Kate Bradshaw, Author at Florida Politics - Page 2 of 3

Kate Bradshaw

Kate Bradshaw is a Florida-based journalist, writer and editor. She is a former staff writer at the Tampa Tribune news/politics editor at Creative Loafing Tampa Bay.

#11 on list of Tampa Bay’s Most Powerful Politicians — Ken Welch

It’s no wonder Ken Welch is Pinellas County Commission chair (again) this year.

First elected in 2000 and later re-elected four times, Welch is thoughtful and incredibly detail-oriented. It’s clear his deliberative style has contributed to the board’s collaborative, seemingly nonpartisan approach to hammering out policy.

“Commissioner Welch is a Chairman’s chairman. A grounded statesman and an intelligent, respected, leader who loves his community and his constituents. When he talks, we all listen,” said Southern Strategy Group’s Laura Boehmer.

Contrast that with their counterparts across the bay, where the partisan divide is much more obvious.

Not that he’s afraid to wear his politics on his sleeve. Welch went to bat for St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman last year as he faced what at times seemed like an insurmountable challenge from former Mayor Rick Baker, a Republican. He’s also vocal on Democratic causes like worker rights, transit and the environment, and doesn’t miss an opportunity to call out Gov. Rick Scott and state lawmakers when they try to strip power from cities and counties.

With the recent passing of Commissioner John Morroni (a Republican whom Welch said, “had a true passion for serving the community” and “put people first”) Democrats now have a 4-2 majority on the commission. As chair, he can place priority on progressive policies if he chooses — and in the wake of the Parkland shooting, a proposed assault-style weapons ban was certainly on the agenda.

So far this year, Welch has led the charge on rejuvenating the county’s Small Business Enterprise program, which aims to connect local women- and minority-owned businesses with opportunities to contract with the county as well as the school board. He’s sought greater accountability for CareerSource Pinellas after evidence of gross mismanagement came to light earlier this year.

Welch is up for re-election in 2020. If he wishes to stay on the board for another term, he probably wouldn’t have any problems doing so; he was automatically re-elected in 2016 due to lack of opposition. Yet he recently confirmed rumors about an interest in running for Mayor of St. Petersburg when Kriseman terms out in 2021. And it isn’t the first time he’s been talked about as a possible contender for that post.

Talk about a jump in rank; Welch came in No. 23 on last year’s list.

For a complete explanation of how this list was created and who made up the panel that amassed it, please read here.

#12 on list of Tampa Bay’s Most Powerful Politicians — Janet Cruz

First elected to her Tampa state House seat in 2010, Janet Cruz served as House Minority Leader over the 2017 and 2018 legislative sessions. She’s the first Latina to serve in that capacity.

While Democratic leaders in the Republican-dominated Florida Legislature often have little influence, Cruz has managed to have some sway.

She has been effective at getting her party’s message across in the critical months leading up to the 2018 midterms.

When Florida Democratic Party Chair Stephen Bittel was accused of inappropriate behavior toward female staffers in November 2017, Cruz was the first to issue a statement condemning his actions. Following a report dealing with multiple allegations of sexual misconduct in the Capitol, namely against former Republican Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater, Cruz said she was “horrified.”

At the start of the 2018 Session, Cruz also called out House Speaker Richard Corcoran on a bill targeting so-called sanctuary cities.

She’s terming out at the end of this year, but she’s far from finished.

In 2017, she announced a run for Hillsborough County Commission. But Cruz dropped that bid in April and then jumped into the race for state Senate District 18 against Sen. Dana Young, the incumbent Republican elected to the newly-drawn seat in 2016.

Cruz cited a desire to pass laws that may prevent mass shootings like the one that occurred in Parkland as a key reason for jumping in and criticized Young for missing three votes on amendments to the gun bill the legislature was debating earlier this year.

“I love our community and I am fed up with lawmakers who put the interests of the NRA, the for-profit school industry, and insurance companies before the people they represent,” Cruz said in a news release heralding her candidacy.

SD 18 went for Hillary Clinton in 2016, but winning wouldn’t exactly be easy. For one, Young is a well-funded Republican incumbent with moderate sensibilities not too far off from those of the district, which runs from South Tampa up through northwestern Hillsborough County. Plus, some Democrats aren’t happy that her entrance into the race prompted Bob Buesing (who had also been Young’s Dem opponent in 2016) to exit.

Given her track record in the House — and her tendency to gravitate toward leadership roles, should she and a handful of fellow Democrats manage to flip the Senate in November, good things would likely be in store.

Cruz Rifkin climbed to No. 12 from the No. 19 spot last year.

Joe Henderson‘s take: “Probably could have easily won Hillsborough County Commission race, but Parkland massacre set her eye on Young’s Senate seat.”

For a complete explanation of how this list was created and who made up the panel that amassed it, please read here.

#13 on list of Tampa Bay’s Most Powerful Politicians — Sandra Murman

Current Hillsborough County Commission Chair Sandra Murman was first elected to her District 1 seat in 2010. Her district includes Ruskin, Gibsonton, parts of South Tampa, Town ‘n’ Country and Keystone.

At the dais, Murman, a Republican, has taken some credit for steering the transit debate in 2016 after the Go Hillsborough initiative tanked — even though her handling of the issue in 2015 cost Murman her status as chair the following year.

In late 2017, a majority of commissioners elected to give her another go at chairmanship this year. With that came a huge pay bump as well as a number of ceremonial duties.

The former state lawmaker is widely seen as a moderating force at the dais, which can potentially result in good policy for the county.

“Sandy Murman’s lead Hillsborough County through a period of extraordinary growth — she thoughtfully bridges party divides to make things happen,” said Southern Strategy Group’s Seth McKeel.

Her role in the Confederate monument debate was one of a catalyst. Last summer, as debate raged over whether to keep a controversial Jim Crow-era statue in place outside a county courthouse annex in downtown Tampa, Murman proposed asking voters what to do via referendum. While she had at one point against removing the monument, she changed her vote after talking to her friend Tom Scarritt, who offered a handsome sum to help cover moving it to a private site.

That’s not the only aspect of her record that paints Murman as a peacemaker. Her recent vote to expand the waiting period for buying a gun in Hillsborough County suggests an independent streak — or at very least a savvy one.

Fundraising has been relatively slow for Murman in recent months, and as the Tampa Bay Times’ William March noted in May, it’s possibly the reason she chose to finish her term through 2020 rather than vie for District 7 (even though she denied this multiple times previously).

“I respect her for the work we have done together on the Early Learning Coalition and for her strong advocacy for children,” says Tampa businessman Akash Patel, a Republican candidate for Hillsborough County Commission District 7.

Murman ranked No. 22 last year, which places her among the elected officials with the steepest climbs over last year.

For a complete explanation of how this list was created and who made up the panel that amassed it, please read here.

#14 on list of Tampa Bay’s Most Powerful Politicians — Tom Lee

State Sen. Tom Lee of Senate District 20 generated plenty of buzz over the last year as Tampa Bay politicos speculated his next steps: a run for state chief financial officer? Perhaps a go at outgoing Congressman Dennis Ross’s open seat?

But the Thonotosassa Republican went with none of the above — and that could shape up to be a wise choice given the current political climate.

He was elected to the Senate in 2012 and later re-elected in 2016. He had previously served on the Senate from 1996 to 2006, including as Senate president from 2004 to 2006. He ran for CFO and lost to Alex Sink in 2006 — so it makes sense that another statewide run in a year that might not treat Republicans all that well wouldn’t appeal to him.

Lee’s district, SD 20, consists of parts of Hillsborough, Pasco and Polk counties.

Assuming he stays in his current seat, Lee will remain a key moderating voice in the Senate.

Well-liked by Republicans and Democrats alike, Lee is chair of the Senate Committee on Community Affairs, and sits on five other committees, including Education as well as Ethics and Elections.

He won praise during his tenure on the Constitution Revision Commission with his proposed greyhound racing ban. Popular with just about everyone but members of the racing industry, it was one of a handful of CRC-passed measures that will be on the November ballot.

And he’s not afraid to buck his party. Earlier this year, Lee criticized the controversial education bill, calling a measure targeting teachers’ unions “mean-spirited.” He offered multiple amendments to soften that provision. When they didn’t take, he voted against it.

Lee may not try to climb the political ladder this year, but with his independent spirit and his obvious drive, the future ought to look pretty bright for him.

Lee ranked No. 10 in 2017.

For a complete explanation of how this list was created and who made up the panel that amassed it, please read here.

#15 on list of Tampa Bay’s Most Powerful Politicians — Gus Bilirakis

In the time that’s elapsed since the noise that erupted around U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis in early 2017 died down following his brave decision to face angry constituents at a packed town hall, things have been pretty quiet for the Palm Harbor Republican.

That’s no surprise to anyone familiar with Bilirakis, 55, who tends to eschew political theater in favor of buckling down and getting things done. His district, Florida’s 12th Congressional District, comprises all of Pasco County as well as parts of northern Pinellas and northwestern Hillsborough counties. First elected to Congress in 2006, he is particularly active on veterans’ issues.

At a time when bitter divisions reign, Bilirakis is known for being likable and easy to work with.

“The nicest guy in Congress, and also the hardest working, Representative Bilirakis truly cares about his constituents and making Florida a better place to live,” said Southern Strategy Group’s Laura Boehmer.

Earlier this year, he scored a legislative win when the House unanimously passed a bill he sponsored that aims to strengthen air travel safety measures.

Following a WTSP report about “zombie campaigns” of former candidates that still spend money years after the politicking ends, Bilirakis teamed up with U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor on a bill targeting the practice. A Republican teaming up with a Democrat on a proposal that outlaws something that (however dubiously) puts money in fellow politicians’ pockets? That’s not something you see every day. But it speaks to Bilirakis’ character and his willingness to reach across on the aisle on important issues like accountability.

He faces a midterm challenger in Democrat Chris Hunter, a former federal prosecutor and FBI agent. CD 12 overwhelmingly went for Donald Trump in 2016, so it’s unclear whether a blue wave would reach Pasco County.

Bilirakis climbs up a notch this year; in 2017, he came in at No. 16.

Joe Henderson‘s take: “Maybe needs to consider the ‘weight’ of his words when planning talks to women’s groups in the future.”

For a complete explanation of how this list was created and who made up the panel that amassed it, please read here.

#16 on list of Tampa Bay’s Most Powerful Politicians — Charlie Crist

It’s not often a freshman officeholder whose party is in the minority makes a most-powerful list. Although, politicians like U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist aren’t exactly common, either.

The former Florida governor already had star power to spare when he narrowly defeated Republican incumbent David Jolly in the 2016 race for Florida’s 13th Congressional District seat, which covers most of Pinellas County, save for its northernmost reaches.

The Republican-turned-NPA-turned-Democrat has had a busy year. He was a vocal critic of the GOP tax cut as well as his former party’s attempts to chip away at the Affordable Care Act — his criticisms got the attention of the National Republican Congressional Committee more than once.

Crist, 61, was a highly visible backer of St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman in his uphill battle for re-election.

Whenever his constituents rally for stronger gun laws or a ban on offshore drilling, if he can be there, he will be. Crist is always at home speaking in front of a friendly crowd. That his presence behind the podium usually draws TV news cameras can’t be a bad thing for a cause, either.

He’s also got a knack for constituent service. Take freeFall Theatre in west St. Petersburg. After Hurricane Irma caused extensive damage to the roof of the performance space, Crist helped the theater company land a large Small Business Association loan to cover its repairs.

Although the tendency to try jump to higher office when it’s opportune has earned him criticism more than once, Crist doesn’t appear to be going anywhere soon. Rumors about a possible run for governor were DOA. last year. He started fundraising for re-election as soon as he took office, and with help from the likes of Nancy Pelosi, who recently headlined a fundraiser for him, Crist’s war chest now exceeds $2 million. And despite the two unknown Republicans currently duking it out in a primary for a chance to challenge Crist, CD 13 will more than likely stay blue.

Crist’s ranking fell somewhat this year; he was No. 13 on this list in 2017. That’s understandable, given the limitations of being a first-termer and a member of the underdog party.

Joe Henderson‘s take: “He has a sweet gig, but how until he gets bored with being only one of 435 members of the U.S. House?”

For a complete explanation of how this list was created and who made up the panel that amassed it, please read here.

#17 on list of Tampa Bay’s Most Powerful Politicians — Dana Young

Ranking for Tampa’s Republican state Senator on this list somewhat hinges on a key decision: whether or not Dana Young plans on running for Senate President for 2022-24.

Citing time constraints stemming from more immediate commitments (i.e., the 2018 Legislative Session), she dropped that bid earlier this year.

Young did, however, manage to get a good number of bills heard in 2018, including, perhaps surprisingly for a Republican, a fracking ban. Though it died in committee, as did another bill she sponsored that would have dedicated money for innovative transit projects in Tampa Bay, Young’s backing of such bills helped solidify her reputation as a lawmaker who’s unafraid to reach across the aisle. Her bill holding telemarketers accountable for ignoring do-not-call lists unanimously passed the House and Senate. So did her bill requiring doctors and midwives to report all “adverse” incidents relating to out-of-hospital births to the state. That bill passed unanimously in both chambers.

“Dana Young is hands down one of the most effective and hardest working members of the legislature,” said Southern Strategy Group’s Sydney Ridley. “She is a master at building coalitions and getting things done for her community.”

On the flip side, she co-introduced a controversial bill that brought USF’s St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee campus under control of the USF system’s main campus in Tampa, a piece of legislation that left the Democratic wing of Tampa Bay’s Legislative Delegation more than a little peeved.

Young won her seat over her opponent, Democrat Bob Buesing, by about seven points in 2016 after serving three terms in the House. At the time, Senate District 18 was a freshly drawn swing district. She won it rather easily then, in part because Joe Redner took about 9 percent of the vote in his nonparty bid for the seat. Young could have a tough time this year, given the possible blue wave and a formidable challenge in House Minority Leader Janet Cruz-Rifkin, who has shown some fundraising prowess (Buesing had initially challenged Young for a second time, but dropped his bid when Cruz jumped in). A boon for Young, though, is that she’s a particularly astute fundraiser. Young’s campaign has taken in nearly $426,000 as of late May. Her PAC, Friends of Dana Young, has meanwhile amassed a total north of $2.3 million.

Jack Latvala’s unexpected departure from the Senate due to allegations of sexual misconduct left a huge representation void for Tampa Bay in the state Legislature. Young might not have managed to completely fill it — Latvala was appropriations chair, after all. But Young in many ways embodies the largely moderate spirit of Tampa Bay politics. The big question is whether the war chest she’s amassed will be enough to convince voters, come November, that she’s a far cry from Donald Trump.

“Her strong position on protecting our environment shows true strength and dedication to important Florida issues others often overlook,” says Tampa businessman Akash Patel, a Republican candidate for Hillsborough County Commission District 7.

She came in No. 12 in 2017.

Joe Henderson‘s take: “Facing her toughest election fight yet, but she has lots of money and endorsements.”

For a complete explanation of how this list was created and who made up the panel that amassed it, please read here.

#18 on list of Tampa Bay’s Most Powerful Politicians — Bob Gualtieri

As sheriff of the most densely populated county in the state, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri’s role goes well beyond overseeing the department’s day-to-day. He’s often caught in the middle when hot-button national issues and law enforcement collide — and that’s a responsibility he appears to embrace.

Gualtieri first took office in 2011. He successfully fended off a tough re-election challenge from former Sheriff Everett Rice the following year and easily won another term four years later.

Though he’s sheriff in a county with an incredibly diverse constituency, he’s never shied away from his espousal of Republican politics. He’s often a presence at campaign rallies for Republican candidates.

A top cop being a card-carrying member of the GOP certainly doesn’t make Gualtieri unique.

What does make him stand out is his willingness to have a dialogue with those who don’t agree with him.

Take immigration.

Earlier this year, Gualtieri took a ton of flak for spearheading a controversial agreement between 17 Florida county sheriffs and Immigration and Customs Enforcement that critics. It stipulated that the 17 agencies would hold undocumented immigrants arrested and released on unrelated charges for 48 hours to give ICE a chance to pick them up and, likely, deport them.

He could have ignored the people who disagree with him, but he chose dialogue. In April, he participated in a debate with members of the Florida Immigration Coalition at Allendale Methodist Church, a hub of progressive activity in St. Petersburg. It’s highly doubtful any minds were changed, but in an ultra-polarized political climate like this one, to even participate in a conversation with ideological opposites is brave.

He also wasn’t afraid to take part in the complex policy debate that took shape in the wake of the Parkland massacre.

In March, Gualtieri was tapped to lead a commission that included state Sen. Lauren Book, a South Florida Democrat, and two fathers of murdered Parkland students on the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission, which aims to examine the shooting and what could have been done differently to save lives.

He’s also been a large part of the local conversation about how to fund the upcoming batch of armed school resource officers the state now mandates. That, of course, requires a dialogue with the majority-Democrat Pinellas County Commission, an entity with which he enjoys a positive relationship despite political differences.

“Mutually respected by both Republicans and Democrats statewide, Sheriff Gualtieri has one of the best relationships in history with his County Commission and has also been a powerful policy advocate in Tallahassee,” Southern Strategy Group’s Laura Boehmer said.

Given his passion, media presence and talent, one might be inclined to wonder whether he has any sights on a run for the legislature, Congress or something else in 2020. Stay tuned.

Gualtieri was No. 14 on last year’s list.

For a complete explanation of how this list was created and who made up the panel that amassed it, please read here.

#19 on list of Tampa Bay’s Most Powerful Politicians — Janet Long

Since taking office after her 2012 election, Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long has been a potent force at the dais.

She’s never been afraid to speak her mind or temper her criticisms when she thinks someone is full of B.S. That said, she’s also been a key proponent of collaboration among all of Tampa Bay’s local governments in the spirit of regionalism.

“Commissioner Long has an unparalleled passion for regional solutions and isn’t afraid to fight for what she believes in. She also has the unique ability to build coalitions to get things done,” Southern Strategy Group’s Laura Boehmer said.

Though a staunch Democrat, she’s not afraid to reach across the aisle in ways that might at times vex her party. Ahead of the 2016 election, she gave $100 to state Rep. Chris Latvala, a Largo Republican (also on this list) who was facing a challenge from Democrat David Vogel. She said she contributed to Latvala because he had supported her efforts to rethink transit as a regional issue by consolidating multiple local transit agencies into one.

“Do I agree with everything he does? No, I do not,” she said at the time.

Long, 73, took office after defeating then-Commissioner Neil Brickfield, one of the Republicans who notoriously voted in favor of removing fluoride from the county’s water supply. Before that, she served in the Florida House from 2006 to 2012.

Long came in at No. 15 last year. A likely reason for her sliding down several notches? She was Pinellas County Commission chair in 2017.

For a complete explanation of how this list was created and who made up the panel that amassed it, please read here.

#20 on list of Tampa Bay’s Most Powerful Politicians — Vern Buchanan

First elected in 2006, Republican U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan of Longboat Key) has a name that’s recognizable to Floridians well outside his Sarasota County Florida’s 16th Congressional District.

His auto dealership empire and tenure as chair of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Chamber of Commerce preceded his political career. A prolific philanthropist, he lists the Boys and Girls Club, Mote Marine Laboratory and Ringling Museum of Art among the entities to which he’s donated.

As the only member of Florida’s Congressional Delegation to serve on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee and chairman of the Tax Policy Subcommittee, Buchanan has been on the front lines of tax policy reform. He touts his having played a role in the controversial tax overhaul Congress passed in December 2017 as a major accomplishment. It was certainly music to the ears of Sarasota Republicans, many of whom (likely) held their noses as they voted for Donald Trump in the hope that their tax bills would shrink.

“The only Florida member on the Ways & Means Committee, Buchanan’s dedication to reform of tax policy and support of international trade are vital to our economy,” says Tampa businessman Akash Patel, a Republican candidate for Hillsborough County Commission District 7.

Although Buchanan is passionate about his fiscal conservatism, he’s also no fan of going against policies objectively popular to Floridians. His willingness to reach across the aisle on key matters has earned him praise from political observers.

Like most of Florida’s Congressional Delegation, he’s been vocally in favor of extending a moratorium on offshore drilling in federal waters off Florida’s coast.

When it faced potential expiration last year, Buchanan said he would back renewal for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). He reiterated his support of the program in May, when the Trump administration announced plans to cut the popular program.

His mixed record on guns has made him a target of gun safety advocates ahead of the 2018 midterms, including an organization helmed by Gabrielle Giffords. A beneficiary of NRA donations, he has backed multiple laws expanding gun rights, including concealed carry reciprocity. On the other hand, he supported regulating bump stocks in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting in October 2017.

In any other year, re-election would be a breeze for the well-liked incumbent. His son James Buchanan’s loss to Democrat Margaret Good in the race for the open Florida House District 72 seat earlier this year may have served as an omen that having an R behind one’s name — and name recognition itself — may not do the trick.

He faces Democrat David Shapiro, assuming Shapiro wins the Democratic primary against Jan Schneider, in November.

Buchanan did not make the 2017 list.

For a complete explanation of how this list was created and who made up the panel that amassed it, please read here.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons