Working in politics can dominate your life, from waking up early to catch up on the news to typing up a last-minute email before going to bed. It can help to have someone who understands that struggle, and no one gets it better than someone also in the process. For Valentine’s Day, City & State Florida compiled a list of a dozen (just like roses) of the power couples in Florida’s political scene:
Amanda & Brewster Bevis
The Bevises both worked on George W. Bush’s presidential campaign and in his administration but worked in different states and different agencies. They eventually met after mutual friends brought them to a Pat Green concert at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C., in 2005. They were married five years later. They eventually moved to Florida, Brewster’s home state. Amanda now is the principal of Red Hill Strategies; Brewster is president and CEO of Associated Industries of Florida. Three boys later, usual date nights consist of wine and work: “Some day, you’ll find us back at the 930 Club for a Pat Green reunion. We’ll be the old couple making out on the dance floor,” Amanda said.
Cord & Esther Byrd
This Neptune Beach couple has been married since 2010. Cord, a former state representative, is the appointed Secretary of State of Florida, while Esther is a member of the State Board of Education. Esther told City & State that the two met in legal circles in 2007 shortly after Cord moved to Neptune Beach to start a law firm. “We have enjoyed being partners in life, legal work, politics, public service and parenting since that time,” she said. Their favorite date night spot is Fancy Sushi in Neptune Beach.
Demi Busata Cabrera & Kevin Cabrera
These two elected officials are power players in Miami’s political scene, but also share the same household. Demi is in her second term as a state legislator, representing Coral Gables. Kevin, a current Miami-Dade county commissioner, previously worked as Florida State Director for Donald J. Trump for President and the Republican National Committee.
Al Cárdenas & Ana Navarro
These long-time Republican strategists have known each other since the 1990s, according to Aventura Magazine. The pair were often poised against each other, with Navarro working on John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign and Cárdenas – a former chair of the Republican Party of Florida – working for Mitt Romney. They married in 2019 at a Miami Beach wedding attended by celebrities and political stars, including Gloria Estefan, Eva Longoria, Anderson Cooper, Mitt Romney and Bob Menendez. Navarro now is a host of “The View,” while Cárdenas has retired.
Jane Castor & Ana Cruz
The Ballard Partners lobbyist and Tampa mayor first met on the tarmac of Tampa’s private airport in 2000. Castor was running the Tampa Police Department’s intelligence bureau and Cruz was working on Al Gore’s presidential campaign. “She will tell you I was running around with a clipboard ordering everybody around … and I’ll tell you not much has changed,” Cruz told City & State. The pair ran into each other again in 2007 at a concert, where Cruz asked Castor to dinner. Fifteen years later, the couple live on the Hillsborough River, where they take boat rides to events and hockey games. They have also greeted presidents and first ladies on the same tarmac they first met.
Jerry & Val Demings
One of the best-known power couples in the state, they both earned their bachelor’s degrees at Florida State University but didn’t know each other at school. They first met and fell in love during their time with the Orlando Police Department in 1984, when Val was a rookie and Jerry was a detective responding to the same crime scene. The current Orange County mayor, Jerry was Orlando’s first Black police chief, Orange County’s first Black sheriff, and now Orange County’s first Black mayor. Val also broke barriers, becoming Orlando’s first woman police chief. They have three children and five grandchildren. In their spare time, they like to play the piano and ride their Harleys together, according to Spectrum News 13.
U.S. Rep. Byron & Erika Donalds
The Donaldses met through mutual friends when they attended college at Florida State University. They grew closer while they were members of the same business fraternity, Delta Sigma Pi, eventually going on their first date on Valentine’s Day 2000. They now have three sons: Damon, Darin and Mason. Byron, a former state representative now in Congress, and Erika, CEO of a school choice organization and former Collier County School Board member, will celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary on March 15.
Alia Faraj-Johnson & Rob Johnson
This power couple first met when they were both working for then-Gov. Jeb Bush. Alia, Bush’s communications director, and Rob, a Cabinet aide, started dating near the end of his administration. News of their relationship broke when the governor let it slip to a group of reporters. Today, Alia is founder of Alia Strategic Group, while Rob is a partner and lobbyist with The Mayernick Group. They have been together since 2006 and have been married for 15 years. Peyton, their 14-year-old daughter, is a talented golfer. They like to spend their weekends supporting her on the greens.
Lee & Lori Killinger
The Killingers met as young lawyers when they worked together on a large litigation case, Lori told City & State. “Working on that case was like living in a Grisham novel with a colorful cast of characters and convoluted legal twists and turns,” she said. “Through all the madness, we found solace and sanity with each other. It didn’t take long before we began dating and fell in love.” Lori, a shareholder at the Lewis Longman Walker law firm, and Lee, director of environmental affairs for Florida Crystals, are set to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary this month. Their favorite date spot is taking their boat and anchoring off Manatee County’s Anna Maria Island.
Frank & Tracy Mayernick
The Mayernicks aren’t just partners in life, they’re partners in business. Both principals at their lobbying firm, The Mayernick Group, Tracy and Frank’s clients include the Florida Medical Association, Florida Power & Light and AT&T. Their clients “have immense confidence and trust in Frank and Tracy, no matter the complexity of an issue or objective,” former state Rep. Travis Cummings told Influence magazine. “Most importantly, their marriage is as strong as I have ever seen and their world revolves around their two loving daughters, Addison and Kennedy.”
Arek & Jenna Sarkissian
This couple met in 2014 while both were working at the Gainesville Sun, Arek as a reporter and Jenna at the copy desk. Their first date was a UF basketball game; Jenna won tickets in a newsroom lottery. He asked her to marry him less than a year later. They moved to Tallahassee, where Arek is a reporter for Politico Florida and Jenna is director of open government and special projects for the Florida House of Representatives. Arek told City & State they are great teammates at home, but also tend to be professional frenemies. But her blue eyes still give him butterflies.
Bridget & Christian Ziegler
The Zieglers are conservative power players in their respective spheres of influence, affecting the Republican Party’s political organizing at a national level. As the vice chair of the Republican Party of Florida, Christian helped work to further cement his party’s dominance in the Sunshine State. Bridget is a member of the Sarasota County School Board, a co-founder of Moms for Liberty and director of a conservative leadership institute, and helped spark the national parental rights movement. At home, the couple has three young daughters.
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