No. 19 on the list of Tampa Bay’s Most Powerful Politicians: Josie Tomkow

The Polk City Republican called the shots this year on funding schools. What's next for the 28-year-old lawmaker?

As she looks toward a fourth and final term in the House, Rep. Josie Tomkow approaches a high point in power. But there’s no reason to think she plans to stop her rise anytime soon.

Just as she’s climbed several rungs on this list of Tampa Bay’s Most Powerful Politicians since last year, the Polk City Republican has increased her responsibilities over three terms in the House. She chaired the PreK-12 Education Appropriations Subcommittee this year, assembling one of the most closely watched budget silos during the Session.

The job required haggling over spending on Florida’s schools. Ultimately, a deal was reached to provide $28.4 billion in the next fiscal year, roughly $1.8 billion more than the current year.

“Rep. Josie Tomkow has become one of Tampa Bay’s most influential politicians,” said Edward Briggs, Vice President of Community and Government Affairs for RSA Consulting Group, who made particular note of her work on the education budget.

“Under her leadership, the guaranteed allocation for (exceptional student education) was increased for the first time in over a decade, addressing critical needs in special education. In addition, her successful passage of universal vouchers last Session has given parents and students the freedom to choose the school that best suits their needs, representing a significant advancement in educational choice and accessibility across the state.”

Meanwhile, the cattle rancher has earned honors as an advocate for children, agriculture and Florida’s businesses.

“It may border on cliché, but when I think of Josie Tomkow, the saying ‘ride for the brand’ is a common refrain. Not because of her ranching background, but because of her body of work over her time in the Florida House. For myself, and many members, you’ll find no greater friend, no more passionate advocate, and no more devoted fighter than Josie Tomkow,” said House Speaker-designate Daniel Perez.

“And all of that combined would make her an exceptional leader and extraordinary friend, but Josie’s ability to navigate complex policy and budget issues has proven to be an asset to the Speaker’s she’s served and the community she represents. And at the end of the day, much like so many ranchers, Josie doesn’t seek the limelight or a camera — she does the work, she gets the job done and gets back at it the next day.”

She continues to be a voice for Florida farmers, lobbying against unfair trade practices and for support for the industry as it contends with lingering damage from recent storms. She has also had a long legislative relationship with Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson, the last Senate President and a hopeful for the Governor’s Mansion. The fellow farm owner said he has always appreciated the work ethic of the rural lawmaker.

“Down here, we value hard work and integrity,” Simpson said. “Josie comes from a long line of Tomkows that put family, faith and community first. It’s not about influence or recognition for Josie. She’s taking a stand for the values she was raised on and fighting for hard-working folks who may never have a voice in The Process.”

But she has also pushed for reforms to Florida’s child welfare protections, focused both on stopping abuse and expediting adoptions of children into safe homes.

This will impact Tampa Bay and statewide, and it could establish the 28-year-old lawmaker as a policy leader in the future.

She also has built a political network around her that she seems in no hurry to shed. This year, she married political consultant Tom Piccolo, co-founder of Strategic Image Management, a firm deeply connected to Tampa Bay politics.

While any prediction about politicians’ career paths requires an “anything-can-happen” caveat, Tomkow has largely assured a return trip to Tallahassee in November. She crushed a Republican Primary challenger, Bill Olson, in 2022 by taking 67% of the vote in the newly drawn House District 51 to secure a third term. To date, no Republican has filed to take Tomkow on again in 2024.

Democrats didn’t even bother to run a candidate in the district then, even though registered Democrats outnumber Republicans in the district. This cycle, she will face an opponent, Octavio Eduardo Hernandez. But considering the fact that more than 61% of voters in HD 51 favored Gov. Ron DeSantis’ re-election, it’s not expected to be a competitive race this year.

That likely means a fourth and final term for Tomkow in the House before term limits prevent another run for the seat as a 30-something. But it’s a smart bet that she won’t fade into obscurity anytime soon after that.



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.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


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