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.

#7 on list of Tampa Bay’s Most Powerful Politicians — Richard Corcoran

Although he had a good run in his two years as House Speaker — and managed to make a splash as a prospective candidate for governor, the Land O’ Lakes Republican falls five spots this year.

He claimed the No. 2 slot last year after his raucous showdown with Gov. Rick Scott over VISIT FLORIDA and Enterprise Florida funding.

Richard Corcoran might have ranked higher than he did this year had the political winds not shifted as they did over the course of the last several months — and if he wasn’t about to term out and face an uncertain future in politics.

Earlier this year, he seemed to be sowing momentum. His Watchdog PAC released a TV ad demonizing immigrants via an inaccurate depiction of the shooting death of Kate Steinle, followed by Corcoran’s plea to Floridians to support a crackdown on so-called sanctuary cities. That ad was red meat to potential GOP primary voters, but critics said it was racist.

Barely two weeks after it first aired, in the middle of the 2018 Legislative Session, gunman Nikolas Cruz killed 19 at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. As students across the state rallied for stricter gun laws, Corcoran’s PAC released yet another ad targeting illegal immigration, which some critics considered tone-deaf, given how the gun debate still raged.

Corcoran demonstrated his muscle in shepherding through a compromised gun law that raised the gun-buying age from 18 to 21 and mandated that schools train certain personnel to carry guns on campus. The NRA panned the bill for what it saw as limitations to the Second Amendment, though Corcoran seemed to make amends with the group in a letter to the Constitution Revision Commission calling on the panel to turn down a proposed amendment that could have banned assault-style rifles (which the commission did).

Another legislative win for Corcoran was an education package that shifts state dollars away from public schools and toward scholarship programs that favor charter schools, which school choice advocates heralded earlier this year. It also set new membership requirements that could potentially diminish teachers’ unions.

“The Speaker’s left a mark on the region,” said Seth McKeel of Southern Strategy Group. “He’s been a powerful and constant voice of conservatism in Florida.”

By the end of Session, many observers were ready for Corcoran to announce a run for governor, but a couple of forces were working against him. First, his potential primary opponents were way ahead of him in their fundraising. Second, the two major Republican candidates — Trump favorite Ron DeSantis and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam — would have made it difficult for him to craft a message that stood out to primary voters. In May, he announced he would not run and endorsed Putnam.

Corcoran’s Watchdog PAC had some $2 million when he dropped his bid for governor.

Corcoran ranked second in 2017.

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

#8 on list of Tampa Bay’s Most Powerful Politicians — Jeff Brandes

The Republican state Senator from St. Petersburg fell a few slots this year. That’s not to say Jeff Brandes doesn’t have the juice he did in prior years.

And like in previous years, he had a busy 2018 Session. He sponsored some 65 bills and co-sponsored dozens more. He sat on seven committees, including as chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice.

He did have a couple of legislative losses, including on measures aimed at overhauling transportation as well as criminal justice reform. Among his wins: a law that bars state and local government agencies from doing with business with companies that boycott Israel, a measure protecting consumers from having to pay security fees on credit reports and a bill reducing the minimum age of corrections officers from 19 to 18 to help meet staffing demands.

Over the years, Brandes has earned a reputation for being a maverick who’s ahead of his time on everything from criminal justice to transportation. He was an early backer for ride-share technology and is a major proponent of incorporating driverless electric vehicles into the state’s public transit infrastructure.

“Sen. Brandes is a visionary, and he’s carved a powerful pathway as Florida’s thought leader on advanced technology,” said Southern Strategy Group’s Seth McKeel.

Brandes’ Senate District 24, covers most of southern Pinellas County, save for a large swath of south St. Petersburg, which is part of Democratic Sen. Darryl Rouson’s district. It was a seat newly redrawn in 2012; Brandes left the state House seat he won in 2010 to launch his successful bid for it. In 2014, he bested Democratic opponent Judithanne McLauchlan by four points, and he had no significant opposition in 2016.

This year is different, though. Brandes has a potentially strong opponent in St. Petersburg attorney Carrie Pilon, a Democrat whose husband is the son of former State Rep. Ray Pilon, a Republican.

Recent polling suggests an early lead for Brandes over his Pilon, but it’s still early, and there’s no accounting for what kind of impact the blue wave can have in a district like the HD 24.

A key advantage for Brandes is his access to seemingly boundless volumes of cash via his campaign coffers as well as his PAC, Liberty Florida.

Brandes came in fifth in 2017.

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

#9 on list of Tampa Bay’s Most Powerful Politicians — Ken Hagan

The likely reason for Ken Hagan’s steep climb in the rankings this year is no mystery. A fixture on the Hillsborough County Commission since first elected in 2002, Hagan has been the face of county leaders’ campaign to woo the Rays across the bay.

It’s an effort that appears to have succeeded. The team finally announced its intent to move the team to a proposed site in Ybor City. It was a huge victory for Hagan, who has been the county’s point man over the course of the stadium search.

Of course, plenty of loose ends remain, including — most importantly — how to pay for the stadium at a time when taxpayers are wary of putting their money toward a project that could cost half a billion dollars. If it works out, a new stadium could offer untold economic potential — and Hagan would deserve the lion’s share of the credit for his role in the county’s talks with the Rays.

A Republican from Carrollwood, Hagan has a reputation for being a pragmatic leader who prefers to work behind the scenes.

“Commissioner Hagan is a steadfast and tireless advocate for Hillsborough County,” said Southern Strategy Group’s Laura Boehmer. “His passion and willingness to take chances has paid off for the region.”

While there had been speculation that Hagan might move to Tampa proper to run for mayor in 2019, he opted to instead jump into the race for the commission’s open District 2 seat in April of last year. His current District 5 seat (which he’s terming out of this year) is countywide, while District 2 goes from Citrus Park to Lutz down to Brandon. He and current District 2 Commissioner Victor Crist, also a Republican, are essentially hoping to swap seats.

In his fifth consecutive bid for Hillsborough County Commission, Hagan faces newcomer Chris Paradies in the Republican primary. Assuming Hagan clears that race in August, he’ll face Democrat Angela Birdsong in November. Fundraising, of course, has Hagan at a dramatic advantage. As of late May, Hagan has them both beat by a mile; as of this writing, his fundraising total ($472,774) drastically dwarfs that of Paradies ($23, 465) and Birdsong ($11,368).

Hagan placed No. 17 last year.

Joe Henderson‘s take: “If Tampa Bay Rays get new stadium in Tampa, Hagan will be a big reason why.”

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

#10 on list of Tampa Bay’s Most Powerful Politicians — Darryl Rouson

Darryl Rouson is known for his willingness to work with Republicans over the years as well as his passionate advocacy on behalf of his Senate District 19 constituents. A most recent example of this is his support of a proposed constitutional amendment to expand Florida’s homestead exemption, which will appear on the statewide ballot in November.

Yet Rouson, a St. Petersburg Democrat representing Senate District 19, is not without his progressive cred.

He has been a key advocate for restoring voting rights to felons who have served their sentences. While the legislature wouldn’t pass such a law, the proposal will be on the ballot in November.

Rouson also sponsored a bill that provided for the construction of a slavery memorial, which unanimously cleared both houses.

And though it didn’t pass, Rouson’s support of the Competitive Workforce Act brought more attention to the fact that the State of Florida still has no policy preventing discrimination against its LGBTQ residents and visitors.

“Darryl Rouson always has his district’s and his regions interests at heart — he’s a skillful negotiator and a tireless advocate for the causes he gets behind,” said Southern Strategy’s Seth McKeel.

Rouson currently chairs the Pinellas County Legislative Delegation. He also serves on seven Senate committees, including as vice chair of the Transportation Committee.

After terming out of the State House seat he had held since 2008, Rouson won a bruising four-way primary against Ed Narain, Betty Reed and Augie Ribeiro in August 2016. Given the district’s strong Democratic leaning, the general was a breeze for Rouson; with 66.91 percent of the vote, he beat Republican opponent John Bouman by more than 33 points.

This year, he is likely to go onto a second term without a challenge.

Rouson came in at No. 11 in 2017.

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

#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.

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