10th annual list of Tampa Bay’s 25 Most Powerful Politicians

In polarized Florida, power is often subjective.

Just as pandemic politics seemed to fade from the rearview, culture war battles sped into the inside lane and are gaining fast. The ebb and flow of supercharged issues is a never-ending symptom of a polarized Florida — and now again, it seems, an increasingly partisan Tampa Bay area.

Politicians in the region focus on varying forces — from land use and urban redevelopment on County Commissions and City Councils to school choice, teacher pay, and water conservation among state lawmakers — but they all seek their version of what’s best for Tampa Bay and its residents. 

This past year saw an incredible shift in partisan dealings, particularly in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, which had been trending blue in recent years. Both County Commissions saw their boards flip from Democratic majorities to GOP strongholds and one of the region’s major Congressional Districts, the 13th, also flipped after Anna Paulina Luna won the seat vacated by defeated gubernatorial contender Charlie Crist. 

The red wave that escaped much of the nation during the 2022 Midterms was very much a red tsunami in Florida, and even Tampa Bay. Janet Cruz lost her Senate seat to Republican Jay Collins. Andrew Learned lost his House district for Democrats, too.

On the Hillsborough County Commission, Kimberly Overman and Mariella Smith both fell to underfunded GOP candidates and, in Pinellas, incumbent Democrat Pat Gerard lost a hard-fought battle to Republican Brian Scott.

Republicans are armed more than ever in recent years with majorities to push their agendas, while Democrats are left rebuilding and trying to figure out how best to use what power remains. 

So, who wields the clout — and who’s bold enough to flout it? For its annual list of Tampa Bay’s Most Powerful Politicians, Florida Politics scoured opinions from the Sunshine Skyway to the Strawberry Festival grounds and far beyond, consulting with the leaders, lobbyists and politicos, each an expert on the wielding of influence.

A special thanks to RSA Consulting Group, the sponsors of this year’s rankings.

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 2023 list: Christina Barker of the Vinik Family Office, Ashley Bauman of Mercury, Ed Briggs of RSA Consulting, political consultant Maya BrownRicky Butler of the Pinellas Co. Sheriff’s Office, Reggie Cardozo of The Public Square, Ronald Christaldi of Schumaker, Barry EdwardsJoe Farrell of Pinellas Realtors, pollster Matt Florell of Vicidial Group, Shawn Foster of Sunrise Consulting Group, Adam Giery of Strategos Group, political consultant Max GoodmanMike Griffin of Savills, Todd Josko of Ballard Partners, Natalie King of RSA Consulting, political consultant Benjamin KirbyMerritt Martin of Moffitt Cancer Center, Mike Moore of The Southern Group, Ron Pierce of RSA Consulting, J.C. Pritchett, pastor of St. Pete’s Faith Church, Darren Richards of Tucker/Hall, Preston Rudie of Catalyst Communications Group, Amanda Stewart of Johnston and Stewart, Bemetra Simmons of the Tampa Bay Partnership, Alan Suskey of Shumaker Advisors and communications consultant Janelle Irwin Taylor. With Michelle and Peter Schorsch.

The posts will go live throughout the week, counting down from No. 25 to No. 1. They will be available below as the series goes on. Check back frequently to follow along as rankings go live.

No. 1 — Jane Castor

No. 2 — Ken Welch

No. 3 — Chad Chronister

No. 4 — Kathy Castor

Also receiving votes — Wilton Simpson

Other pols

No. 5 — Bob Gualtieri

No. 6 — Lawrence McClure

No. 7 — Danny Burgess

Also receiving votes — Grady Judd

No. 8 — Ed Hooper

No. 9 — Gus Bilirakis

No. 10 — Darryl Rouson

No. 11 — Ken Hagan

No. 12 — Nick DiCeglie

No. 13 — Fentrice Driskell

No. 14 — Janet Long

No. 15 — Chris Nocco

No. 16 — Chris Latvala

No. 17 — Luis Viera

No. 18 — Laurel Lee

No. 19 — Anna Paulina Luna

No. 20 — Brandi Gabbard

No. 21 — Blaise Ingoglia

No. 22 — Pat Kemp

No. 23 (tie) — Josie Tomkow and Linda Chaney 

No. 25 — Bill Carlson

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.

One comment

  • Donald Veasey

    March 3, 2023 at 9:48 am

    Grady Judd. The grandstanding Sheriff who never misses an opportunity to get on camera often belittling people accused of crimes. The bully Sheriff.

Comments are closed.


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