The wait is almost over.
We’re finalizing our sixth annual ranking of Tampa Bay’s most powerful politicians. It will be published next Monday. As has been the case in years prior, the results are rooted in the opinions of leading political consultants, activists, bloggers, operatives and local lobbyists around the Bay area who reached out to us with their own lists.
The rankings will be published on our main site, Florida Politics, and will include pols from Pinellas, Hillsborough, and Pasco — and maybe some from Hernando, Polk or Sarasota — if the politicians from those counties impact either Pinellas or Hillsborough.
Be sure to check next week to see if you or your favorite official made the cut. In the meantime, feel free to peruse last year’s list here.
Sprowls draws Democratic foe
Palm Harbor Republican Chris Sprowls is drawing a Democratic challenger for his re-election bid in House District 65. Palm Harbor Democrat Sally Laufer opened a campaign account to try to unseat Sprowls in HD 65 according to the state Division of Elections website. Laufer entered the race about three months after Palm Harbor Democrat Alex Stephen Toth opened an account, though Toth had only raised $183 by the end of April. Sprowls will become House speaker in 2020 if he is re-elected in his district. He had raised $151,780 for his campaign account as of April 30 and had about $900,000 in cash on hand in a political committee known as Floridians for Economic Freedom.
Castor backs Pilon in SD 24
Former Florida Education Commissioner and USF President Betty Castor is endorsing Carrie Pilon for State Senate District 24. Castor is a former state Senator and had been President of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. “Now more than ever Tallahassee isn’t working for everyday Floridians. Republicans are gutting the funds of our public schools in favor of for-profit charter schools … I know that Carrie will be a champion for public schools and will fight to keep our children safe.” Pilon, a graduate of Northeast High School and Florida State University, is a former prosecutor who runs an injury law firm. She will face incumbent Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes is St. Petersburg.
Sink also supporting Pilon
Former Florida CFO Alex Sink is also endorsing Pilon in her bid for SD 24. “It is time for our representatives in Tallahassee to reflect the will of the voters they represent when it comes to public education, the environment and the local economy,” said Sink. “Carrie is a small-business owner and understands that small business is the fabric of the Pinellas economy.” Pilon welcomed Sink’s endorsement as she “continues to build a campaign focused on holding special interests accountable, investing in public schools, and protecting natural resources.” “Thanks to 20 years of Republican rule, Tallahassee is working nonstop for special interests and big business,” Pilon said. “It’s time to make Tallahassee work for everyday Floridians.”
Retailers back Hart for HD 61
The Florida Retail Federation (FRF) PAC is endorsing fellow retailer Dianne Hart, a Democrat running for election in Tampa’s House District 61. “Dianne has successfully run a small retail business for 30 years all while making a significant difference in her community, and we are confident she will continue to support her fellow retailers,” said FRF President and CEO R. Scott Shalley. “Dianne is a great example of a business and community leader and we feel she’ll make a big impact in the Florida House.” Hart owns Ms. Dee’s World of Beauty in Tampa. Rep. Sean Shaw currently holds HD 61; he’s leaving the seat to run for Attorney General.
Flowers, Lerner endorse Heeren
Pinellas County School Board members Rene Flowers and Linda Lerner are endorsing Alex Heeren in his race for House District 66. “I truly believe that Alex understands the need for impactful and empowered legislation — focused on launching our scholars beyond anything they could ever imagine,” Flowers said. Lerner added: “For too long, the Legislature has expected educators to do more with less, and it’s time for that to end.” Heeren, a Technology Integration Coordinator with the Pinellas School District, will face the winner of the Republican primary between Pinellas GOP chair Nick DiCeglie and attorney Berny Jacques, and Reform Party candidate Paul Anthony Bachmann, for term-limited Larry Ahern’s seat.
Treasure Island Commissioner endorses Bailie
Treasure Island City Commissioner Tyler Payne is supporting Jeremy Bailie in his bid for House District 69. “Bailie is a solid conservative, sharp professional and intelligent on public policy. We need leaders with Jeremy’s depth of understanding of the issues facing our community in Tallahassee to represent Treasure Island,” Payne said in a statement. Bailie will face Raymond Blacklidge in the Republican primary for the seat currently held by state Rep. Kathleen Peters, which covers Redington Beach, Madeira Beach, Treasure Island, South Pasadena and Gulfport. The winner will face Gulfport Democrat Jennifer Webb. Also endorsing Bailey are Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, Property Appraiser Mike Twitty and Court Clerk Ken Burke, among others.
South Pasadena Mayor endorses Blacklidge
South Pasadena Mayor Max Elson is endorsing Ray Blacklidge in his bid for House District 69. “Ray Blacklidge will be an excellent legislator, and I am proud to support him,” Elson said in a statement. “He understands what makes for a strong economy, and I look forward to working with him to increase opportunity in our area.” Elson has served as mayor since 2016, after a five-year stint on the City Commission. He is a member of the Florida and Suncoast League of Cities, the Rotary Club of St. Petersburg, and the South Pasadena Chamber of Commerce. Elson is retired from a career in the food and beverage industry.
Krassner files for re-election
Pinellas County School Board member Terry Krassner filed for re-election to the nonpartisan District 2 at-large seat. “I will continue to be an advocate for our children by strengthening the safety and security of our schools, providing them the best resources available, and ensuring our educators have the tools they need,” Krassner said in a statement. Krassner, a third-generation Pinellas County resident and graduate of Northeast High School, was elected to the school board in November 2010 and re-elected in 2014. She served as a teacher of elementary and middle school grades; as assistant principal at Starkey Elementary School; and, as principal at Westgate Elementary School, where she retired in 2008.
Avery joins Fish & Wildlife Foundation board
Tampa Bay businessman and civic leader Paul Avery has been appointed to a three-year term on the board of directors of the nonprofit Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida. Avery serves currently as president and CEO of World of Beer Franchising, Inc. and has been CEO and principal of Avery Management Group since February 2010. Avery is also a director of Health Insurance Innovations, Inc. and serves on the board of directors at SunTrust Bank — Tampa Bay, and as a trustee for Paul Smith’s College in New York. He is chair of the board of directors of the Friedreich’s Ataxia Research Alliance and was chair of Take Stock in Children, Inc.
LLW celebrates new St. Pete office
Florida-based legal firm and lobbying house Lewis Longman Walker is celebrating a new St. Petersburg location at 100 2nd Ave. N., Suite 501-S. LLW is a Top Ranked Law Firm by Martindale-Hubbell — the highest rating Martindale-Hubbell awards. Seven of the firm’s attorneys have been listed as Florida Super Lawyers; since 2011, six attorneys have been named Legal Elite by Florida Trend Magazine. LLW has six board-certified attorneys specializing in State and Federal Government and Administrative Practice; Real Estate; and City, County and Local Government Law. The firm has five registered lobbyists, two certified mediators and holds licenses to practice in Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Alabama and the District of Columbia.
Wife of WingHouse founder sues
Melissa Ker, 47, has been married since 2000 to 56-year-old former NFL player and WingHouse founder Crawford Ker. Melissa Ker sued for divorce in 2016; the case is active. In a lawsuit filed May 9, Melissa Ker says Third Lake Capital paid $63-million for the Largo-based restaurant chain in 2014, or about $41-million after expenses and taxes. As a beneficiary of two trusts that owned a stake in the company, Melissa says she is owed millions. However, according to the suit, husband Crawford Ker hasn’t transferred a penny to either trust. Melissa is seeking damages for breach of trust and breach of fiduciary duty. She also wants a full accounting of her husband’s assets.
Free PAL reading camp for Tampa students
A group of elementary school students will take part in a free summer reading and sports camp at the Police Athletic League in Tampa, thanks to the support from AT&T and the Yob Family Foundation. Twenty-five students are participating in the nine-week summer Winning Reading Boost program, funded by the Yob Foundation and AT&T Pioneers, a volunteer network of current and former AT&T employees. The Boost program is through a partnership between the University of Florida College of Education’s Lastinger Center for Learning and Sue Dickson, an award-winning author and publisher. PAL board member Janelle McGregor said: “This summer we wanted to also focus on academics, to help build student-athletes.”