Halloween is brought you by these Florida lobbyists and political associations

A Halloween without lobbyists is a scary proposition. Here's why.

The witching hour is upon us.

After taking a year off, ghosts, ghouls and superheroes are expected to fill the streets, even if they won’t be allowed in the White House.

A recent CBS News poll found that nearly two-thirds of parents believe their kids will be safe trick-or-treating this year, which represents a significant change from 2020 when pandemic fears were at their peak.

The change in sentiment is expected to produce some scary good sales numbers at stores across the country — retailers are projecting an all-time high $10.14 billion in consumer spending for Halloween, up from $8.05 billion last year.

That’s good news for the Florida Retail Federation, which is expecting Halloween to do wonders for stores across the state.

When FRF needs help in the Legislature, they turn to French Brown of Dean Mead, Jon Johnson, Travis Blanton, and Darrick McGee of Johnson & Blanton, and its in-house team of R. Scott ShalleyLorena Holley, Grace Lovett, and Gina Sisk.

A year ago, shopping for Halloween supplies was scarier than the B-movie classic “Chopping Mall.” But it has become a lot easier to swing by Walmart or Target.

Both chains, of course, have a team of lobbyists in Tthe Capitol — Walmart’s team includes Mike Corcoran, Jacqueline Corcoran, Matt Blair, Will Rodriguez and Andrea Tovar of Corcoran Partners; Target is repped by Joseph Salzverg, Robert Stuart and Jason Unger of GrayRobinson.

Publix is also an option, especially if you’re looking to carve up a pumpkin this weekend. The Lakeland-based company opened its first store in the 1930s and has since grown into an industry powerhouse with nearly 1,300 stores across Florida, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.

For a company of its size, Publix’s lobbying team is rather small — but it’s more than capable. Government Relations Director Thomas Culligan serves as the in-house point man, with contract lobbyists Matt Bryan and Teye Reeves of Smith Bryan & Myers.

Publix has always had competition, but few remain — when’s the last time anyone stepped foot in a Kash n’ Karry? How about Albertson’s? Maybe you’ve done some grocery shopping at Walmart or Target, but let’s be honest, they’re playing to an entirely different crowd. And Fresh Market, while a pleasant experience, has only one location for every 10 Publix stores.

But a new challenger has emerged: Kroger.

Kroger is the nation’s largest grocery chain, but Floridians wouldn’t know it because there’s not a Kroger marquee anywhere in the state. And there might never be. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t making a play for Florida shoppers — the company recently opened a 375,000-square-foot fulfillment center in Central Florida and has begun offering grocery delivery in many parts of the state.

The Ohio-based company has even lobbied up, going with the small but mighty team at Delegal | Aubuchon, the firm founded by Mark Delegal and Joshua Aubuchon last year.

If you’re heading to the register with a costume for your kid, there’s a solid chance it’s based on a Disney property. According to a retailer survey, Spiderman will once again be the top costume this year with more than 1.6 million kids sporting his red and blue suit.

But the Top-10 list also includes princesses and Avengers characters, both of which are Disney staples.

Disney has a massive presence in Florida and with that comes one of the biggest lobbying teams in the state — a whopping three-dozen lobbyists represent the company in Tallahassee. Firms in their corner include Colodny Fass, Dean Mead, GrayRobinson, Metz Husband & Daughton, The Advocacy Group, and The Southern Group.

Most major retailers will also stock all the lights and jump-scare décor you need to make your house as spooky as possible. But they can’t sell you the electricity needed to run them. That’s where Duke Energy and Florida Power & Light come in.

The utility companies power up millions of homes in Florida, and they wield some serious power in Tallahassee, too — enough to zap Frankenstein’s monster to life and then some.

Team Duke includes Al Cardenas and Slater Bayliss of The Advocacy Group; Matt Bryan, David Daniel, Jeff Hartley and Jim Naff of Smith Bryan & Myers; Jorge Chamizo and Cory Guzzo of Floridian Partners; Christopher Coker of Coker Consulting; Carlos Cruz of Converge Public Strategies; Andreina Figueroa of ADF Consulting; Doug Holder of The Legis Group; Gene McGee of GMA; and in-housers Chris FlackCameron Cooper, and Melanie DiMuzio.

Meanwhile, FPL is represented by an in-house team that includes Patrick Bryan, Christine Knepper and Daniel Martell as well as John Holley, who is now a two-time winner of INFLUENCE Magazine’s Golden Rotunda for In-House Lobbyist of the Year. They are joined by contract lobbyists Bill Rubin, Heather Turnbull, Melissa Akeson and Chris Finkbeiner of Rubin Turnbull & Associates; Brian Ballard and Brady Benford of Ballard Partners; Travis Blanton of Johnson & Blanton; Ron Book; French Brown of Dean Mead; Michael Cantens of Flagler Strategies; Terry Deason; Candice Ericks of Ericks Consultants; Robert Holroyd and Christopher Smith of Tripp Scott; Nick Iarossi, Jim Boxold, Andrew Ketchel of Capital City Consulting; Frank Mayernick, Tracy Mayernick and Rob Johnson of The Mayernick Group; Fred Karlinsky of Greenberg Traurig; Sean Pittman of The Pittman Law Group; David Ramba and Allison Carvajal of Ramba Consulting Group; Screven Watson of Screven Watson & Associates; and Charles Zdebski of Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott.

And, for a little extra juice, FPL subsidiary Gulf Power has a lobbying deal with Alan Suskey, who recently merged his practice into Shumaker Advisors Florida.

If candy is your only shopping need, you can probably save yourself some time by skipping the trip to Target and grabbing a bag or two of sweets at your corner store — most likely a CVS or Walgreens.

Both chains have hundreds of locations across Florida. With such a large stake in the Sunshine State, they also have some of the biggest names in Florida lobbying on retainer.

Walgreen’s set includes Brian Ballard and Christopher Hansen of Ballard Partners as well as in-house lobbyists Jake Farmer and Sally West. CVS has the team at The Southern Group working alongside in-house talent Brooke Tiner.

Any confection worth its asking price will be stocked with sugar — and some of those precious crystals were likely grown and refined right here in Florida. U.S. Sugar is among the biggest sugar producers in the in the world and they have the lobbying team to match.

Ballard Partners, The Southern Group, Converge Public Strategies, Floridian Partners, The Mayernick Group and GrayRobinson are all backing them up in Tallahassee alongside many smaller shops and solo practitioners.

Florida Crystals is the state’s other major sugar producer. Their squad includes Davis Bean and Shannan Schuessler of The Fiorentino Group as well as Jeff Johnston, Amanda Stewart and Anita Berry of Johnston & Stewart.

It should be noted that Johnston & Stewart also represents Liberty Dental Plan — a company you might want to call if you’re buying candy for yourself rather than trick-or-treaters. Or if you’re in the Tampa Bay area, someone at the Greater Tampa Bay Oral Health Coalition might be able to hook you up. That organization is represented by Ron Pierce, Kaitlyn Bailey and Edward Briggs of RSA Consulting.

For some people, a shopping cart full of candy and costumes doesn’t equate to Halloween spirit. They want true scares. That’s something Universal Studios can deliver.

Universal Studios might be seen as a little brother to Disney for most of the year, but not in October. Their monthlong Halloween Horror Nights is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year with attractions inspired by everything from the classic horror movies in Universal Studios’ back catalog to the new-school Netflix series “The Haunting of Hill House.” There’s even a “Beetlejuice” section for those who enjoy the intersection of comedy and macabre.

Despite the pandemic, Universal is celebrating a scary-good year — its parent company, Comcast, announced this week that the Orlando park had its most profitable quarter ever in Q3.

Its lobbying team deserves at least partial credit for the banner year, so hats off to Will McKinley, Angela Dempsey, Fred Dickinson, Erik Kirk, Jim Magill, Kimberly McGlynn and Sophie Smith of PooleMcKinley; Brett Bacot, Mike Grissom and Mark Kruse of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney; Margaret Timmins of Timmins Consulting; and in-house lobbyist Melanie Becker.

Film history is fertile ground for Halloween inspiration. Golden Age movie monsters such as Dracula and the Mummy were popularized decades after Americans started celebrating the holiday in the 1840s and centuries after its mostly forgotten prequel — the Celtic festival of Samhain — yet both are synonymous with the holiday today.

Still, some prefer a more futuristic take. There’s plenty to mine there, too. It Came from Outer Space, Alien and The Thing are always good picks for a reliable fright.

Halloween and space travel will collide this year — not literally, we hope — when SpaceX launches a Falcon 9 rocket from the Space Coast on Sunday morning. The company has an expanding presence in Florida with lobbyists working to pave the way for continued growth in the state’s commercial spaceflight industry.

The go-to guys are Jeff Sharkey and Taylor Biehl of Capital Alliance Group, who also handle the needs of other high-tech corporations in the industry such as Made In Space.

Sunshine State cinema savants can pocket this piece of trivia: Creature from the Black Lagoon was shot in Florida — more specifically, Silver Springs, Wakulla Springs and Jax. The definitive “deep ones” film went on to be considered a classic, but there have been few other “Fresh from Florida films” to be so honored in the 65 years since it bowed.

But there has been another homegrown horror brewing over the past few years. The working title: “Invasion of the Business Snatchers.” Once the No. 3 state for film production, Florida no longer breaks the top 20, and that’s largely due to Georgia stealing away productions. In some cases, it’s cheaper for a studio to craft fake Florida locales rather than film here.

If Film Florida gets its way, that could change. The trade association has been fighting for years to lure film productions back to Florida, most recently through an innovative grant model. It hasn’t squeaked through the Legislature yet, but the proposal has definitely gained traction among influential lawmakers such as Sen. Joe Gruters.

The rising interest in reviving Florida’s film industry is thanks in part to some deft lobbying by Slater Bayliss, Christoper Chaney, Stephen Shiver and Sarah Suskey of The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners.

However you choose to spend Halloween, we hope it’s a treat.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.


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