Valentine’s Day is brought to you by these Florida lobbyists and political associations
Valentine's Day candy. Stock image via Adobe.

The people purveyors of cards, candy and flowers turn to for help in the Legislature.

Valentine’s Day is here, and retailers say it’ll be one for the record books.

A new survey touted by the Florida Retail Federation predicts Americans will spend upward of $14.2 billion on their significant others — an increase of $700 million over last year and the highest total since retailers began surveying in 2004.

The shopping spree will cut across several categories, including candy, flowers, cards, jewelry and more. Making sure shelves overflow with those Valentine’s Day necessities is a team effort, and many of the largest players have a footprint in the Sunshine State.

Those grabbing something sweet, whether candy hearts or a box of fine chocolates, will likely be doing Florida’s agriculture industry a favor. Sugar, after all, is one of Florida’s most prized exports.

U.S. Sugar is among Florida’s biggest businesses and, accordingly, they have many of the big-name lobbyists at the biggest firms on retainer.

Just as sugar is far from the company’s only export, the following is far from an exhaustive list of their lobbyists: Greg Black of Waypoint Strategies; Steve Crisafulli of Crisafulli Consulting;  Charlie Dudley and Cory Guzzo of Floridian PartnersMike Haridopolos; David BrowningMercer FearingtonSeth McKeelSydney Ridley and Clark Smith of The Southern GroupRichard 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.

Flowers are another Valentine’s Day staple. While the Florida Wildflower Foundation may not play a hand in stocking stores with roses, they do a lot to ensure Florida’s native wildflowers stick around for all to enjoy. They no longer have lobbyists on retainer, but Floridians can help support their efforts by picking up a specialty license plate next time they’re up for renewal.

Flowers purchased for Valentine’s Day, however, are more likely to be cultivated than wild. As ever, roses are the No. 1 pick this year, but the Top 5 also includes lilies, tulips, carnations and alstroemeria, which is presumably the perfect flower for people who enjoy saying, “you’ve probably never heard of it.”

Where can you pick up flowers? Pretty much anywhere. Local florists are a good start, and that lines up with FRF’s “Find It In Florida” initiative. But if you haven’t pre-purchased a dozen already, you will need to roll the dice at the non-specialty retailer of your choice.

The first option for every true Floridian is Publix. The Lakeland-based chain relies on in-house lobbyists Thomas Culligan and Tara Chilton as well as Matt BryanTeye CarmichaelJeff Hartley, and Jonathan Rees of Smith Bryan & Myers.

While candy and flowers will account for more of the overall spend, retailers say the most-purchased Valentine’s Day gift this year will be greeting cards. That’s no surprise, given that every elementary school student in the state hands out a few dozen (or at least they did when Florida Politics’ youngest staffer was a K-5 student).

For many, the most convenient place to pick one up is Target, especially since the national chain will also have plenty of candy and flowers on the shelf, allowing Floridians to work through their checklist without crisscrossing the town, thanks in part to Target’s team of lobbyists crisscrossing the Capitol Complex.

Their roster includes in-house advocate Molly Cagle as well as Carlecia Collins, Joseph Salzverg and Jason Unger of GrayRobinson.

Walmart is functionally the same when it comes to last-minute V-Day shopping. Their team includes Michael CorcoranJacqueline CorcoranMatt BlairSamantha Sexton GreerBethany McAlisterWill Rodriguez and Andrea Tovar of Corcoran Partners.

Of course, shoppers who’d prefer to avoid the lines at the big stores can check off most of their shopping lists at a corner store, such as CVS or Walgreens.

CVS is represented by in-houser Brooke Tiner working alongside a team of contract lobbyists, including Edgar CastroChris DudleyJames McFaddin and Monte Stevens of The Southern Group, as well as Nick IarossiRon LaFaceMegan FayMaicel GreenAshley Kalifeh and Scott Ross of Capital City Consulting.

Meanwhile, Walgreens has Jake Farmer on payroll and lobbyists Brian Ballard and Christopher Hansen of Ballard Partners on retainer.

About one in three consumers told the National Retail Federation they plan to celebrate with a night out. That likely means dinner, and the thousands of establishments — and 1.5 million employees — represented by the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association (FRLA) are more than happy to oblige.

Hospitality is a $100-plus billion a year industry in Florida, and FRLA likewise has a large presence in the Capitol, including President and CEO Carol Dover and in-house lobbyists Geoff LuebkemannSamantha Hunter Padgett. Their contract lobbyists include Warren HusbandJames DaughtonDoug BellLeslie DughiAnna Lewis, Allison Liby-SchoonoverAimee Diaz LyonAndrew Palmer and Karl Rasmussen of Metz Husband & Daughton, as well as French Brown of Jones Walker.

We usually close these rundowns by reminding our readers of the true meaning of the holiday in question.

There are three saints named Valentine or Valentinus, but the holiday’s origin stems from the one who was a priest during the reign of Roman Emperor Claudius II.

The Emperor, also known as Claudius Gothicus for his decisive defeat of the Goths at the Battle of Naissus, believed single men made the best soldiers and therefore banned young men from getting married. Valentine defied that decree and performed marriages for young lovers in secret, which led to Claudius ordering his execution.

St. Valentine’s Day was later established as an annual festival to celebrate romantic love, friendship and admiration. So, we’re pleased to report that, as far as we can tell, modern-day celebrations are in line with the spirit of the holiday.

Of course, if the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops or their lobbying team — Michael Thomas BarrettMary CampChanta Combs, Tammy Fecci, Michael Sheedy and Michele Taylor — have any corrections, we’re all ears.

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.

One comment

  • Dangerous florida

    February 14, 2024 at 5:53 am

    Serious threats to federal judges and have more than doubled since the 2020 presidential election, Reuters reports. The number of serious threats against federal judges jumped from 224 in 2021, to 457 in 2023, according to data provided to Reuters by the U.S. Marshals Service. The number of serious threats against federal prosecutors also more than doubled to 155 in 2023, from 68 in 2021. The agency is responsible for overseeing the safety of 2,700 federal judges and more than 30,000 federal prosecutors. Reuters has recorded 232 political acts of violence since the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, the most consistent period of political violence since the 1970s. Following the 2020 election, former President Donald Trump has been embroiled in a series of highly publicized lawsuits, and has regularly criticized judges who have ruled against him.

Comments are closed.


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.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704