Thanksgiving Weekend is brought to you by these Florida lobbyists and political organizations
Roasted turkey garnished with cranberries on a rustic style table decoraded with pumpkins, gourds, asparagus, brussel sprouts, baked vegetables, pie, flowers, and candles.

Peter SchorschNovember 22, 202316min
Rustic Thankgiving Dinner
A few extra people to be thankful for.

It’s time to talk turkey. And stuffing, pie, football and shopping.

Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the winter holiday season. That means loads of holiday parties and visits from far-flung family.

Still, the message of the Thanksgiving holiday is the same — it’s a day for Americans to reflect on what they’re grateful for. But it’s also a day to gorge yourself on goodies, sneak a snack in between meals, and loosen your belts while watching the big game.

For food, Publix is the obvious choice. It’s where you’ll find all turkey, potatoes, stuffing and cranberries you can eat — they even sell Rubbermaid containers to store the stuff you cannot. The Florida-based grocer has Thomas Culligan and Tara Chilton in-house as well as Matt BryanTeye Carmichael, Jeff Hartley, and Johnathan Rees of Smith Bryan & Myers on retainer.

Chances are, many of the items that you toss into your shopping cart will come from U.S. Sugar growers. Sugar is the gimme as you’ll need that for the turkey brine. But the company’s farmers grow several other crops such as green beans, the core ingredient in green bean casserole.

This year marks the last Thanksgiving that the legendary lobbyist Robert Coker will be on the U.S. Sugar roster — and the company has had a lot to be thankful for during his 42 years working in the role and he’s sure to get a proper sendoff when he officially retires at the end of the year.

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; Greg Black of Waypoint StrategiesDavid Browning, Mercer FearingtonSeth McKeelSydney Ridley and Clark Smith of The Southern Group; Steve Crisafulli of Crisafulli Consulting; Charlie Dudley and Cory Guzzo of Floridian PartnersRichard Heffley and Kelly Horton of Heffley & Associates; Frank Mayernick and Tracy Mayernick of The Mayernick GroupKirk Pepper of GrayRobinson; and Christopher Smith of Tripp Scott PA.

Yes, Publix does sell turkeys, but if you haven’t bought one by now … well, you’re not hopeless, but you’ll need to start researching what “spatchcocking” is and sharpen your kitchen shears (Please tell us you have kitchen shears).

Google and YouTube have brought many Thanksgivings back from the brink. They also have many lobbyists working for them in Tallahassee. Its team includes the crew at Ballard Partners and James CardTom DiGiacomo and Brennan Garcia of Continental Strategy.

Deep frying is also an option, but if you’re Googling a how-to video the day of then you’re more likely to become a statistic than you are to enjoy a nice meal with family.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, there are more house fires on Thanksgiving than any other day of the year. Turkey frying is a big reason why — fire departments respond to about 1,000 fryer fires every Thanksgiving, and about 900 of them result in a destroyed home.

It often goes unsaid, but firefighters are people we should all be thankful for. There are many firefighter groups in Florida, and many of them have lobbyists.

Johnson & Blanton are a go-to firm for these first responders. Travis BlantonJon JohnsonEric PrutsmanDarrick McGee and the rest of Team J&B represent the Florida Fire Chiefs’ Association and the Florida Fire Marshals and Inspectors Association. The Florida Professional Firefighters, meanwhile, are represented by in-house lobbyists Wayne Bernoska Jr.George MarshRocco Salvatori and Meredith Stanfield with assistance from contract lobbyist Screven Watson.

If you happen to have a fire suppression system on premises, be thankful for the American Fire Sprinkler Association and the Florida Fire Sprinkler Association. The former is represented by Ron Pierce, Natalie King, and Edward Briggs and  of RSA Consulting. The latter’s lobbying team includes Tim MeenanDaniel Olson and Joy Ryan of Meenan PA.

While shopping at Publix is indeed a pleasure, don’t even think about making a run for last-minute supplies such as whipped cream for your pumpkin pie. Thanksgiving, along with Christmas and Easter, is one of few days a year Publix shuts down so staffers can share the day with family and friends.

If you’d rather not bother with cooking, there are plenty of restaurants ready to serve you, whether it’s dine-in or carry-out. The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association aims to “protect, educate and promote,” the state’s $82 billion hospitality industry.

Representing FRLA in Tallahassee are Jim DaughtonWarren HusbandDoug BellLeslie DughiAlli Liby-SchoonoverAimee LyonAndy Palmer, and Karl Rasmussen of Metz Husband & Daughton as well as French Brown of Dean Mead. The association also has an in-house team that includes president Carol Dover as well as Geoff Luebkemann and Samantha Padgett.

If you’re traveling for Thanksgiving, cooking probably isn’t your responsibility — getting there is hard enough. According to AAA, more than 3 million Floridians will travel 50 miles or more from home this Thanksgiving, a 2.3% increase from last year and an increase of more than 100,000 from pre-pandemic levels.

A chunk of the increase is from air travel, which AAA expects to increase by 5% over 2021. Many of those fliers will be boarding either a Delta or American Airlines flight. Delta is represented by Nick IarossiRon LaFaceMaicel GreenAndrew KetchelJared Rosenstein and Chris Schoonover of Capital City Consulting. American Airlines relies on Jeff JohnstonAmanda Stewart and Anita Berry of Johnston & Stewart Government Strategies.

Still, most traveling Floridians will be getting behind the wheel, and a long drive means they’ll need to top off their tank. Where they fill up really depends on which Interstate exit they get off at, but drivers who can hold off until they see a RaceTrac know they can expect a clean and comfy stop. RaceTrac’s pit crew includes Lori Killinger and Martin Lyon of Lewis Longman & Walker.

Thanksgiving meals wouldn’t be complete without a few boozy beverages — if anyone has figured out a way to get through the holiday season without them, we haven’t heard of it. It goes without saying that those who manage to kill the bottle shouldn’t get behind the wheel. That’s where Uber comes in. The state’s preferred ridesharing app can get you to and fro in a snap. They can also help restock your liquor cabinet through their sister app, Uber Eats.

Uber has had lobbyists in the Capitol for years now, and they’ve had many wins to be thankful for over the years. The company also has Giovanni Castro and Javier Correoso working in-house and a long list of lobbyists on contract. They include Jennifer Green, Timothy Parson and Adam Potts of Liberty Partners of Tallahassee; Sean Pittman of The Pittman Law Group; Amanda Fraser and Katie Webb of Colodny Fass; and the teams at The Fiorentino Group, Floridian Partners, GrayRobinson and RSA Consulting. Uber also benefits from having Christina Johnson and the crew at On3 PR on its side.

Once the leftovers are put away and the dishes are done — and assuming no house fires — it’s time to plan out your Black Friday stops. According to the National Retail Federation, holiday shopping is expected to reach record levels — between $957.3 billion and $966.6 billion between now and Christmas. That’s great news for Florida’s retail stores, which rely on the Florida Retail Federation to make sure their voices are heard in Tallahassee.

FRF has seven lobbyists on tap, including president and CEO R. Scott Shalley and in-house advocates Lorena Holley, Jessica Hunter and Gina SiskAngela Bonds and French Brown of Dean Mead; and Team J&B.

Many larger retail chains have their own lobbying teams. Target has in-house lobbyist Molly Cagle working alongside John HarrisJoseph SalzvergRobert Stuart and Jason Unger of GrayRobinson. Walmart has Michael CorcoranJacqueline CorcoranMatt BlairBethany McAlisterWill Rodriguez and Andrea Tovar of Corcoran Partners; and Amazon has Brian Ballard, Courtney Coppola and Abigail Vail of Ballard Partners.

Shopping for presents to put under the tree is certainly a good way to spend the Friday after Thanksgiving, but if you’re looking to make a difference for the less fortunate this holiday season, consider helping out at your local food bank.

Feeding Florida is a statewide network bringing together 14 food bank members across the state to try to reduce hunger. The association has the team at Johnson & Blanton backing it up when it needs a helping hand.

And as you consider other ways to help Floridians in need this holiday season, use the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ “Check-A-Charity” tool to get detailed information about the organizations you want to give to this year.

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.


  • Richard C. Russell

    November 23, 2023 at 12:05 am

    Lobbyists are the leeches who profit entirely at the expense of American taxpayers.

  • Richard C. Russell

    November 23, 2023 at 12:05 am

    Lobbyists are the leeches who profit entirely at the expense of American taxpayers.

  • My Take

    November 23, 2023 at 11:17 am

    I think Thanksgivìng is a great tradition and holiday.
    We should indeed think of all we have to be thankful for. (This year, why don’t wè start with democracy?)
    And despite all the connections mentioned in the article above, it is one major holiday that commercial interests have not overwhelmed. Nearly all of what is being bought is food.
    (Well, plus gasoline and jet fuel.)

  • Lol

    November 23, 2023 at 2:00 pm

    The fact that corporate lobbying is still legal to me is insane.

Comments are closed.


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