No. 25 on the list of Tampa Bay’s Most Powerful Politicians: Bill Carlson

For the second year in a row, Carlson's beef with Mayor Jane Castor has, at least in part, landed him a spot on the list.

Bill Carlson is either loved or loathed in Tampa political circles, and the sentiment often depends on how each person feels about a different Tampa politico — Mayor Jane Castor.

It’s no secret that Carlson is a top foe to Castor. Before last year’s election cycle, Carlson was one of three City Council members who often voted against Castor’s priorities or for items that would erode her executive authority.

Stay tuned to find out where Castor lands on this year’s list — she’s here, and she’s higher up than Carlson. While the Mayor may have bested Castor as it relates to this list, Carlson’s ranking comes largely from the time he bested her.

Carlson earned another four years on the dais last year, defeating Caspers Company CEO Blake Casper with 59% of the vote. Despite political differences — Castor is a Democrat, and Casper is a Republican — Castor backed (and some speculate actually recruited) the fast food magnate in his quest to oust Carlson. Carlson delivered a walloping victory despite a massive funding deficit and powerful forces working against him.

Carlson, for example, raised about $110,000 for the race. Casper brought in more than $333,000, though about $255,000 of that was his own money.

“With his re-election win in 2023 and posting nearly 60% of the vote, City Council member Bill Carlson established his influence within the Council,” said Natalie King, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for RSA Consulting.

“His assertive approach and not shying away from a challenge has positioned Carlson to focus on tackling the issues he believes are most pressing for his district: overdevelopment, public safety and concerns with toilet to tap.”

For Carlson and his supporters, the trouncing sent a loud message.

“It’s a great win for the people of Tampa. It shows that democracy works. And people want a representative form of government,” Carlson told the Tampa Bay Times after his victory, hinting at his concern that Castor’s administration was more of a cabal than a partner with the City Council.

This is the second year in a row Carlson has made this list, and the second time he sneaked into the very last spot at No. 25. Florida Politics publisher Peter Schorsch noted at the time that Carlson may well have room to grow, arguing that a City Council victory against a well-funded (albeit self-funded) conservative with prominent backing would have four more years to build his influence.

There might not have been a budge in ranking, but the future is still bright. The next time the Mayor’s race is on the ballot in Tampa, in 2027, it’ll be open and Carlson’s name keeps coming up as a possible Castor successor.

Sparks flew between Carlson and fellow Council member Luis Viera, another rumored contender for the Mayor’s Office in 2027, at a meeting in February where members discussed bonds to fund new fire stations and facilities. As the Times explained, neither Carlson nor Viera was keen on upsetting the firefighters union, which often provides a huge boost to mayoral candidates it supports in the city.

But it was a familiar story, with Carlson arguing that while he would probably not vote against firefighters, he did have serious concerns that Castor’s administration might misspend the appropriated funds. As that election cycle draws nearer, it’s possible, if not likely, that such sparks will continue to fly and that Carlson will again find himself in the spotlight as he seeks a different kind of leadership for Tampa.



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 1 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 2024 list: Christina Barker of the Vinik Family Office, Ashley Bauman of Mercury, Matthew Blair of Corcoran Partners, 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, Ana Cruz of Ballard Partners, Justin Day of Capital City Consulting, 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, Natalie King of RSA Consulting, political consultant Benjamin Kirby, TECO Energy Regional Affairs Coordinator Shannon Love, Merritt Martin of Moffitt Cancer Center, Mike Moore of The Southern Group, political consultant Anthony PediciniRon 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, and Alan Suskey of Shumaker Advisors. With Michelle and Peter Schorsch.

Janelle Irwin Taylor

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at [email protected].


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