Halloween is brought to you by these Florida lobbyists and political associations

The witching hour is upon us.

Boys and girls of every age, wouldn’t you like to see something strange? Come with us and you will see this, our town of lobbying.

Our apologies to Danny Elfman, but the title track from a movie about two worlds colliding is the perfect fit for our annual rundown of how the men and women working in The Process are helping you enjoy one of the best holidays of the year: Halloween.

According to the Florida Retail Federation, Halloween 2022 is going to be one for the record books.

A survey conducted by its partner organization, the National Retail Federation, nearly seven in 10 American shoppers plan to celebrate the holiday this year, and they’ll each shell out $100 on average — that comes out to $10.6 billion in spending nationwide, which is a $500 million increase year-over-year and a whopping $2.6 billion more than 2020, when the pandemic was competing for the scare crown.

If you want a preview of who will be knocking on your door Monday night, the same survey asked shoppers what costumes they’re picking up for the kiddos and, just like the last year, Spiderman took the No. 1 spot. Batman and Superman were the only other trademarks that registered, with Halloween staples such as witches, ghosts and pirates filling out the rest of the Top 10.

Since retailers will be busy counting their Halloween windfall, they’ve handed off their advocacy needs to a team of lobbyists that includes FRF president Scott Shalley and in-house advocates Lorena Holley, Grace Lovett and Gina Sisk. The squad of contract lobbyists includes Angela Bonds and French Brown of Dean Mead and Jon Johnson and Darrick McGhee of Johnson & Blanton.

Halloween, of course, is about more than shopping.

The holiday sprang from Samhain — and by that we mean the Gaelic festival, not the low point of Glenn Danzig’s career — which marked the beginning of winter, or the “dark half” of the year, when days become shorter and people are more likely to hear something go bump in the night.

When the Irish, Manx and Scottish peoples ditched Celtic paganism for Christianity, Samhain went through several mergers, acquisitions and rebrands … we’ll spare you the minutiae on Dziady, Calan Gaeaf, Hop-tu-Naa and the rest of the also-rans. What matters is that the world eventually agreed to call it Halloween and to appoint tooth decay as the official mascot.

This was a gut punch for dentists, who learned a valuable lesson: leave the lobbying to the pros.

The Florida Dental Association, which represents the interests of DDSes and DMDs across the state, relies on in-house advocates Alexandra Abboud, Andrew Eason, and Joe Anne Hart as well as Team J&B for its lobbying needs

But, as people with a full set of teeth know, hygienists are also important contributors to oral health — if you disagree, remember that they have a tray of sharp objects and even they would never purposefully harm you … well, it’s your word against theirs.

Dental hygienists are represented by the aptly named Florida Dental Hygienists’ Association, which looks to Leslie Dughi and Aimee Diaz Lyon of Metz Husband & Daughton when it needs a hand in the Legislature.

Dental professionals have since worked through the stages of grief and learned to accept that sugar is an essential part of a happy Halloween — just brush your teeth before bed and floss occasionally, OK?

One thing that sets Florida apart from the rest of the world is that anyone within our border who looks at a mirror and says “Candyman” three times (or is it five?) will receive a burlap sack full of sugar instead of meeting their demise at the hands of a Clive Barker creation.

That’s because sugar is a big industry in Florida, and U.S. Sugar is the biggest name in the business.

The company and its affiliate farmers are hard at work in the Glades producing the core component of decent candy and, perhaps by design, the Sugar Express does not stop in Tallahassee. It’s no matter, because they have a massive team representing them in the Capitol.

Just as sugar is far from the company’s only export, the following is far from an exhaustive list of their lobbyists: Brian Ballard and Bradley Burleson of Ballard Partners; Gregory Black of Waypoint Strategies; Charlie Dudley and Cory Guzzo of Floridian Partners; David Browning, Mercer Fearington, Seth McKeel, Sydney Ridley and Clark Smith of The Southern Group; Richard Heffley and Kelly Horton of Heffley & Associates; Frank Mayernick and Tracy Mayernick of The Mayernick Group; Kirk Pepper of GrayRobinson; Christopher Smith of Tripp Scott PA; and Screven Watson of Screven Watson & Associates.

Florida Crystals is the other big name in the Sunshine State sugar industry. Their team is just as mighty. It includes Bill Rubin, Heather Turnbull, Melissa Akeson, Erica Chanti, Christopher Finkbeiner and Matthew Sacco of Rubin Turnbull & Associates; Al Balido, Frank Bernardino and Edgar Fernandez of Anfield Consulting; Michael Corcoran, Jacqueline Corcoran, Matt Blair, Will Rodriguez and Andrea Tovar of Corcoran Partners; Marty Fiorentino, Davis Bean, Joseph Mobley, Mark Pinto and Shannan Schuessler of The Fiorentino Group; Jeffrey Johnston, Amanda Stewart and Anita Berry of Johnston & Stewart Government Strategies; and Rhett O’Doski and Sean Stafford of McGuireWoods; and Katie Webb and David Santiago of Colodny Fass.

Handing out candy isn’t the only way to celebrate Halloween. If you’re feeling particularly festive, Universal Studios hosts the holiday’s premiere festival: Halloween Horror Nights.

For the unfamiliar, the after-dark event draws in tens of thousands of people who want to get spooked by actors who cannot legally hurt them but are trained to give them the strong impression that they might.

This year’s edition features 10 haunted houses that offer several flavors of fright — slasher movie villains, creepy crawlies, occult staples, Mesoamerican cryptids and underground kenophobia are all on the menu. Universal Studios isn’t shy about tapping into Universal Pictures’ extensive portfolio of horror IP, which includes some of the most iconic monsters ever to appear on the silver screen.

The original set includes Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, the Bride of Frankenstein, the Mummy, the Wolf Man, the Phantom of the Opera, the Invisible Man and the Creature From the Black Lagoon.

Pedants sometimes include the Hunchback of Notre Dame but despite being played by iconic horror actor Lon Chaney, who was also the Phantom, Quasimodo is — at most — the Pete Best of the Universal monster lineup.

That said, Universal Studios is one of the top destinations in Florida, and it has lobbyists from some of the top firms on retainer. Their team includes Brett Bacot, Mike Grissom, Jim Magill and Kimberly McGlynn of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney; Will McKinley, Angela Dempsey, Fred Dickinson, Erik Kirk and Sophie Smith of PooleMcKinley; Margaret Timmins of Timmins Consulting; and in-houser Melanie Becker.

If a trip to Orlando sounds like too much work, Halloween is the best day of the year to sit back and stream your favorite horror movies — at the very least, they’re a festive way to kill time between door knocks.

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’s been few other “Fresh from Florida films” to be so honored in the 65 years since it bowed. Sorry, Bradford County, as much as you try to scare campers with the mask and chainsaw routine, the real Camp Crystal Lake is in New Jersey.

However, 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 cleared the Legislature yet, but it gains a bit more traction every year.

The renewed interest is thanks in part to the team at The Advocacy Group, including Al Cardenas, Slater Bayliss, Stephen Shiver, Sarah Busk Suskey, and Chris Chaney — no relation to Lon, as best we know.

Of course, not everyone is into creature features. For those that want a little Sci-Fi mixed in, all-time greats such as It Came from Outer Space, or The Thing are always good picks.  Speaking of which, John Carpenter is a criminally underrated horror director — in addition to The Thing, he was behind Halloween, In the Mouth of Madness, The Fog, the film adaptation of Stephen King’s Christine.

Christine was a 1958 Plymouth Fury. The two-ton slab of steel got about 10 miles per gallon in the city, meaning that over the summer it would have been less expensive to be carted around by an Uber driver than the soul of a crushed assembly line worker.

A Plymouth badge hasn’t been slapped on a new car in 20 years, but if you’re in the market for some American muscle there are options.

Fred Motor Company is the largest U.S. auto manufacturer and, at least for now, still make new cars with V8s. The industry juggernaut is represented by Fred Baggett, Gus Corbella, and Hayden Dempsey of Greenberg Traurig.

Another option is General Motors, which is still rolling Camaros and Corvettes off the line. Chevy’s team in the Capitol includes Warren Husband, Jim Daughton and the rest of the MHD crew.

No matter how you plan to celebrate Halloween, remember that it’s the one day of the year when you should reject the “be yourself” message from The Nightmare Before Christmas. Seriously — no costume, no entry.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises Media and is the publisher of FloridaPolitics.com, INFLUENCE Magazine, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Previous to his publishing efforts, Peter was a political consultant to dozens of congressional and state campaigns, as well as 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. Follow Peter on Twitter @PeterSchorschFL.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

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Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
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