Florida Politics this week began publishing its ninth annual list of Tampa Bay’s Most Powerful Politicians. But for every elected official pumping a fist in the air, there’s someone glaring at the snub.
We get it. With just 25 spots to honor leaders in a community of 3.2 million, there are bound to be important power brokers who come just short. Here are some figures who fall in that category, but received enough votes among our jurors to warrant special mention.
State Rep. Nick DiCeglie
The Indian Rocks Beach Republican in his second House term chaired the powerful House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee this year. From that position, he decided what financial regulations moved ahead and which did not. He also pushed forward on issues personally important to him, like one providing equity for religious institutions.
He won’t be long for the chamber, though. He’s already filed for the Senate District 18 race and to date remains the only candidate for the open Pinellas seat. With well over a half-million dollars raised for the race, it seems likely he’ll be able to use his financial resources to help allies win seats in the Legislature, though Democratic groups seem anxious to put up a fight.
Pinellas Co. Commissioner Charlie Justice
The state House veteran chairs the County Commission in Florida most densely populated county. There, he led the panel as it made critical moves on affordable housing. The Democrat also remains a sought-after endorsement in a region known for competitive races.
He has been a champion for the popular Tampa Bay Estuary Program and has a background working on nuts-and-bolts issues like stormwater and wastewater management. He’s also a local official who knows how to navigate both the halls of the Legislature and the interchange for Interstate 375. He enjoys plenty of clout in Clearwater and St. Pete.
Polk Co. Sheriff Grady Judd
Maybe Florida’s most well-known Sheriff, Judd for years has been the face of tough-on-crime politics, a brand that seems to be playing especially well this year. From locking up sex traffickers to combating dangerous social media challenges, the Sheriff simply has a knack for staying in the headlines for whatever reason.
This has made him a powerful political ally and sought-after endorsement. He stood alongside the Governor last year when Florida’s high-profile anti-riot bill passed. He’s also not shy about sharing his political opinions on an array of issues outside of law enforcement matters. The quintessential pro-gun Republican Sheriff is ready to throw the book at the wrongdoers.
Pinellas Co. Commissioner Dave Eggers
The immediate past chair of the Pinellas County Commission faces re-election, and may just end up in a contest with Rep. Chris Latvala. He already faces Republicans Shawn Price and Heather Vernillo. In anticipation of a major Republican Primary battle, he’s built up a strong war chest and braces for a potential run this year.
While he has enemies in the party, he also has admirers for his pragmatic independence, and an endorsement from U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, state Sen. Jeff Brandes and former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, figures with a significant reputation among Tampa Bay voters. Regardless of what lies ahead, he remains one of a few commissioners on a powerful board shaping Pinellas County’s landscape and future.
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 Goodman, Mike 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.