11th annual list of Tampa Bay’s 25 Most Powerful Politicians

As it typically does, this list contains some familiar faces. But it also has some surprises, including who landed at the top and who fell off from last year.

The stakes always seem higher in a Presidential Election year, and this year’s class of Tampa Bay’s Most Powerful Politicians are, in each their own way, navigating the political minefield that comes with it.

While most attention is at the top of the ballot as a likely rematch between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump heats up to somewhere between Florida hot and the surface of the sun, Tampa Bay area elected officials are doing something arguably more important: seeking their version of what’s best for the region and its residents.

The past few years have seen a major shift in local politics. Republicans have reclaimed majorities on the Pinellas and Hillsborough County Commissions and expanded their power in the halls of Tallahassee.

Now, the many challenges surrounding Trump are not just at the top of the ballot; they’re all over it, with Democrats jockeying for position largely by running not on what they will do but on what Republicans — namely Trump — have done.

That includes the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, a move Democrats say was made possible by Trump through his Supreme Court nominations that shifted the bench in conservatives’ favor. More broadly, they point to the Republican-controlled Legislature’s passing of a near-total ban on abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, a time at which Democrats are quick to point out is before most women even know they’re pregnant.

With an amendment on the ballot this year asking voters whether to enshrine abortion protections into the state constitution, Democrats are hoping the issue will turn out voters more likely to vote for them.

That leaves plenty of room for power moves on both sides of the aisle.

As it typically does, this list contains some familiar faces. But it also has some surprises, including who landed at the top and who fell off from last year. Some of this year’s honorees are repeating on the list — some for several years running — but from different positions.

And the list continues to shine a light on how power and influence differ depending on position. For example, it should come as little surprise that legislative honorees are more likely to be members of the GOP — after all, Republicans enjoy supermajorities in both chambers. Democrats on this list either find themselves in a minority party forced to soften what they see as bad legislation or leading in areas friendlier to liberal policies and ideas.

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 sponsor of this year’s rankings.

As for methodology, we define the Tampa Bay region as Pinellas, Hillsborough, and Pasco, but we 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 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 KirbyMerritt 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.

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.

And finally … #1 — Chad Chronister

#2 — Jane Castor

#3 — Lawrence McClure

#4 — Ken Welch

#5 — Kathy Castor

#6 — Gus Bilirakis

#7 — Bob Gualtieri

#8 — Danny Burgess

#9 — Fentrice Driskell

#10 — Ed Hooper

Honorable mention — Wilton Simpson

Honorable mention — Ben Albritton

Honorable mention — Jennifer Canady

#11 — Nick DiCeglie

#12 — Ken Hagan

#13 — Darryl Rouson

# 14 — Laurel Lee

#15 — Chris Latvala

#16 — Ed Montanari

#17 — Jim Boyd

#18 — Vern Buchanan

#19 — Josie Tomkow

#20 — Blaise Ingoglia

#21 — Kathleen Peters

#22 — Chris Nocco

#23 — Jay Collins

#24 — Anna Paulina Luna

#25 — Bill Carlson

Staff Reports

One comment

  • 🌞

    May 29, 2024 at 5:37 pm

    When life gives you a can of worms and makes you Stone cold…
    Go fishing


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