No. 21 on the list of Tampa Bay’s Most Powerful Politicians: Ed Hooper

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Hooper is a champion of legislation advocating for firefighters and first responders, as well as bolstering the state’s tourism industry.

Pinellas state Sen. Ed Hooper held steady in this year’s list, ranking No. 21 for the second year in a row. While Hooper did not advance, his appearance on the list itself shows a gradual growth in his influence — just three years ago, the Senator narrowly missed the cut.

Hooper is a retired firefighter known for his quiet but committed demeanor. He has taken on several Senate leadership roles in the past few years, leading the Senate’s Commerce and Tourism Committee and serving as the vice chair for the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development.

Those roles give Hooper command over policy related to Florida’s often intertwined tourism and economic interests, which cannot be underestimated. Hooper’s transition into Senate leadership shows growing belief in the Senator, especially his efforts to boost and repair state tourism.

“I literally got thrown into the electoral foxhole with Ed Hooper by then-Senate President Bill Galvano. Here is what I learned: Do not let Sen. Hooper’s calm and quiet demeanor fool you. He is a ferocious legislator and politician,” said GOP strategist Anthony Pedicini.

Hooper is a champion of legislation advocating for firefighters and first responders, as well as bolstering the state’s tourism industry.

This past Legislative Session, Hooper carried a bill (SB 434) to extend VISIT FLORIDA, the state’s tourism marketing arm, which Hooper has consistently fought to protect amid attacks from several lawmakers who have attempted to defund and dismantle the agency.

While Hooper pushed to extend the agency’s operations for the next eight years, the Legislature opted to go with the House version, which provided only a five-year extension. Under current law, VISIT FLORIDA’s authorization expires on Oct. 1, 2023. The extension is headed to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk.

“Solid. Reliable. Wise. Three words to describe one of the Senate’s most beloved members, Sen. Ed Hooper. He doesn’t speak often, but when he does, a hush comes over the floor because his 39 colleagues know the value of his words. Sen. Hooper brings an invaluable perspective to Tallahassee as a former first responder,” Senate President Wilton Simpson said.

“As you would expect from his years as a firefighter, Sen. Hooper runs toward challenges as others run away. He is certainly a formidable force in policy, but also an effective advocate for his local community, bringing home millions of dollars of needed infrastructure and support to the Tampa Bay region. As the President of the Senate, I could not be more proud to have served with Chair Hooper. He is a gentleman in every sense of the word.”

Hooper is also a tireless advocate for Moffitt Cancer Center, securing millions in funding for the institution during his time in the Senate. This year, he finalized $120 million in the Legislature’s budget to improve infrastructure in the area around Moffitt’s upcoming Pasco County site.

“Ed is one of the few that has a complete handle on how to get things done behind the scenes. Maybe it was his years as a first responder and having to put his life on the line, but I know Sen. Hooper as an effective, thoughtful and sometimes independent legislative leader who fights hard for his community. It’s that quiet fight that earns him a spot on this list,” Pedicini continued.

The incumbent also has plans to run for re-election. Like his ranking, the district that he’ll likely seek this election cycle is Senate District 21, which replaces almost identically what is currently Senate District 16.

“Sen. Hooper may be quiet but he knows how to get the job done. He is a true public servant and has always been committed to his community, first as a firefighter and now as a state Senator,” said Shawn Foster, founder of Sunrise Consulting Group. “Him and his wife, Lee, are a team in this process. Where you see one you will quickly find the other. That keeps him grounded in this process to have a partner like that. Pasco and Pinellas are fortunate to have them represent them.”

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 Senate stronghold. The Clearwater swing district leans conservative, but there’s a narrow gap between Republicans and Democrats.

“As term limits change the face of the Tampa Bay delegation, one nearly constant face will thankfully remain,” said Alan Suskey, Shumaker managing partner of state affairs. “The steady and trusted hand of Ed Hooper in the delegation ensures that our region’s voice will continue to be heard in the rooms where decisions about funding and policy are being made.”

He previously served four terms in the state House before exiting in 2014 because of term limits.

With growing leadership roles and a passion for first responders and the state’s premier industry, Hooper will likely only continue to make his way forward on the list.

Joe Henderson’s take: He stayed in the game to get VISIT FLORIDA an extension, which keeps the beleaguered but valuable agency on its mission of promoting tourism in the state. Hooper’s district includes northern Pinellas County and parts of Pasco, and tourism there is kind of a big deal.

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As for methodology, we define the Tampa Bay region as Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco, but can also include Hernando, Polk or Sarasota — if the politicians from those counties impact either Pinellas or Hillsborough.

We define a politician as being in office or running for office.

Being first on a panelist’s list earns the politician 25 points, second earns them 24 points and so on, to where being listed 25th earns a politician one point. Points are added and, voilà, we have a list.

Special thanks go to our experienced and knowledgeable panelists, who were essential to developing the 2022 list: Christina Barker of the Vinik Family Office, Ashley Bauman of Mercury, Ed Briggs of RSA Consulting, Ricky Butler of the Pinellas Co. Sheriff’s Office, Reggie Cardozo of The Public Square, Ronald Christaldi of Schumaker, Evan Donovan of WFLA, Joe Farrell of Pinellas Realtors, pollster Matt Florell of Vicidial Group, Shawn Foster of Sunrise Consulting Group, political consultant Max GoodmanMike Griffin of Savills, Joe Henderson, Todd Josko of Ballard Partners, Natalie King of RSA Consulting, Patrick Manteiga, publisher of LaGaceta, Seth McKeel of The Southern Group, Jennifer Motsinger, EVP of Tampa Bay Builders Association, Mitch Perry of Charter News, Ron Pierce of RSA Consulting, Preston Rudie of Catalyst Communications Group, and Alan Suskey of Shumaker Advisors. With Michelle and Peter Schorsch.

Kelly Hayes

Kelly Hayes studied journalism and political science at the University of Florida. Kelly was born and raised in Tampa Bay. A recent graduate, she enjoys government and legal reporting. She has experience covering the Florida Legislature as well as local government, and is a proud Alligator alum. You can reach Kelly at [email protected]



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