Sen. Ed Hooper, who narrowly missed the cut last year, came in at No. 21 on the list of Tampa Bay’s most powerful politicians this year after picking up Senate leadership roles.
Hooper, who was first elected to SD 16 in 2018, has gradually climbed the Florida politics ranks. He formerly served eight years in the Florida House of Representatives before his election to the Senate, which came after an unsuccessful bid for Pinellas County Commission.
“Chairman Hooper and I were elected to the Florida House together in 2006 and we’ve been close friend ever since. A quiet stalwart for his community, Sen. Hooper leads with a calm demeanor and a steady hand. He fights hard when it’s warranted and is happy to share the spotlight. He’s a hell of a golfer and a wonderful friend to so many. Candidly, the legislative process needs more Ed Hoopers,” said Seth McKeel, managing partner for the Southern Group in Tampa Bay.
Senate President Wilton Simpson appointed the Clearwater Republican as chair of the Commerce and Tourism Committee, a critical panel as the state looks to emerge from the pandemic recession.
He will also serve as vice-chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development.
Hooper’s assignment to Senate leadership shows growing belief in the Senator, especially his efforts to boost and repair state tourism.
“Ed Hooper exemplifies what it means to be a public servant, dedicating his life to serving his community through his roles in local and state office, and more importantly, his 28 years as a firefighter,” Simpson said. “He works quietly yet effectively. His approach to governance is both pragmatic and diplomatic. I have great confidence in his ability as a leader as he continues to advocate for revitalizing our tourism industry and strategically improving infrastructure in the Bay Area.”
One piece of legislation Hooper has sponsored this Session is SB 778, a proposal that would eliminate a potential Oct. 1, 2023, repeal date for VISIT FLORIDA and permit the agency to carry forward unused money from budget year to budget year. VISIT FLORIDA has consistently been under attack from some lawmakers, with efforts each year from some to defund and dismantle the state’s tourism marketing arm and from those attempting to save it.
Hooper has filed a wave of other bills this Session, too, ranging from protections for firefighters to stricter pool safety regulations. Hooper himself is a retired firefighter.
During Hooper’s first Legislative Session as a Senator, he earned the Florida League of Cities’ Legislative Appreciation Award.
Hooper started gaining more traction in the political sphere after a narrow victory against Democrat Amanda Murphy in 2018, which caught some by surprise, and helped the GOP maintain its stronghold. The Clearwater swing district leans conservative, but there’s a narrow gap between Republicans and Democrats.
“Ed Hooper is a state Senator who helped the Republicans keep the majority when few thought he could beat Amanda Murphy,” said Anthony Pedicini, a GOP consultant with Strategic Image Management. “Hooper is thoughtful, experienced, and well-versed on all things Tampa Bay. He has dedicated his life to serving our community and from the time he was a firefighter until today, he continues to look out for those in need.”
He also dons the “mentor” hat.
Hooper himself would be the first to share any accolades with his wife, Lee Hooper, who stands on her own in the Hooper home. Lee Hooper is active on social media, including most recently during the COVID-19 pandemic where she often speaks against long-term lockdowns.
Hooper has already secured plans to seek another term in 2022, but districts will be redrawn before the 2022 elections, the outcome of which could impact the district’s competitiveness in either direction.