidated parking lots. Water Street will set new expectations for what we can achieve as a city — billions of dollars of investment and a new way of building neighborhoods that will change the way communities get built far outside city limits. As mayor, I have been incredibly fortunate to call Jeff Vinik a partner and friend. – Bob Buckhorn, Mayor of Tampa




It should come as no shock that Nancy Watkins was named to INFLUENCE magazine’s ​previous ​list of the 100 most influential people in Florida. And she will almost certainly appear again. She began her career working for Republicans in the late 1980s. That’s when then-Rep. Connie Mack hired her and her husband Robert’s accounting firm, formed in 1980 to handle accounting for his nonprofit foundation. Mack then hired her to handle the accounting for his successful 1988 Republican Senate bid. Since then, the South Tampa certified public accountant served as campaign treasurer for hundreds of local and national Republicans​ . She’s a go-to resource to navigate the intricacies of national and state campaign finance law and regulations. “Nancy Watkins is the Jedi master of campaign finance in Florida. Her guidance is sought by the leaders across the state, and she has truly made an indelible impact on our community.”


PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson

Max % change in nonhomestead taxes

History Tells Us That Without Amendment 2, Non-Homestead Taxes Will


100% 50% 10%

Year 2010-2011 2011-2012 2012-2013 2013-2014 2014-2015 2015-2016 2016-2017 2017-2018 2018-2019

If Amendment 2 doesn’t pass and the cap isn’t renewed, non-homestead property taxes could increase by unlimited amounts every year. Local mom-and-pop stores could see their property taxes increase by 30%, 50%, or even higher – and that would be devastating. Renters could also see their rents skyrocket as landlords pass the extra taxes on to them. Vote “YES” on Amendment 2!

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A newly installed Ronald Reagan had just washed his hands and couldn’t find a washcloth to dry off. A young White House aide, Susie Wiles, happened to be walking down the hall and quickly found a hand towel for the president. It was not the last time Susie helped a nontraditional politician. In 2012, the Republican Party had organized behind Bill McCollum for governor, but Susie’s thinking was that Floridians wanted a conservative outsider. She ran Rick Scott’s campaign, telling me that he was the most message-disciplined candidate she had ever met. Over lunch in early 2016, she told me that she was mulling joining Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. And she did, winning Florida for him. Her instincts are that of a savant, her character and integrity flawless. Her career is one of unmitigated success. – John Delaney, Attorney, President Emeritus of UNF and former Mayor of Jacksonville

PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson

Ask any lion of the Legislature how difficult it is to remain influential after leaving office. One former Speaker described it as removing your arm from a bucket of water. Once it’s out, it was as if it was never there. Then, there are exceptions, individuals who impact lives in or out of public office. Such is the case with Will Weatherford. His resume of achievements by the age of 30 is more than many who dedicate their entire careers to politics. He governed with strength, principle, kindness, and respect for all. For me, it’s his accomplishments after the Legislature that solidifies his status of a true influencer. As Florida Chamber president, I’m not surprised Weatherford Partners is taking off. More and more business leaders are discovering what we already knew — that when you include Will on an initiative, you can expect bigger results. It’s the stuff of America through and through. As a business leader, he serves on the Florida Chamber’s Board of Directors, and is the volunteer leader of the Florida Chamber’s Political Operations, which includes everything from recruiting pro-business candidates to making sure they get elected. Yet, he has not abandoned his deep desire to create opportunities for those in need, whether it is mentoring young people, giving to his community, or speaking out at every opportunity for those who want to break out of the cycle of generational poverty. If there were more people like Will Weatherford, with his leadership of the business community and the Legislature, Florida would be doing even better. My guess (and hope) is that he will enter the political arena again one day. Until then, he remains a strong and positive force for good in Florida. – Mark Wilson, President & CEO, Florida Chamber of Commerce




PHOTO: Jessica Friend (Wilkes); Mary Beth Tyson (Wilson & Johnson)


Twelve years ago, Marley Wilkes convinced a 19-year-old intern that sleepless nights and endless phone calls are necessary sacrifices for the cause. Now when I tell her I owe my career in political fundraising to her, she rolls her eyes and laughs. Every campaign is a battle to win, and it’s a fight over finding every last dollar out there. You don’t hit your goal, you blow it up — all while cultivating and maintaining relationships across the state. Over numerous election cycles, Marley knows every detail of how campaigns in this state should operate. She loves data and is methodical and deliberate in how she uses it, and she knows how to drive the message. From her determination and vision for what Florida can be, Marley is someone who you dream to work with. She is someone you want to be in the trenches with, who will always have your back. – Greg Goddard, Finance Director for U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson


Year after year, the Florida Chamber of Commerce has been at the forefront of solving issues that impact Florida’s future competitiveness and the business industry as a whole in the Capital City. On the political side, the chamber has been an active partner with me on many key Senate races, helping to ensure business-minded Republicans are elected to serve our fast-growing state. At the helm is Mark Wilson, who, like his passion for race cars, is the driving force behind uniting Florida’s business community and working to ensure economic opportunity and job growth. Mark is an exceptional leader and advocate for our state and his members, making him a standout advocate for Florida. Marian Johnson is recognized for her innate ability to see beyond numbers, making her one of Florida’s brightest political minds. But it’s her passion for Florida and her belief that elected leaders should understand and represent the people they serve that makes her a trusted adviser to her members and candidates they support. Individually, Mark and Marian have earned their place among those who make a difference. It’s because of Mark, Marian and the professionals they’ve assembled at the Florida Chamber that families in Florida have more opportunities to find a job, gain stronger skills and succeed. They are among Florida’s best industry leaders and this recognition is well deserved. – Bill Galvano, Senate President-Designate SUMMER 2018 INFLUENCE | 139




PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson


Known for his storytelling, polarizing views, sharp wit, big personality and notorious sound bites, Rick Wilson plays both the hero and the villain with ease on the nation’s political stage. Rick is the mastermind behind some of the most-talked-about and effective ads in modern American politics. He is a regular on cable network news programs and has been profiled in The Washington Post. He has elected governors, U.S. Senators, statewide cabinet officers, and state legislators from all around the United States and has served state parties, national committees, SuperPACs, and corporate and association clients. What Rick is best known for these days, however, is becoming the father of the nationwide “Never Trump” movement. During the tumultuous 2016 election cycle, Rick took a stand — in favor of true conservatism and against a man he saw as the death of the Republican Party as we know it. Putting country and principle before party isn’t easy when you are a political consultant. It was a huge gamble that has paid off handsomely. His position earned him nationwide notoriety, a cult following, and a book deal to boot. Look for his book, “Everything Trump Touches Dies,” on the best-seller list late this summer. – Ryan Wiggins, Owner, Chief Strategist Full Contact Strategies 140 | INFLUENCE SUMMER 2018


For over a generation, Jeff Wright has been the behind-the-scenes thinker/doer for the Florida Education Association in both policy and politics. It’s a tough job for sure. But in a world where you are constantly under attack, it should be warm comfort for the state’s teachers that this man had been at or near the helm of the union mothership for as long as he has. For sure, things have not been easy or even good for unions in Florida for the past 20 years, but one can only imagine how much worse they would be if it were not for him. As FDP Chair Terri Rizzo says, “Jeff remains a font of knowledge and understanding for the ever-complex political landscape in Florida. His ability to cut through the fog is remarkable and unparalleled.”



If you’ve spent any time at all with Joe York, you immediately recognize that he is a family man, fiercely loyal, and someone who truly loves the state of Florida. When I first began my corporate career at AT&T in 2010, York was vice president of government affairs leading several groups of high-achieving professionals. His management style is more as a “head coach,” rather than a traditional boss, if you will, empowering his team to make the tough decisions while bringing others into the fold to build consensus. Joe has been a mentor to me for nearly a decade, and I am ever grateful he remains an essential and trusted adviser in my life. I draw inspiration from his mind, which is always open to continuous education. Not surprisingly, this is why Joe is successful. He’s committed, he’s a mobilizer, and he takes care of those around him, treating them like family. This is why Joe continues to be one of the most respected leaders in Florida whether in business, government, his community or through his philanthropic efforts, leading with integrity and respect. – Stephanie Smith, Uber Florida Senior Public Policy Manager


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Music of The Process With Melodies and Public Policy in Her Head, Allyce Heflin Combines a Lobbying Career with a Musical Education by rosanne dunkelberger photos: colin hackley


llyce Heflin, partner at Southern Strategy Group since 2016 and a music student at Florida State University, had not taken good care of her instrument. After spending much of the week before in Oklahoma City cheering on Florida State University’s softball team as they came back through the loser’s bracket and won the 2018 Women’s College World Series, her voice — her “instrument” — was sounding pretty rough. “I’m super hoarse,” Heflin admitted during her interview. “My voice teacher I know has been watching my Facebook feed going ‘What in the world is she doing?’ ” Lobbying and music aren’t as far afield as one might think for the 41-year-old, who exudes the excitement often found in teenage drama kids. “I am a passionate person by nature, so whenever I’m working on something — whether it be personal or professional — I get very, very engaged and into the weeds of the issues,” she explained. “I always want to win, whatever that issue is. I’m competitive and I don’t know any person who would be in this business unless they wanted to do what they thought was their best.” Her most recent accomplishment was to compose a Beethoven-esque string trio sonata — during the final weeks of the 2018 Legislative Session. Her final exam was a live performance of the piece, which earned her a 96 on the project. “It was an assignment for a composition class (and) it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” Heflin said of the fourminute piece for violin, viola and cello. “Every single note has to blend with the other parts and it was a huge, huge challenge to get it done.” Its title, “Pantalones,” translates to “fancy pants” and comes courtesy of her boyfriend, Scott Moriak, whom she met while both were singing in the Tallahassee Community Chorus. (He’s a sports information officer for the FSU softball team, and her ticket to the voice-wrecking World Series.) He too has been singing for pleasure all of his adult life, but when faced with Heflin taking her deep dive into music theory and composition, started calling her “fancy pants.”




To discover how expertise in education policy and funding, as well as ad valorem taxation, and the legislative and appropriations processes can coexist in a woman who has “little vignettes of music floating around in my head,” one has to go way back in Heflin’s history. She was that drama kid in high school and performed in musical theater in Pensacola before heading off to the University of Southern Mississippi on a music scholarship for vocal performance. She would only stay a year before returning to her hometown to work, get married and start a family which would include three children who are now 21, 18 and 16. “When I went back to school I was a young mom and wife and I didn’t feel like I really had the time to devote to music, so I chose a different path (and) got a bachelor’s in social work,” she said. She would commute to FSU for three semesters to earn a master’s in the subject in 2004. “I thought I was going to save the world via counseling,” but after an internship in the Senate appropriations committee, “I realized I really had a love of policy.” So her degree was focused on social policy administration.


For 12 years working with the Legislature, including the Senate, she said, “I worked really hard at saving the world one bill at a time, one budget at a time.” During that time, with music on her mind, Heflin decided she needed a creative outlet and joined the Tallahassee Community Chorus in 2008. While the chorus doesn’t require auditions to get in, it’s not your average glee club. Boasting a partnership with FSU, the Chorus is led by renowned choral director Dr. Andre Thomas (“in the arts community in Tallahassee, he’s like a god”) and populated with graduate and other music students who earn credits for their participation. Weekly practices are “like going to a master class in vocal performance every Monday night,” she said. Inspired by her experiences in the Chorus, “it made me really want to be a better musician and I felt like the best way to do that was to complete the music degree I started 20 years ago. So I decided to audition and, miraculously, got in. “Some people might call it a midlife crisis, but I just kind of did an overhaul on everything and started working (at Southern Strategy Group), started back

at school and have been doing that ever since. Going to school part time, working full time,” she continued. Her second bachelor’s degree — which she thinks will take a couple more years to complete — will be in music therapy. She has found it does have a great amount of overlap in the public policy realm. “Music therapy, just like social work, is one of the things that kind of is pervasive in all areas. It can be used in health care, it can be used in education, it can be used in criminal justice, it can be used in just about any service area in public policy, but I’ve seen the benefits of it in the educational system and I think it’s underutilized,” she said. “I think it has helped me realize why we need changes in educational public policy related to special needs children.” Heflin said she enjoys attending classes with students 20 years her junior and has found a way to inject a little policy into her interactions with them. During the Parkland demonstrations in Tallahassee, she told them to “get your butts down to the Capitol. This is not just about K-12, it’s you guys too. And I told them all to go get registered to vote.”


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This Lobbyist’s Drama Happens After Sine Die by rosanne dunkelberger photos: allison davis


s a lobbyist in a one-man office, Travis Moore is more of a behind-the-scenes operator for his dozen or so clients when the Legislature performs its business. But after the hankie drops, he takes center stage in the Tampa Bay area’s live theater scene, acting, directing and now moving into the producing side of stagecraft. His affinity for the theater predates his advocacy career by years. Moore attended a small private school in Pinellas County where his parents were teachers. Each year The Academy of Arts would involve the entire school in creating a full-blown stage production in a week. “It became this amazing thing because everybody in the school would have this common goal — ‘we’re going to put on this show!’, he said. During one summer, Moore’s parents took him and his sister to join a team that toured the country putting on productions.




Now 47, Moore had something of a vagabond youth, living in St. Petersburg for his early elementary years before moving to South Carolina. He would live there until after his ninth grade year, when the family moved back to Florida — this time to the Keys in Islamorada. “It was great. We had as many kids who would boat to school as would drive,” he recalled. “If it was a nice day, during fifth hour (classmates) were all bailing to go hydrosliding and waterskiing and fishing.” His parents returned to the Tampa Bay area after his high school years and he attended the now-defunct


Clearwater Christian College as well as classes at the University of South Florida to get a pre-law degree. “Whether it was the children’s productions at school or high school or in college or whatever, I was very, very involved in theater, always on the acting side,” he said. During and immediately after college he worked for Allstate in their 24-hour claims service center. As part of his job in the highly regulated insurance industry, he became involved with the company’s political action committee, bringing candidates through the center to be introduced to its 3,000 employees and presenting checks. One of those visiting candidates

was Republican Earl Ziebarth who, at the time, was running for the Florida House. Ziebarth won and invited Moore to join his legislative staff. Moore moved across the state to the representative’s hometown of DeLand. Moore would return to his hometown to work for state Sen. John Grant and then begin working in the governmental practice groups of different statewide law firms, all the while shuttling to Tallahassee for Session, committee weeks and other meetings. In late 2002, he spun off to create Moore-Relations, a consultancy with a client list that includes the Community Associations Institute, Florida Legislative Alliance, Defenders

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FEATURE of Wildlife, First Service Residential of Florida and the Florida Property Taxpayers Association. But it was the summer of that year when Moore heeded the call to tread the boards once again. “I would go to New York and see a lot of shows,” he said. “I became a consumer of the arts, but I missed being able use that creative side of my brain to create these characters. That year, he saw an audition notice for a production of “Crimes of the Heart” at the then-St. Petersburg Little Theater and won the role of Barnett Lloyd. “I then got very involved with our community theaters and then that morphed into the regional theaters and then was actually getting paychecks to do theater, which I thought was just crazy.” He would also spend the summer of 2013 visiting family while acting in the Virginia Shakespeare Festival in Williamsburg, Virginia. “Then I started wanting to get more involved in producing,” Moore said. His chance would come with St. Petersburg’s American Stage in the early days of creating the first production of the play “Nureyev’s Eyes.” The play, based on painting sessions in the ’70s, has only two characters. Legendary ballet star Rudolf Nureyev, and the artist Jamie Wyeth, (son of Andrew Wyeth) who was creating his portrait. “I understudied both roles but I also was just kind of doing a lot of everything because they ended up needing a crew person to help with being a dresser and different kind things,” Moore said. “I just kind of did it all and got involved with that and really fell in love with the piece.” He would ultimately attempt to obtain the rights to produce the play, but during a conference call with the playwright, his agent and an entertainment lawyer “I’m the one person on this phone call that knows the least and I didn’t like that feeling — especially if they’re

“My theater career makes me a better advocate because I think it makes me understand human nature better... If you read enough Shakespeare and you think enough about Macbeth, you can handle the Florida Legislature.” 156 | INFLUENCE SUMMER 2018

going to be talking about royalties and royalty pools and splits.” Moore studied producing at New York University and has now created Wespoke Productions Inc. “It’s like a bespoke suit, but at Wespoke, it’s theater that just fits,” Moore explained. Rather than just a financer of shows, Moore’s involvement is more trying to recruit and gather teams of actors, directors and technicians to create them. “I feel like part of my job is to bring these creatives together and then give them the tools that they need to create — financial resources, but also the safety of being able to just create in an environment where they feel most able to produce something of art.” He recently produced and directed Cormac McCarthy’s “The Sunset Limited” in partnership with the St. Petersburg City Theatre and is currently attempting to gather a team to create a play about Tennessee Williams. Moore considers himself an easygoing guy. “I don’t like any drama, other than onstage,” he declared. “People have to buy tickets to see my drama.”

Travis Moore’s TOP PLAY PICKS Like being asked to pick one’s favorite child, Moore demurred, but did finally manage to name the play that tops his list. Here’s what he had to say about shows he’s seen throughout the years:


A story of the habitués of Berlin’s seedy Kit Kat Club during the Nazi rise to power. “I tend to like darker musicals … I’m always struck at how powerful Cabaret is.”

“August Osage County”

A comedy-drama about a dysfunctional clan reuniting for the funeral of the family patriarch. “Anything that Tracy Letts does, both writing and performing in, I really like.”

“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time”

Travis Moore directs the actors playing “Black” and “White” in the play “The Sunset Limited.”

When asked if his lobbying career makes his theater work possible, he replied, “I think they kind of make each other possible.” “My theater career makes me a better advocate because I think it makes me understand human nature better,” Moore said. “If you read enough Shakespeare and you think enough about Macbeth, you can handle the Florida Legislature.” The seasonal nature of lobbying allows him to dive into theater during the legislative lulls. “Because of the flexibility of time and financial resources, it allows me to be more involved in theater. So I’m grateful for that.” Although he admits there are times when his avocations cross paths — like when he’s watching presentations during committee meetings. “There’s a way to present material that makes it a more relevant to the audience,” he said. “Some folks are really, really good at it and there are others … I just want to get up and give them notes and say ‘you could do this so much better if you presented it in this way’.” While some might say lobbying is acting, Moore disagrees, likening it more

While a 15-year-old math genius tries to discover who killed a neighbor’s dog, video projections help the audience understand the inner workings of a person living on the spectrum. “It was a game changer (based on the) sheer use of technology and what can be done in play setting. It was awesome in the true sense of awe-inspiring.”


“It was an amazing play,” he said of the production about an actual play from the 1920s that was shut down for indecency after it depicted a lesbian kiss. “It’s a very theatrical piece that was filmed for Great Performances on PBS, so you can still see it.”

“Incident at Vichy”

Set in Vichy, France during World War II, the story revolves around a group of men in a detention camp. “When I’m sitting there watching it with the discussion about immigration and papers and fear, Arthur Miller could have written it last Tuesday.” Moore was so moved, he helped arrange a screening of the work (it had been filmed for BroadwayHD) at the Tampa Theatre that attracted 1,000 people and featured appearances by actor Richard Thomas and director Michael Wilson. There was a panel discussion afterward with Holocaust scholars that “got a really good conversation going. I’ve always felt ever since I saw it that it was extremely powerful.”

“The Glass Menagerie”

Moore did manage to pick this Tennessee Williams classic as all-time favorite play. “It’s just that go-to — and I was in it as Jim O’Connor. It’s like Shakespeare … you can just listen to the language. Williams thought of himself as a poet and it has some real poetic language.”



to the role of a teacher “providing information and education.” Moore has a daughter, Savannah, who studied visual art at the Pinellas County Center for the Arts at Gibbs High School in St. Petersburg, and is now at Ithaca College studying theater production and design. While “the Tony Awards are my Super Bowl party,” Moore said theater is “not just knowing what’s going on on Broadway.” “Because of my advocacy work I also


feel really strongly about it being a way … to get people to discuss things — not just to be observers of conversations but to literally be a part of it. A lot of the time, changes in hearts and minds can happen with a good piece of theater,” he said. “It has to be worth their time and their money to go see it but then I also feel like they’re going to leave maybe thinking things and having encounters they would not have had if they hadn’t been there. I feel like it’s a way to change our communities for the better.”


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What I’ve Learned

Matt Bryan 59, Tallahassee Lobbying Sage, Advocate for Thoroughbreds, Avid Gator Sports Fan AS TOLD TO MICHAEL MOLINE

When Matt Bryan became a lobbyist in 1984, Bob Graham lived in the Governor’s Mansion and Democrats ruled the Legislature blissfully heedless of the day the worm would turn. Bryan had been an aide to Graham, and fellow aide Garry Smith invited him to join the lobbying firm he’d established the year before. “He hired me the first day of the 1984 Legislative Session and said, ‘Go do some of that.’ I said, ‘Some of what?’ ” He said, “Whatever lobbyists do. Go figure it out.” Today, Bryan is the sole remaining name partner in Smith, Bryan & Myers (SBM), which specializes in government relations, procurement, political consulting, and business development. ON WHAT MAKES A GOOD LOBBYIST There is no substitute for hard work. It certainly makes up for a variety of weaknesses. I get a lot of heat for hanging around the Capitol at all hours of the day and night, but I can tell you some pretty good stuff can happen for you with a bit of staying power. Everyone is sick of hearing about the good old days, but we used to work pretty much around the clock during the last week of session. I distinctly remember calling George Steinbrenner at 4:20 a.m. to tell him his bill had passed. He had told me to call no matter what time it happened. I did, and he was not happy about being woken up. My reward for helping pass his bill was being fired but, like Billy Martin, I was rehired.


PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson

“The truth always works. Tell the truth all the time”


WHAT I’VE LEARNED Second, ask questions — and listen. Everyone thinks lobbyists must be these wonderful chatterboxes, but the good ones know how to listen and can hear things not being said directly. I can’t tell you how many people go into a meeting so intent on getting their message across that they miss the message being sent back to them. That can cause you big problems in a hurry. Third, tell the truth, even when it puts you in an uncomfortable position. I may have done that a few times over the last 34 years. Fourth, be prepared. A well-prepared lobbyist is way more effective than one who fakes it. That means you must do a lot of reading and more learning than you might imagine. Finally, be flexible. That perfect plan you developed late last night will need to be changed 20 minutes after you walk into the Capitol. ON THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING HONEST AS A LOBBYIST Telling the truth is difficult for some lobbyists, because they don’t want to say something to a legislator that won’t be well received. I say all the time in our staff meetings: The truth always works. Tell the truth all the time, and you never have to worry about contradicting yourself. A lobbyist must earn the trust of the legislators and staff, and you do it by being truthful. Distrust also is earned, and pretty much never goes away. ON THE BEST WAY TO PERSUADE A LEGISLATOR There is no (single) infallible way to persuade a legislator. You must try to understand what makes a person tick before you can try to influence him or her. So, in a way, you are like a counselor or psychiatrist, trying to understand what motivates the people you want to influence. It is also very important to understand what you are asking for might be of vital importance to you and your client, but that doesn’t mean it is of the same importance to the legislator or staffer or fellow lobbyist. Be prepared, understand the downsides to your position, and be persistent yet polite. I have a quick example of the power of persistence. In my early years, I was learning the budget process. I had a project to get funded, but the chair of the House committee didn’t much like it. I made it a point to stop by her office every day. At one point she said that if I said another word to her about it that Session, she would be damn sure it wasn’t funded (she still didn’t say she would fund it). 164 | INFLUENCE SUMMER 2018

So, I walked by her in the hall and put a Post-it note with all the details of the project on it on her arm. She thought that was funny, and ultimately funded the project. I love those Post-it notes to this day. A high-ranking staffer once told me there are three kinds of lobbyists: Relationship brokers, subject-matter experts, and combinations of both. The relationship brokers can get you a meeting, but can’t delve into any important details. The subject-matter experts know their stuff, but might miss the signals being sent by the legislators. I think you want to be a good mix of both. ON BEING LIED TO BY A LAWMAKER I am sure someone has, but I can’t think of anyone specifically. I think legislators are more prone to withhold information rather than mislead you. You have a problem to solve, and maybe a legislator knows the origin of the problem but won’t say it. That’s when you must be an extremely careful listener and talk to a bunch of folks to piece together the information necessary to solve your problem. There is certainly a subtle language used in the Capitol some people miss. The value of translating that language correctly can’t be overstated. ON ACHIEVEMENTS, FAILURES, AND LESSONS LEARNED I don’t really think it does much good to talk about our greatest wins. We have had our share. There are a couple of good stories I could tell you, but they will be in my book in about 20 years. So, you will just have to wait. I do have an interesting failure to mention. In my first year as a lobbyist, I was working on a community redevelopment association bill, and it was hung up in a Senate committee. I saw the committee chairman every day for a couple of weeks, trying to get him to hear it. When he finally did, much to my surprise, it was in another committee in two days, and another two days after that, and then — whoosh! — it passed. With about 80 amendments. The chairman was furious, because the bill was loaded with ideas he had held up in his committee. He thought I had set it up. I had no clue half the population of the Capitol was waiting for me to get the train out of the station, so they could take a ride on it. I went back and told the chairman my sin was ignorance and not dishonesty. He believed me, and we became good friends. That taught me that honesty is the best policy — and to think several steps down the road.

ON ADVOCATING FOR GAMBLING INTERESTS I am not much of a gambler, and haven’t played the Lottery since the first day it opened. But I have a special place in my heart for the thoroughbred breeders and owners in Florida. They are the real gamblers in the industry. If you don’t think breeding a horse, raising the horse and training the horse for racing to earn a return on your investment is a gamble, then you should learn more about what they do. But they have a huge economic impact on the state’s economy — larger than spring training, in fact. The pari-mutuel issues are some of the hardest fought and complicated ones I have dealt with over the years. I tell people it is like giving 40 of the best lobbyists industrial chainsaws and letting them whale away on each other for 60 days. At the end of the session, everyone is bloody and scarred and the bills die. Sooner or later, industry lobbyists will learn working together tends to lead to better results. ON FELLOW LOBBYISTS I think the people I admire most are the ones who are extremely passionate about an issue, but aren’t hired guns. They drop whatever they’re doing to try to effect change and, even though the cynics don’t want to see it, these folks have an impact on the system. Kathleen Finnegan pretty much singlehandedly got the law changed to force inmates to serve 85 percent of their sentences. She didn’t have lobbyists or much else, other than her belief and work ethic, but was successful. This session, the same thing happened with benefits for firefighters and other first responders. Finally, there is Library Man. He stood in the Capitol with a “fund libraries” sign at all hours of the day and night for pretty much one entire session. I know, because I saw him outside of the Senate Appropriations suite at 1:30 a.m. during conference negotiations on the budget. And libraries were well funded that year. ON THE CAPITOL PRESS CORPS Reporters have a tough job and must have some of the same qualities lobbyists have to do their jobs well. They must dig and dig and dig to get information for their stories. I respect all of them for doing what they love when it can be very, very frustrating at times.




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Photo by Randall Marsh



“Just call me Aretha. I think a lobbyist earns respect by working hard, being honest, and trying to do what feels right whenever possible.”

ON NOTEWORTHY LEGISLATORS OVER THE YEARS There have been so many over the years. I guess I would point to the ones who don’t seem to need elected office and would be fine doing something else. In other words, the ones who think about what is best for the state and their constituents and do it even if it might not be a great political move. They know they could be sent home or not make a higher office, but don’t care. Those are the ones I think are cool. ON CAREER AMBITIONS BESIDES LOBBYING Growing up, I wanted to be a sports announcer or a psychiatrist. In elementary school, I read every sports book in the library. I know: Nerd central. It is probably too late for me to do the sports thing. But I might be a frustrated psychiatrist. I think I want to become an executive coach once I hang up my tasseled loafers. (Just joking about the loafers.) Much to the horror of some of the lobbying corps, you can count on me to sport ugly rubber-soled shoes daily. That marble on the fourth floor is hard!

Photo courtesy of Facebook via Randall Marsh.

ON STAYING BUSY OUTSIDE SESSION I love to fish and play golf. I’m very much looking forward to fishing this summer in Canada with my 28-year-old daughter. And my 24-year-old son and I plan to rip some lips in Amelia Island soon. I am also a big fan of the once-and-soonto-be-again Mighty Gators. I went to the University of Florida and will watch pretty much any sport that is happening. We have a great program for women’s athletics. On the men’s side, basketball and baseball are in good shape. I think we have the right coach now in football, and I think Gator Nation is going to enjoy the next few football seasons much more than the past few. I’m not sure I would have a chance to get into UF now. They have made great strides academically and are now one of the Top 10 public universities in the country. Watch out UNC and UVA, because you’re next. Finally, my patient and long-suffering wife Sheri and I are starting to travel some, and look forward to doing more of that as time passes. ON EARNING RESPECT Everyone in my firm is sick of hearing it, but I want legislators to respect us. It is great if they like us but, if I must choose between being liked or respected, give me respect every time. Just call me Aretha. I think a lobbyist earns respect by working hard, being honest, and trying to do what feels right whenever possible. Hopefully, the crew at SBM does that daily.




The Big Question


FAVORITE SUMMERTIME THING TO DO? THOMAS SCHERBERGER, HILLSBOROUGH CLERK OF COURTS There’s nothing more refreshing on a hot summer day (which is to say, any summer day in Florida) than tubing down the Ichetucknee River. Unless it’s snorkeling at nearby Ginnie Springs. I know … how about both!

KATE WALLACE, FLORIDA INTERNET & TELEVISION Supporting a team of medical volunteers in Antigua and Guatemala, as a blogger and Spanish language translator while doctors perform about 90 free surgeries for Guatemalans in need. Vacation or not, it’s the most rejuvenating week of my year. I highly recommend it. More info:

I enjoy the Leadership Florida Annual Meeting. It’s fun to see old friends and make new ones. We also get an update on issues from around the state. And the kids LOVE the kids club.

CESAR FERNANDEZ, UBER This summer I’m really looking forward to spending all my time working … in Costa Rica, Panamá, and several islands in the Caribbean. ;)

ERIN ISAAC, ISAAC COMMUNICATIONS It’s an election year, people! I’ll take my polling results, ad scripts, and debate preps poolside with a rum floater, please.

ALLISON NORTH, NORTH PUBLIC RELATIONS Summer in Florida is brutal. You have to find ways to beat the heat 170 | INFLUENCE SUMMER 2018

and seeking out the best rosé or — in a best-case scenario — “frosé” helps me cool off and calm the mind. While there are many good bottles of rosé, so far the best frosé I’ve found is served at the Boca Resort & Club.

JENNIFER PIERCE, COLODNY FASS For South Floridians, getting to Grand Cayman from Fort Lauderdale International Airport may actually be faster than driving to Downtown Miami. Although, while the airfare to Cayman is dirt cheap, the hotels may not be. But there’s something compellingly “James Bond” about the island’s powerful financial sector hidden amid its exquisite reefs and cars all driving on the British side of the road. Only a few places in the world remain where you can experience the mesmerizing bioluminescence phenomena, not to mention tame reef fish and stingrays that eat right out of your hand.

GREGORY WILSON, PARSONS-WILSON You must be speaking of oddnumbered years, because summertime vacations are rare with Primary Election Day looming for so many Florida clients. The one weekend I look forward to most in summer is in early August for the Newport Jazz Festival in Rhode Island. Amazing venue, cool temperatures and even cooler music.



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TA L L A H A S S E E • TA M PA • T H E F L O R I D A K E Y S • V E R O B E A C H • W E S T PA L M SUMMER B E A C H 2018 • W I NINFLUENCE T E R PA R |K 171


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