For politicians who ascend to the top of the political hierarchy in Florida, the logical next step seems to be trying to run the entire country. Gov. Ron DeSantis just might become the next president – although a certain former president could sideline him. Of the state’s two U.S. senators, Marco Rubio took a shot in 2016, and Rick Scott seems to be angling to take his. If Charlie Crist upsets DeSantis and regains the governorship, he would quickly generate buzz about his presidential prospects.
In our inaugural Florida Power 100 list, these high-profile politicians occupy some of the top slots in our statewide political ranking. DeSantis has dominated state government like few other governors in recent memory, and by extension his appointees and inner circle have significant clout. And while the governor takes up plenty of political oxygen, there are dozens of Floridians who play critical roles in moving the state forward, including well-connected lobbyists, deep-pocketed donors, battle-tested advocates and elected officials – even including some Democrats in this increasingly Republican-leaning state.
This ranking, which is the first in a series of City & State Florida power lists to be published on a monthly basis, is based on extensive reporting and research. It’s aimed at illuminating the state’s power structure, yet it’s unavoidably subjective and partly intended to stir debate. We invite our readers to submit feedback – Who did we overlook? Who’s ranked too high or too low? – at firstname.lastname@example.org. (And no, you won't find Donald Trump on this list, as he's much more of a national political player.)
Now, without further ado, we’re pleased to present the Florida Power 100.
In just under a term in office, Florida’s governor has become the heir apparent to former President Donald Trump, with all of the popularity and none of the baggage. The official story of the kid from Dunedin “with blue-collar roots, (who) worked his way through Yale University, where he graduated with honors and was the captain of the varsity baseball team” is well-known by this point. So what does Gov. Ron DeSantis really want? Does he believe, as The Washington Post reported, that his “skills are uniquely matched to the current political climate”? If so, those skills were honed by the coronavirus pandemic, when he initially imposed some lockdowns but quickly lifted them and promised never to bring them back. DeSantis has since railed against “the horsemen of the left,” as The New Yorker put it, including a “Faucian dystopia,” “left-wing oligarchs” and the “corporate media.” Nothing so far has stopped him. He’s even one-upped his fellow GOP legislative leaders, vetoing some of their priority bills this year. Now it has all culminated in what Kurt Schlichter, a senior columnist at conservative news website Townhall, calls the “DeSantis Doctrine.” In part, it means “you unashamedly use the power you are given to defeat the leftist agenda, that you don't shrink from cultural fights because all the Twitter people will tell you that you are somehow obligated to do so. It means not just winning elections but winning fights.” And DeSantis keeps winning – and is widely expected to secure a second term this November.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio fell short in his 2016 presidential run, and Florida’s senior senator is now in the middle of another hotly contested battle. This son of Cuban immigrants is in the thick of his second Senate reelection bid, this time against U.S. Rep. Val Demings. Rubio’s early lead appears to be dwindling, if the polls are to be trusted. Yet he has netted key endorsements that undercut some of his opponent’s strengths. Rubio received the support of the Florida Police Benevolent Association and 55 out of Florida’s 67 sheriff’s, despite Demings having over a quarter century of experience in law enforcement. In office, the West Miami native has opposed some of President Joe Biden’s biggest legislative policy wins, including the $1 trillion infrastructure bill and the bipartisan gun control bill passed in June. He is also a national security hawk, serving on the Select Committee on Intelligence and Senate Committee of Foreign Relations and delivering briefings about the Russian invasion of Ukraine to his 4.4 million Twitter followers. A power player in Florida politics since joining the state House in 2000, he is finally facing a real threat to his continued political relevance.
America’s second richest senator is likely third in the Florida man 2024 presidential hopefuls power rankings, a long-shot position when the first two on the list are Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis. Although he has said in the past that he is not planning on running for president in 2024, some Republicans say the former Florida governor rolling out his 11-point Rescue America plan as the Republican Senate campaign chair (which was not endorsed by Senate Republican leadership) earlier this year has been interpreted by some as signaling a potential bid for the Oval office. However, Scott has since had to walk back a part of the plan that would have required all Americans to pay at least some federal tax after criticism by Democratic legislators and the White House. The plan, which has been described as an ultraconservative wish list by critics, mixed with frequent jabs from Scott at the Biden administration for inflation and other issues could signal an attempt to court the GOP’s more conservative voters. However, Scott is polling poorly nationally in name recognition and popularity, making a potential 2024 run an uphill battle – and he’s now under scrutiny as Republicans face longer odds to retake the Senate.
Since Gov. Ron DeSantis picked Dr. Joseph Ladapo as the state’s top health officer a year ago, his policy prescriptions have repeatedly faced political opposition – and that’s how his boss wants it. Ladapo, who serves as both the state’s surgeon general and head of the Florida Department of Health, has heartened conservatives and angered progressives at every turn, whether it’s about COVID-19, monkeypox or transgender youths. Ladapo has been openly critical of mask mandates and shutdowns in response to the coronavirus pandemic, and his skepticism of vaccines came into sharper focus in June when he came out against vaccinating young children against COVID-19. In August, Ladapo and the governor downplayed the risk of monkeypox, accusing other politicians of spreading fear. Later that month, the Florida Board of Medicine began the process of banning gender-affirming treatment for transgender youths, a move sought by Ladapo and DeSantis. Ladapo, a physician and health policy researcher, has dealt with other pressing health policy matters, such as efforts to combat the opioid epidemic. He also joined the governor to announce a lawsuit seeking permission to buy cheaper prescription drugs from Canada. At the press conference, DeSantis quipped, “Who would you rather have? Ladapo or Fauci?"
The former collegiate equestrian athlete from Ohio became a television news anchor and eventually won an Emmy Award. She says she met Ron DeSantis at the University of North Florida Golf Complex’s driving range. They hit it off, marrying in 2010, and having three children. Their youngest, Mamie, is the first baby born in the Governor’s Mansion in more than 50 years. She has spearheaded several initiatives during her husband’s first term, including “Hope Florida,” which is focused on improving Floridians’ economic self-sufficiency. DeSantis also became a cancer warrior, championing early screenings after her own breast cancer diagnosis last year. “You always think it happens to somebody else until it does happen to you and then you’re looking at yourself,” she has said. In March, the governor released a video saying, “After going through both treatment and surgery for breast cancer, she is now considered cancer free.” Like many political couples, Casey DeSantis is said to be her husband’s closest adviser. In fact, the Washington Post writes that she “wants him to run for president” – though his own political team calls that “nonsense,” saying he’s solely focused on his reelection this November.
The Florida Legislature’s next two designated leaders have to work this fall on making sure Republicans get elected to House and Senate seats in November. That’s because their roles depend on their Republican Party holding the majority in each chamber. Paul Renner, of Palm Coast, will be the first speaker from Flagler County. He’s been flexing his political muscles, helping incumbent Michelle Salzman conquer her GOP primary challenger, the controversial former state Rep. Mike Hill, for example. The UF Law graduate has been an assistant prosecutor and served in the Navy in both Operation Desert Storm and Operation Enduring Freedom. Renner shares a Navy background with the governor, as well as a ‘faith, family and freedom’ agenda. Passidomo, a Naples resident and also an attorney, will be the third woman to lead the chamber, following Gwen Margolis and Toni Jennings. Her daughter Gabriella is on the Florida Public Service Commission, which regulates the state’s investor-owned utilities. She has said as president she will focus on protecting the elderly, calling them “our most vulnerable citizens.” As to how well she and Renner will work together, Passidomo says they share “similar philosophies and a similar moral compass.”
When U.S. Rep. Val Demings launched her campaign for U.S. Senate in the spring, it seemed like a long shot: President Joe Biden’s approval ratings were plummeting, the Democratic-controlled Congress was finding its agenda stymied and her opponent, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, had already served for over a decade and enjoyed the advantages of incumbency. Fast forward to today, however, and the former Orlando police chief appears to be gaining momentum on the campaign trail as one of the few bright spots for Florida Democrats this cycle. She has capitalized on the discontent among many female voters with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, which has boosted Democrats in a few high-profile elections across the country. Polls now show Deming and Rubio running neck and neck, and some prognosticators rate Rubio as one of the most vulnerable Republican incumbents. If Demings ends up delivering an upset victory, it would be especially embarrassing for Florida’s other U.S. senator, Rick Scott, who currently chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Demings is also part of one of the state’s most notable power couples as the spouse of Orlando Mayor Jerry Demings.
As the top officials of the city and county at the center of Florida’s largest metropolitan area, this duo is taking on the tasks of attracting more tech businesses to Miami while combating housing and rent price increases that rival anywhere else in the country. Rent has skyrocketed to an average of nearly $3,000 per month, which some attribute to migration from wealthy Americans in other states moving to the Magic City during the coronavirus pandemic. Daniella Levine Cava, the first female mayor of Miami-Dade County, has declared a housing affordability crisis and passed a new tenant’s bill of rights requiring landlords to provide a 60-day notice for rent increases and evictions. Francis Suarez has envisioned turning Miami into a tech capital that rivals Silicon Valley, and has publicly exhorted some of the nation’s biggest tech companies to relocate to his city. He also has received a national boost by being elected president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. While he has notched some victories, like welcoming this year’s inaugural MiamiWeb3 conference, the tanking of the cryptocurrency MiamiCoin has slowed some of his more ambitious visions.
If you’re watching Gov. Ron DeSantis at one of his televised public appearances, chances are Dane Eagle is on a riser with him. The former state lawmaker turned head of the state’s jobs and economic incentives agency took over in late 2020 on the heels of his predecessor, Ken Lawson. Eagle, a commercial real estate broker, walked into a political hornets’ nest: DEO was getting shellacked in the media for being slow or simply unable to process thousands of unemployment compensation applications during the downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Since then, unemployment processing has gradually improved and Eagle – a former House Republican leader – has become a steadfast wingman to the governor while running an agency with a multibillion-dollar budget and 1,600 employees. His public service includes being a deputy chief of staff to then-Gov. Charlie Crist. He also ran for Congress, losing by just 774 votes to Byron Donalds, who now represents the 19th Congressional District. By all accounts, he’s a ‘DeSantis Doctrine’ adherent. As he said in early 2019, “Gov. Scott was who we needed coming out of a recession. He did wonderful things. And Gov. DeSantis is who we need and deserve to move into the next era.”
The man who is arguably Florida’s most influential lobbyist wanted to be a litigator when he was at law school at the University of Florida. As he once told Florida Trend, “I never dreamed I would enter the field of lobbying.” Instead, after passing the bar in 1991, he went on to be called “the most powerful lobbyist in Trump’s Washington” by Politico in a 2018 profile that cemented his place in the state’s power pantheon. But he didn’t arrive there suddenly. Ballard, who grew up in Delray Beach as one of six kids raised by a single mom, got his start as then-Tampa Mayor Bob Martinez’s driver during Martinez’s 1986 successful campaign for governor. Ballard then “proved remarkably successful over the next two decades at cultivating friendships with Florida's Republican governors,” according to Politico, and eventually got to know Donald Trump, becoming an inside money man on his presidential campaign. Despite Trump’s 2020 loss, Ballard’s firm is still a lobbying powerhouse across the state and in Washington. He’s been inducted into the University of Florida's Hall of Fame and he and wife Kathryn have become philanthropists and also served as inauguration co-chairs for three governors – Charlie Crist, Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis.
Since launching The Southern Group in 1999, Paul Bradshaw has established his firm as one of the leading lobbying shops in the state. Perennially among the highest-earning firms in Florida, The Southern Group is now running neck and neck with Ballard Partners in a battle for the No. 1 position. A veteran of the Martinez administration who also advised Jeb Bush on policy and continues to assist candidates for elected office, Bradshaw has lived up to the firm’s name by expanding its operations into Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina.
Capital City Consulting has solidified its status as the third-ranking lobbying firm in Florida by earnings in recent years, thanks to the leadership of co-owners Nick Iarossi and Ron LaFace Jr. The two attorneys have capitalized on their state government experience, Iarossi as a staffer in the Florida House and Senate and the state Department of Insurance, and LaFace with the state Department of Education. A key player on their 18-member team is Scott Ross, a gaming, entertainment and regulatory expert who’s so close to Gov. Ron DeSantis that he once was reportedly considered to become3 chief of staff. Ross just got a different promotion, getting named the firm's managing partner this month.
Charlie Crist may be best known for what he once was – a former governor, a former attorney general, a former Republican, and now, a former member of Congress. But he’s hoping that he can garner enough support from voters across the state in November to change the narrative about his past – including failed bids for U.S. Senate – as he challenges Gov. Ron DeSantis, a rising star and potential presidential contender. He’ll need some luck, as DeSantis has dominated in fundraising and consistently led in the polls, although there are some signs of a tightening race.
Ever since Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody took office in 2019 alongside Gov. Ron DeSantis, she has been a reliable partner of the governor. The Republican duo has teamed up to defend the state’s congressional redistricting maps, uphold the Stop WOKE Act and combat retail store theft while also taking on the federal government over vaccine and mask mandates. Moody is up for reelection this year, and will face Democrat Aramis Ayala, a former state attorney, in the November general election.
Manny Diaz Jr. assumed the role of state education commissioner in June, as Gov. Ron DeSantis’ pick to succeed Richard Corcoran. Diaz supported the Parental Rights in Education law – dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law by critics – in the Florida Senate earlier this year, and now will be charged with implementing it. He’ll also oversee the revamping of Florida’s K-12 testing program. A former assistant principal and a college administrator, the Hialeah Republican chaired the Education Choice and Innovation Committee in the Florida House and the Florida Senate Education Committee.
Jimmy Patronis’s portfolio covers everything from insurance and banking regulation to consumer protection and workers compensation to protecting Floridians from fires and overseeing the funeral industry. Patronis, a businessman and former state lawmaker, was appointed to the vacant chief financial officer post by then-Gov. Rick Scott in 2017. One of three members of the Florida Cabinet – and a loyal ally of the governor – Patronis’ department also is tasked with implementing the state’s new property insurance reforms. He’ll face Democrat Adam Hattersley as he seeks reelection in November.
Fresh off an ugly, hard-won Broward County election, her first with opposition and in a newly drawn district, Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book continues to raise the Democrats’ volume of protest against the governor’s agenda in a rising red state. The daughter of a well-known lobbyist, Book has avoided the kind of scandals that rocked her predecessors and pushed winning initiatives forward – although it’s unclear whether she’ll be able to translate that into a Democratic majority. After an encounter with a cyberstalking extortionist, Book sponsored Florida’s latest legislation strengthening standards and penalties for the theft of sexually explicit digital images.
Second-term Democratic state Rep. Fentrice Driskell is going to be leading the minority caucus in the Legislature because of Ramon Alexander’s exit following a sexual harrassment scandal. Driskell is set to have the role for four years, the first person to do so who was elected after term limits were enacted. She’ll be tasked with course-correcting after the leadership change, coordinating races in an election year that seems – surprise – to be slanted towards Republicans and leading the opposition against issues like permitless carry next session.
Ronald Book’s eponymous lobbying firm consistently ranks among the top five in the state in earnings, serving a wide range of high-profile corporate, health care and educational clients with the assistance of key staffers Kelly Mallette and Rana Brown. Book founded the firm in 1987, after holding staff roles in the state Legislature and in the administration of Democrat Bob Graham. A prolific campaign fundraiser, Book saw his daughter, Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book, win a tough primary contest this cycle. He also chairs the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust.
Three years ago, Dean Cannon was tapped to lead the law firm GrayRobinson, whose top-five lobbying shop by earnings is on track to move up the rankings this year. Cannon, who previously served as the firm’s executive vice president and chair of its government affairs practice, also served as speaker of the Florida House from 2010 to 2012 before pivoting back to the private sector. His multifaceted law firm handles a wide array of legal matters apart from government affairs, including land use, bankruptcy and regulatory issues.
Florida Power & Light Co. knows all about power – electrical and political. The subsidiary of NextEra Energy bills itself as the country’s biggest electric utility, including 5.7 million customer accounts in Florida, and is known for its lavish campaign spending and lobbying efforts aimed at swaying government officials. FPL has suffered some setbacks, including a veto of a net-metering bill and revelations that its consultants surveilled a critical newspaper columnist and reportedly steered coverage at a supposedly independent news site. But the utility has largely been successful at raising rates and raking in revenues. It’s led by Eric Silagy, an FPL veteran who also serves as vice chair of the State University System of Florida Board of Governors.
This Republican legislative leadership duo teamed up with Gov. Ron DeSantis to pass a number of significant measures this year, including a 15-week abortion ban, reforms aimed at shoring up the property insurance industry and the Parental Rights in Education law, dubbed “Don’t Say Gay” by critics. Senate President Wilton Simpson and House Speaker Chris Sprowls also delivered for their home districts in the state budget, although they saw the governor slash over $3 billion from the spending plan. While they also made an unprecedented concession in allowing DeSantis to control congressional redistricting, they’re both looking to the next chapter in their careers. Simpson is aiming to flip the state agriculture commissioner post from blue to red, while Sprowls is hosting a podcast and recently joined the advisory board of Protecting Americans Project, which aims to elect Republican prosecutors.
Although dreams of a $233 million development deal with Jaguars owner Shad Khan fell short, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry did secure a public-private partnership to bring a five-star hotel to the riverfront of Florida’s largest city. He reformed the city pension system and committed the found savings toward downtown development. Opting against seeking a congressional seat his final year in office, the former Republican Party chair aims to leave a legacy of capital improvements, from renovating fire stations to pushing for the removal of Confederate monuments.
Mori Hosseini’s influence isn’t simply due to the success of ICI Homes, one of the country’s biggest homebuilders, or his generous campaign contributions. It’s that he’s become an adviser to governors and a key member on powerful boards. As chair of the University of Florida Board of Trustees, he has back-channeled with the DeSantis administration about avoiding online classes during the coronavirus pandemic and hiring the governor’s surgeon general pick, Joseph Ladapo. In 2014, his local newspaper wrote that “no elected official in Volusia or Flagler counties wields more power” – and today, he’s among the most powerful unelected leaders across the state.
As the health care industry wrestled with COVID-19, Mary Mayhew navigated Florida’s hospitals through the increasingly political landscape of care and compliance. The one-time DeSantis appointee, now a top industry lobbyist, started this year assuring everyone that despite a federal and state disagreement over vaccine mandates for employees, hospitals focus on providing critical medical services to anyone in need. More recently she has used her platform to sound the alarm over worsening staff shortages and to applaud partnerships and higher education programs aimed at opening the pipeline.
More tech companies relocated to Florida last year than to any other state – and Mark Wilson takes a lot of the credit. The longtime Florida Chamber of Commerce chief is an architect of a business climate that attracts professionals en masse; he has led state-level political campaigns for legislation to mitigate business-related taxes, shield firms from COVID-19 liability and reform online sales tax. Wilson’s political clout was further affirmed when 37 out of 40 Chamber-endorsed Florida candidates won recent contested primaries.
The national law firm Greenberg Traurig has deep roots in the state, having launched in South Florida in 1967. It remains a key political player here: It’s a top-10 lobbying firm, even as it has operations all across the country and around the globe. Barry Richard, who has been with the firm for over three decades, famously represented George W. Bush’s campaign in the 2000 presidential election recount, and years later represented Democrat Andrew Gillum in a recount in the 2018 gubernatorial election. Richard, who’s also litigation counsel for the The Florida Bar, specializes in commercial litigation, constitutional law and appeals. Colleague Fred E. Karlinsky is a go-to expert on insurance and related regulatory matters, serving as one of the industry’s chief lobbyists in Florida. Karlinsky was an ally of Rick Scott during his time as governor. The firm counts the Seminole Tribe of Florida and AT&T among its notable clients.
Carlos Muñiz ascended to the powerful role of chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court this summer, succeeding Charles T. Canady, who’s staying on the court after finishing up a third term leading the state’s highest court. Muñiz, who was appointed to the court by Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2019, turned heads by leapfrogging his more senior colleague Alan Lawson, who subsequently announced his retirement. Muñiz presides over an increasingly conservative court that now has four of its seven members appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
The former state representative from Neptune Beach was tapped to be Florida’s secretary of state after championing legislative priorities for Gov. Ron DeSantis, including this year’s Stop WOKE act and 15-week abortion ban. Byrd is helming the newly-formed elections police force, which made headlines in August for its role in the arrest of 20 felons for voting in the state despite being disqualified. Their concerns stem from his refusal to say whether President Joe Biden won the 2020 election, his wife’s QAnon connections and his dustups on the House floor with Black legislators, including state Rep. Angie Nixon of Jacksonville.
A few short years ago, a Democrat was nearly elected governor of Florida and Joe Biden believed he could win in the swing state. Now, with Gov. Ron DeSantis putting his stamp on everything, Florida Democrats are increasingly in retreat and out of power. That has put Sarasota state Sen. Joe Gruters, a Donald Trump backer who’s led the state Republican Party since 2019, in an advantageous position. That’s especially true as Florida Democrats are grappling with their own image issues, such as the indictment of Andrew Gillum.
Although lieutenant governors have little real power other than supporting the boss and showing up at press conferences and ribbon-cuttings, they are always a heartbeat away from holding the top job. In Florida, Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez also reflects the political clout of Latinos, especially as the Republican Party keeps making strides with the demographic group. And if Gov. Ron DeSantis wins reelection and then finds himself moving to the White, the former state lawmaker from Miami-Dade would undoubtedly be ready to finish out his term.
Tom Grady, who was appointed to the state Board of Education in 2015 by then-Gov. Rick Scott, was reappointed to the board in 2021 by Gov. Ron DeSantis. The former one-term state representative from Naples has blasted school districts for trying to impose mask mandates during the coronavirus pandemic and drafted the board’s ban on teaching “critical race theory.” The wealthy securities attorney previously led the state-run Citizens Property Insurance and the Florida Office of Financial Regulation. Last year, Grady won a court case in which he was accused of failing to obtain federal permits for building a dock and boat lifts in the Florida Keys.
Rubin, Turnbull & Associates, which is ranked as one of the top 10 lobbying firms in Florida by revenue, is led by Heather Turnbull and William Rubin, who founded the company in 1992. Rubin currently serves as its chair, while Turnbull, who has been at the firm for two decades, is its managing partner. The firm, which raked in more than $7 million last year, is known for its presence in South Florida and its work with health care clients, including HCA Healthcare and Nomi Health.
Last year, Seminole Chair Marcellus W. Osceola Jr. scored the tribe’s exclusive, multitrillion-dollar sports betting deal with Gov. Ron DeSantis. Osceola, whose grandfather was the first Seminole chairman, has since steered millions in donations to DeSantis's re-election bid – cementing the influence of the 4,200-member tribe, a pioneer of Indian gaming. The negotiator behind tribal deals is longtime General Counsel Jim Shore, who masterminded the Seminoles’ landmark 2007 acquisition of the Hard Rock Cafe franchise for nearly $1 billion. Shore, the first Seminole to practice law, was inducted into the American Gaming Association’s Hall of Fame last year.
U.S. Sugar is one of Florida’s most influential companies, supporting efforts to elect local candidates, donating millions of dollars to state candidates and supporting federal candidates through political action committees and contributions by its employees. The Clewiston-based company, one of the country’s biggest sugar cane producers and an orange juice producer as well, is led by Robert Buker, while veteran executive Robert Coker is its point person handling governmental matters. The company faces some headwinds, however, with environmentalists criticizing its practices and Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoing legislation that critics said would benefit sugar cane farming at the expense of Everglades restoration.
The brothers Alfonso and Jose “Pepe” Fanjul established their sugar cane refining company, Florida Crystals, in South Florida in 1960 after fleeing Cuba, where their father’s sugar holdings were confiscated by the Castro regime. Alfonso, the company’s chairman and CEO, and Pepe, its vice chair, chief operating officer and president, have built up a vast new sugar empire over the decades while also becoming political kingmakers, notably playing a key role in propelling Marco Rubio to the U.S. Senate. The sprawling Palm Beach County operation also has a number of sugar refineries across the country and overseas.
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, who has been in office for nearly two decades, was thrust into the national spotlight in 2016 when he responded to the deadly mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub and guided his city through the aftermath. The Democrat has invested in youth programs and championed criminal justice reforms while also recruiting tech entrepreneurs, supporting small businesses and revitalizing the downtown of Florida’s fourth-largest city. Dyer also partnered with Orange County Mayor Jerry L. Demings, most recently in a push for a one-cent county sales tax increase to fund transportation upgrades. Demings, a trailblazer who became the first Black person in the role when he took office in 2018, previously served as police chief for Orlando and held the same position in Orange County. His wife, U.S. Rep. Val Demings, is mounting a competitive challenge against U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.
Nearly one of four voters chose Jane Castor to lead Tampa, and three years later her approval rating stands strong. Under her watch, Tampa dealt with the same issues as other growing cities – an unexpected pandemic and rampant inflation – but it also benefited from three professional sports championships and a developing tech-hub reputation. Friction between city council members and the former police chief – also the city’s first openly gay mayor – led to new processes for accountability and transparency. Castor’s latest plans include increasing affordable housing and city pay.
The many elderly individuals in nursing homes and long-term facilities who were hard hit by the first year of the coronavirus pandemic opened Florida’s eyes to the great need for better paid and specialty staff. Emmett Reed champions this cause among state lawmakers, and his efforts this spring – blessed by Gov. Ron DeSantis – led to a 7% increase in state funding, modernized staffing standards that bolster services, such as respiratory therapy and mental health counseling, and extended COVID-19 liability protections for those in the trenches.
When Debbie Wasserman Schultz first ran for office, Florida’s governor was a Democrat. Decades later, she’s still representing South Florida, most recently winning the primary to run for her 10th term in Congress. The Weston Democrat still draws significant financial support in an increasingly red state and often criticizes policies dear to Republicans, vowing to fight for abortion rights and criticizing state COVID-19 policies. Her latest win involves securing federal funds for an agricultural reservoir expected to protect the Everglades and drinking water for millions.
The Diaz-Balart family has long been dominant in South Florida politics, and its current standard-bearer is U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a congressman since 2003. The family story begins in Cuba, where Mario’s aunt, Mirta, was once married to a young Fidel Castro, whose regime infuriated the Diaz-Balarts. Diaz-Balart is on track to win reelection again this fall. The Republican congressman is also an ally of former President Donald Trump, supporting his designation of Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism in 2021.
If Donald Trump runs for president again in 2024, insiders say veteran political consultant Susie Wiles could manage the campaign. Trump insiders described her as “the rock” who “doesn’t stir up trouble” and “a supremely talented woman in a male-dominated arena” in a recent CNN story about her fit for the role. Wiles, who helped Trump win Florida in 2016 and 2020, also assisted Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis in each politician’s first gubernatorial campaign, although she was later ousted from DeSantis’ inner circle. In February, she joined the national consulting firm Mercury.
COVID-19 and rising inflation pose special challenges for the state’s older residents – and Florida AARP Director Jeff Johnson has got their back. As head of the organization representing over-50 Floridians – more than 40% of the population – Johnson has lately advocated for legislation that expands long-term care options and championed employment resources targeted to seniors. Under Johnson’s leadership, Florida AARP recently launched a statewide voter education campaign in advance of the midterm elections. Johnson has also opposed nursing home care funding cuts, and his organization released a recent poll showing Gov. Ron DeSantis with only a narrow lead over challenger Charlie Crist.
Peter Schorsch started as an unknown St. Petersburg blogger. Now he’s publisher of Florida Politics – a major political news website – and has an outsize influence on the state’s media ecosystem. He doesn’t define himself as a journalist even as he regularly breaks news on Twitter and by text alert. In fact, he broke the story of the Mar-a-Lago raid, scooping state and national media. And yes, Schorsch still weathers persistent “pay for play” accusations. But there’s no doubt that as a chronicler of power, he’s become a power unto himself.
Eric Eikenberg won a major victory this year when Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed legislation that critics said would boost the sugar industry but hinder environmental restoration efforts in the Everglades. Eikenberg leads the Everglades Foundation, whose $10 million-plus annual operating budget goes toward protecting and restoring the River of Grass. A Palmetto Bay resident who previously served as chief of staff in the Crist administration, Eikenberg has maintained political friendships in both political parties. His organization also closed the chapter on its confrontation with its former chief scientist, reaching a settlement recently after claiming confidential information was stolen.
Dominic Calabro’s Florida TaxWatch keeps a close watch on government spending in Florida, examining proposed state budgets, assessing the impact of various industries and educational investments, and identifying “budget turkeys” that it recommends cutting. This year, Calabro applauded Gov. Ron DeSantis for vetoing 71 of 166 “turkeys,” saving hundreds of millions of dollars. Calabro has spent four decades leading the organization, which bills itself as an “independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit taxpayer research institute & government watchdog” and “the eyes and ears of Florida taxpayers.”
Less than a year after being hired to the top editorial post at the Miami Herald, Monica Richardson oversaw the newspaper’s exhaustive coverage of the deadly Champlain Towers South condominium collapse – recognized this year with a Pulitzer Prize for breaking news. A former senior managing editor at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Richardson is the first Black executive editor at the McClatchy publication that covers South Florida. Richardson also serves as executive editor of el Nuevo Herald, the Miami Herald’s Spanish-language sister publication.
State Rep. Randy Fine has a reputation for feuding with fellow politicians and making controversial statements – including his recent tweet that President Joe Biden would “learn why the Second Amendment was written in the first place” if he tries “to take our guns.” But it’s not all talk for the South Brevard County Republican. A staunch ally of Gov. Ron DeSantis, Fine introduced the legislation stripping Disney of its self-governing authority after the company criticized the Parental Rights in Education legislation, which critics dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” act.
Over two decades of explosive growth in telecommunications services, Joe York has overseen AT&T’s Florida and Caribbean division. York has led the company’s investment of billions in wireless and broadband infrastructure – as well as substantial lobbying for telecom-friendly legislation. He also sits on the state’s board of education, as well as the board of Enterprise Florida, the state’s premier business development agency, for which he recently served as vice chair alongside Gov. Ron DeSantis.
When Dean Trantalis was elected mayor of Fort Lauderdale in 2018, he made history as the first openly gay person to win the leadership post, which he took in a landslide. The Trantalis & Associates attorney and former city commissioner, who was reelected for a second term in 2020, openly mulled a congressional bid for the seat of retiring U.S. Rep. Ted Deutsch. The Democrat ultimately opted against a campaign in order to continue focusing on fixing up his city’s transportation infrastructure.
In Ken Welch’s first year as St. Petersburg’s mayor, he has made clear he’s not new to public service or politics. The former Pinellas County commissioner delved into redevelopment plans for the Tropicana Field site, a sensitive undertaking given the Black community displaced by the stadium’s original build. He scratched the plans and launched a new request for proposals. The Democratic also rejected an expansion of the Moffitt Cancer Center, saying it lacked enough affordable housing. He’s also under scrutiny now for a former staffer’s allegations of a toxic work environment.
Since its launch in 1971, Walt Disney World Resorts has been not only a major tourist destination in Florida but also an influential political force, thanks to the many jobs it has created, its lavish lobbying expenditures and the campaign contributions flowing from its executives and its political action committee. Yet this year, the decision by Disney World to break its silence and openly criticize the Parental Rights in Education legislation – dubbed “Don’t Say Gay” by critics – spurred Gov. Ron DeSantis to strip the company of its self-governing status. Jeff Vahle, a 30-year Disney veteran who took over as president in 2020, is at the center of the standoff, along with the more behind-the-scenes lobbyist Adam Babington. Babington, who has spent over a decade at Disney, previously held a similar role with the Florida Chamber of Commerce.
With law enforcement tactics under scrutiny nationwide, Steve Zona is settling in as president of Florida’s Fraternal Order of Police Lodge, America’s third-largest state police association. Zona most recently headed his local Jacksonville FOP lodge, where he negotiated a 21% officer pay raise and spearheaded creation of a health insurance fund, garnering FOP’s 2020 Member of the Year Award. Now Zona is tasked with overseeing a political program that advocates for statewide legislation bolstering pay, benefits, safety and legal protections for his 30,000 members.
As chancellor of the State University System of Florida, Marshall M. Criser III oversees a sprawling higher education system that serves over 300,000 students at 12 public universities, including the University of Florida, Florida State University and the University of South Florida. Criser, who previously served as president of AT&T Florida, has been chancellor since 2014. In June, Criser applauded funding increases for higher education in the latest state budget, including a 12.8% increase in base operating funds for his university system. Later that month, he announced his resignation, effective at the end of the year. State Sen. Ray Rodrigues, who declined to run for reelection this year, is set to succeed Criser in the post.
Long before Gov. Ron DeSantis clashed with Disney World, John Morgan had his own run-in with the powerful entertainment resort over an injury that left his brother paralyzed – and it put him on the path to becoming a personal injury lawyer. Morgan, with his “For the People” tagline, is now a political heavyweight himself, with Orlando magazine deeming him the most powerful person in the city. A wealthy Democratic donor, Morgan also was a key driver behind the legalization of medical marijuana in Florida and passage of the state’s minimum wage constitutional amendment.
In just over a decade, this CEO has grown an $8 billion Florida-focused insurance company into a diversified $27 billion enterprise serving most of the nation. By all accounts, Patrick Geraghty has done so by beating the drum for health solutions that engage patients where they are – more often that is online or in overlooked communities – and expanding their access to medical care. Spurred on by the need for increased services for Obamacare reforms and the pandemic homebound, Geraghty’s company has embraced evolving technology.
Investing in health care businesses that end up acquired by publicly traded companies is the life work of Mike Fernandez, a self-professed risk taker. In recent years he has also focused on fixing perceived flaws in Florida’s political system, backing the failed campaign to open up primary elections to all voters regardless of party. A vocal critic of former President Donald Trump, the steadfast political donor and Cuban-born board member for the American Business Immigration Coalition, recently parted ways with the Republican Party over its stance against immigration reform.
George N. Meros Jr. is a go-to attorney for any legal matter that intersects with government and politics. The Tallahassee lawyer, who joined the 300-attorney Florida firm Shutts & Bowen in 2020, has argued cases before the state Supreme Court and in federal court, lobbies on behalf of health care providers, advises clients on regulatory matters and defended the Florida House’s last redistricting plan. Known for representing prominent Florida Republicans, Meros also on behalf of the DeSantis administration defended legislation requiring felons to pay off legal fees in order to vote.
One of Florida’s wealthiest residents, Norman Braman is the owner of the Braman Motorcars luxury auto dealerships, the former co-owner of the Philadelphia Eagles and a noted art collector. But the billionaire businessman also is active in the political sphere. He helped recall then-Miami Mayor Carlos Alvarez in 2011 and pledged to put $10 million toward U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign in 2016. More recently, he has supported Gov. Ron DeSantis and Rubio’s Florida First Project as both seek reelection this year.
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump has represented the families of police violence victims including Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. The Tallahassee lawyer’s work has put him at the center of the Black Lives Matter movement, often partnering with fellow civil rights leaders like the Rev. Al Sharpton, who calls Crump “Black America’s attorney general.” Named one of Time’s Most Influential People of 2021 and the subject of a new Netflix documentary, Crump has also advocated for clean drinking water in Flint, Michigan, and taken aim at discriminatory mortgage practices.
Brent Burns heads JM Family Enterprises, a Deerfield Beach-based automotive empire ranked by Forbes as the nation’s 17th-largest private company, with $18 billion in revenue. Burns, who has held various positions with JM since 2000, oversees the world’s largest independent Toyota distributor as well as financing, training, consulting and franchise businesses. As CEO, Burns has overseen JM’s partnership with Florida Atlantic University and the acquisition of Home Franchise Concepts, a diverse suite of franchise brands.
Former President Donald Trump may face Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2024 – and if either one makes it to the White House, it’ll be a boon for Stephen Ross. The Miami Dolphins owner has backed both leading Republican politicians, donating a six-figure sum to DeSantis just this year and winning support for a sales tax exemption for tickets to Formula One races at his stadium. Ross, who like Trump made it big as a real estate developer in New York, is now expanding his Related Companies portfolio in South Florida.
After a decade in various leadership roles with Associated Industries of Florida, a nonprofit business coalition, Brewster Bevis became CEO this year – and wasted no time in lobbying state politicians against proposed credit card fee changes. Political advocacy is familiar territory for Bevis, whose resume includes working in Congress, at the U.S. Department of Labor and as a George W. Bush appointee. The 9th-generation Floridian currently leads AIF’s support for Republicans in the midterm elections while championing legislation like Gov. Ron DeSantis’s gas tax holiday.
Marion Hammer announced her retirement this summer after four decades advocating tirelessly for gun rights in Florida, including the passage of the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law. The National Rifle Association’s top lobbyist in the state transitioned to a new role as a national adviser for the NRA, while handing the reins to Art Thomm, another veteran NRA lobbyist. Hammer’s transition came just weeks after Gov. Ron DeSantis pledged to pass legislation that would let Floridians carry firearms without a permit – and she still hopes to push for it next year.
State Rep. Anna Eskamani isn’t a household name like U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, but she’s the closest thing the state has to a progressive icon. The Orlando Democrat, first elected in 2018, has pushed for arts and culture funding, environmental protections and affordable housing – and is adept at garnering news coverage even though her party is in the minority. She drew attention recently for her endorsement for governor of U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, a former Republican, and is among the names floated as his possible running mate.
Christina Pushaw transitioned to a campaign position for Gov. Ron DeSantis in August, following a head-turning, 15-month stint as his press secretary. The unfiltered aide relentlessly fires up far right voters and aggressively attacks journalists, even though it got her booted off Twitter temporarily. “She is the most powerful woman in Florida,” a Republican consultant said in a New Yorker profile of DeSantis. “Ron loves her, because she says things that even he won’t say.” Pushaw had already mounted a preemptive strike against such “national media” profiles, dismissing them as “forgettable Frankenstein monsters of regurgitated anecdotes.”
The coronavirus pandemic notwithstanding, Florida continues to attract legions of visitors and transplants – and hospitality is now a $111 billion industry, the state’s largest. Carol Dover has nurtured this expansion over three decades as head of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, lobbying on behalf of 10,000 members who now confront the twin challenges of inflation and labor shortages. Dover previously honed her policy skills working in the Martinez administration.
Dana Young has navigated Florida’s tourism industry through the coronavirus pandemic, teaming up with Gov. Ron DeSantis to encourage in-state travel and to secure increased marketing funds to bring in more visitors from outside the state. DeSantis named the former Tampa state lawmaker, who previously served as majority leader in the Florida House, to the role in 2019, and her efforts leading the taxpayer-funded public-private tourism program and boosting tourism from other states earned her a pay raise this summer.
In 18 years heading the Florida Family Policy Council – a state offshoot of Focus on the Family – Orlando attorney John Stemberger has been at the conservative center of Florida's culture-war debates, from a proposed constitutional amendment opposing same-sex marriage to current abortion-restriction efforts in the wake of the federal Dobbs decision. Under Stemberger’s leadership, FFPC has hosted presidential and gubernatorial candidates, organized a prayer rally for the Republican National Convention, campaigned to increase voter turnout and celebrated legislative wins like 2020's parental-consent abortion law.
Broward County CommissionBroward County Commissioner Jared Moskowitz is likely heading to Washington after easily winning the pivotal Democratic primary for the South Florida congressional seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch. Moskowitz breezed past criticism that he was too close with Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who appointed him to the Broward County Commission last year and, before that, to lead the Florida Division of Emergency Management. Moskowitz, who also served in the Florida House and as a city commissioner in Parkland, capitalized on his higher name recognition in the primary.
Exponential population growth is putting more pressure on hospitals serving Florida’s most vulnerable populations. Justin Senior advocates for these safety-net medical facilities, most on the frontline of the COVID-19 crisis. As former director of the state Medicaid system’s transition to a mostly privately provided operation and past head of the state agency regulating all health-care institutions, Senior sees the issues from multiple viewpoints. He reminds state leaders that economic investment in health care now is vital for the future stability of the entire industry.
Shahid “Shad” Khan has enjoyed stunning success as a businessman, turning an auto parts company into a manufacturing empire. Yet the billionaire businessman has had less luck with the Jacksonville Jaguars, the NFL team he purchased a little over a decade ago. Khan, who was born in Pakistan, is also a major real estate developer in Jacksonville, where his riverfront project featuring a five-star hotel is advancing – and potentially expanding with the purchase of more city land.
With back-to-back Stanley Cup wins, Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeffrey Vinik is a cheerleader for both the team and his community. The former hedge fund magnate has become one of Tampa’s most prominent philanthropists since buying the Lightning in 2010, while reversing the team’s teetering fortunes. The Boston transplant has since invested $3 billion in a downtown Tampa revitalization project, $80 million to renovate Amalie Arena and $1.5 million to build South Tampa’s new Jewish Community Center, along with supporting myriad community organizations.
Desmond Meade was the driving force behind 2018’s Amendment 4, which provided 1.4 million Floridians with felony convictions a pathway to vote. While state legislation was amended to require former felons to first pay any fines and fees, limiting the amendment’s impact, Meade has seen other states follow Florida’s lead. The civil rights leader, who once struggled with drug addiction and homelessness, had his own civil rights largely restored last fall, including being able to serve on a jury or run for elected office.
While many CEOs have the ear of Gov. Ron DeSantis, Shane Strum has a personal connection: Prior to assuming leadership of Broward Health last year, Strum served as DeSantis's chief of staff. The Broward native, previously chief operating officer of Memorial Healthcare in Hollywood, now manages a $1.2 billion budget at one of the nation's largest public health systems. With abundant connections in Broward and Tallahassee and experience on both sides of health policy, Strum has plenty of support as he tackles staff shortages and other COVID-era challenges.
After a long career in state government, including as deputy chief of staff in the Jeb Bush administration, Patricia Levesque has been seeking to reform education policy in Florida through her position as executive director of the Foundation for Florida’s Future, an education nonprofit that she has run since 2007. The charter school advocate also leads ExcelinEd, a Tallahassee-based school choice advocacy organization founded and chaired by Bush. She recently criticized the state’s dismal reading scores for 3rd graders, calling the decline “troubling.”
Like many tourist destinations, Universal Orlando Resort is looking to bounce back after taking a hit early on during the coronavirus pandemic – and it has an experienced executive leading the effort in Mark Woodbury. The sprawling resort is just one piece of Woodbury’s international portfolio at Universal Parks & Resorts, part of Comcast Corp. A licensed architect, Woodbury is looking to add to existing “Harry Potter” and “Jurassic Park” attractions, with new sites tied to “How to Train Your Dragon” and Super Nintendo in the works.
Marva Johnson is an influential player in the telecommunications sphere in Florida and a number of nearby states, having spent more than six years as a key executive at Charter Communications. The Florida-based executive has argued recently that states should help cover the cost of replacing utility poles, which are critical for the expansion of broadband infrastructure into underserved areas. She served on the state Board of Education, is a board member of Enterprise Florida and co-chaired then Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis’ Advisory Committee on Education and Workforce Development.
Bill Herrle has led the Florida branch of the National Federation of Independent Business for a decade and a half. The Tallahassee-based backer of small and independent businesses has been a supporter of Gov. Ron DeSantis too, bestowing him with NFIB’s Guardian of Small Business award last fall for “creating an environment that allows Florida’s small businesses to succeed.” This year, Herrle called on the governor to veto a tax overhaul that he said would hurt small businesses and applauded the signing of a homeowner insurance reform law.
Todd Jones heads a supermarket empire so popular, its deli subs have their own Twitter account. Jones has presided over a strategic expansion into new markets and new brands for Publix, the country's largest employee-owned company, which had 2021 sales of $48 billion throughout the Southeast. Last year, Jones raised the brand’s profile by negotiating a lucrative deal with Gov. Ron DeSantis to distribute COVID-19 vaccines to seniors at Florida Publix locations – but stirred controversy by declining to offer COVID-19 shots for the under-5 set.
Since Florida voters overwhelmingly approved an amendment allowing medical marijuana in 2016, Trulieve has established itself as the state’s largest operator in the industry. Kim Rivers, who has led the company since 2015, reached a new milestone last fall when Trulieve acquired Harvest Health & Recreation Inc., a major competitor in Florida, and became the biggest cannabis retailer in the nation. Rivers, who previously worked as a mergers and acquisitions attorney, is pursuing a regional hub approach as the company expands its footprint across the country.
The Florida Retail Federation’s Scott Shalley notched key wins this year, from a law aiming to help prosecutors crack down on criminal organizations that target retail stores to a measure that established a two-week tax-free shopping period for items needed for hurricane season – even pet supplies. Shalley, who has led the trade association since 2017, has embraced Gov. Ron DeSantis’ emphasis on keeping businesses open during the coronavirus pandemic. FRF advocates on behalf of some 270,000 retail operations in the state.
One half of one of Florida’s Republican power couples, Al Cárdenas has long been one of the most prominent Latinos in state and national politics, having served in several key roles in the Reagan and the first Bush administrations and, years later, as an adviser on Jeb Bush’s unsuccessful presidential campaign. The attorney is also a conservative commentator, just like his wife, Ana Navarro, who often weighs in on national political issues on CNN and as a co-host of ABC’s “The View.”
The Florida Police Benevolent Association, which represents more than 36,000 members across the state, has advocated for law enforcement officers since the organization’s formation in 1972. This year the union pushed for a larger homestead exemption for law enforcement and other government employees, increased retirement benefits and pay hikes. The PBA, led by John Kazanjian, saw its longtime executive director, Matt Puckett, depart for a lobbying job with Rutledge Ecenia this summer.
The Florida Solar Energy Installers Association this year spearheaded an effort to block a net-metering bill that could have paved the way for higher bills for utility customers and more charges for households with solar panels. Gov. Ron DeSantis cited the costs to customers in vetoing the bill, while FSEIA’s Justin Vandenbroeck praised the move for allowing “our industry to continue growing and give more homeowners in our state the chance to lower their electric bills with solar.” Vandebroek is also executive vice president of development with Maitland-based esaSolar.
Since its founding two decades ago, Step Up For Students has become a major component of Florida’s education system. The state-approved nonprofit administers scholarships for low- and middle-income students funded in part through tax-deductible donations. It has thrived in a state where policymakers embraced school choice and public support for private schools. With revenues of nearly $1 billion annually, the nonprofit was ranked by Forbes as the 13th largest charity in the country. Step Up For Students was founded by John Kirtley, a longtime school choice advocate, and has been led since 2008 by former educator Doug Tuthill.
Richard Corcoran resigned as Gov. Ron DeSantis’ education commissioner at the end of April, moving to Continental Strategy, a lobbying firm with offices in Washington, D.C., and Coral Gables and expertise in Latin American and Caribbean affairs. Corcoran, who oversaw a $26 billion budget at the Florida Department of Education, served as speaker of the Florida House from 2016 to 2018 and was a key aide to Marco Rubio when the U.S. senator was speaker of the Florida House. Corcoran initially backed Adam Putnam for governor in 2018, but changed course and got behind DeSantis.
Alexander P. Heckler founded LSN Partners in 2010 after stops at two other politically engaged firms, Greenberg Traurig and Shutts & Bowen. The bipartisan consulting firm – LSN stands for Local, State, National – has offices in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Tallahassee and Washington, D.C. Heckler, an attorney who’s based in Fort Lauderdale, also heads up the affiliated law firm LSN Law, P.A. The Democratic activist actively supported President Joe Biden’s successful candidacy in 2020.
Adora Obi Nweze was first elected in 2000 to lead the Florida branch of the NAACP, and has spent decades battling for voting rights, criminal justice reform and improved access to health care. In recent months, Nweze has called for federal investigations into racially motivated hate crimes, criticized the state’s congressional redistricting plan and celebrated a federal court ruling overturning state limits on drop boxes and third-party voter registration. The former Miami-Dade Public Schools administrator is also a member of the National Board of Directors of the NAACP.
From “Don’t Say Gay” to a proposal to reduce teaching credentials, Gov. Ron DeSantis is giving Florida Education Association President Andrew Spar plenty to, well, spar over. Spar represents the 150,000 professionals who comprise the state’s largest labor union, navigating an increasingly politicized educational landscape amid a teacher exodus, low pay and pandemic learning loss. Previously, as leader of his Volusia local, the onetime music teacher negotiated 15 contracts as well as a merger that led to the creation of Volusia United Educators.
Under Alphonso Mayfield’s dozen-year leadership, SEIU Florida Public Services Union has expanded its reach and influence, increasing membership by roughly 10% annually; the union now represents 20,000 workers across eight counties. Mayfield has additionally grown the union’s political operation, promoting a progressive agenda in partnership with a growing number of labor and community organizations. Mayfield also shapes policy as a vice chair of the Florida Democratic Party.
Although Florida is a “right to work” state where labor unions face a more challenging environment, Florida AFL-CIO President Mike Williams makes the most of his opportunities. Williams, an outspoken advocate of increased worker protections during the coronavirus pandemic, endorsed Charlie Crist’s gubernatorial campaign in June. After starting out as a construction electrician apprentice, Williams moved up the union ranks to become the business manager of IBEW 177 in Jacksonville and president of the Florida Building Trades Council before assuming his current position in 2009.
Javier Correoso was promoted in January to a new position at Uber, where he now oversees policy and communications for the ride-booking company across a multi-state region in the southern United States. The Miami resident, who has been with Uber for over six years, has helped the company adapt throughout the coronavirus pandemic. Correoso brings plenty of political and policy experience to his role, having served previously as an adviser to U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign and as a congressional chief of staff.
Justin Sayfie isn’t just a well-connected lobbyist and lawyer who served as a key aide to then-Gov. Jeb Bush and adviser to then-President Donald Trump. He’s also the founding father of Florida’s new media landscape as the brainchild behind Sayfie Review, the veteran political news aggregation site. He joined Ballard Partners, one of the state’s top lobbying firms, in 2015 as head of its Fort Lauderdale office, and now works in the firm’s Washington, D.C. office.
Early on in the coronavirus pandemic, CDR Health pivoted nimbly to deliver personal protective equipment and other pandemic-related supplies to Floridians and became a go-to provider for COVID-19 testing and vaccinations – stepping up when national pharmacy chains were moving too slowly for the state’s liking. The efforts were spearheaded by Tina Vidal-Duart, the CEO of CDR Health and an executive vice president of its parent company, CDR Maguire, the Miami-based engineering and emergency management firm.
Pat Bainter has had such a successful career as a Republican political consultant in Florida that he was once dubbed the “most influential man in Florida GOP politics you don't know” by the Naples Daily News, which called him “as sort of a Wizard of Oz in state politics.” To be sure, Bainter’s unorthodox tactics have garnered scrutiny in recent years, thanks to the Gainesville operative’s alleged role in a state Senate ghost candidate scheme – although he’s emerged unscathed from scandal before.
Ryan Tyson, now a veteran political consultant, was a pollster and political strategist for Associated Industries of Florida, where he honed his expertise in data analysis. Over the years, he rightly inhabited the mantle of “smartest guy in the room” when it comes to reading the political tea leaves, so much so that he’s become the inside man for Gov. Ron DeSantis’ 2022 reelection campaign. He also heads up Let’s Preserve the American Dream, a Tallahassee-based group that suffered some recent bad press for its alleged role in the ongoing “ghost candidate” scandal, although he has denied any wrongdoing.
In August, Josh Weinstein took the helm of Miami-based Carnival Corp., known for its Carnival Cruise Line business and other cruise line brands that make it the world’s largest such operator by capacity. The executive, who has been with Carnival for two decades and moved up from the position of chief operations officer, succeeded Arnold Donald, who transitioned to a role as vice chair. Weinstein is tasked with helping the company rebound after the coronavirus pandemic caused cancellations and required new safety protocols.
Jason Liberty became president and chief executive officer of Royal Caribbean Group in January, taking the top post after serving with the cruise line company since 2015 in several key roles, most recently as chief financial officer. Liberty is leading Royal Caribbean, which has one of the largest fleets in the cruise business, into a new era after the industry was rocked by the coronavirus pandemic. He’ll continue to vie with rival Carnival Corp., which is also based in Miami and had its own leadership transition this summer.
The Equal Ground Education Fund and Action Fund, a Black-led civic organization aiming to register and turn out voters, was a driving force behind a lawsuit against Florida’s congressional redistricting plan on the grounds that it reduces representation of Black residents in the state. When the Florida Supreme Court kept the map in place, Equal Ground’s Jasmine Burney-Clark blasted the “complete disregard for the Florida Constitution” and pledged to keep fighting. The Orlando resident has also served as an adviser to the NAACP and led the nonprofit Civic Engagement Table.
It’s a new era in space, with rising commercial competition and the U.S. Space Force now protecting the space domain. As NASA adapts to the new reality, it has a veteran government official at the controls in former U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson. Nelson, who once chaired the U.S. House of Representatives’ Space Subcommittee, was sworn in as NASA administrator last year. Among his goals are to send Americans back to the moon and to prepare for the retirement of the International Space Station.
Correction: This has post has been updated with the latest annual revenue for JM Family Enterprises.