February 24, 2024


Most Influential in Politics

Florida Staff | 11/1/2004

Bruce Barcelo
Jacksonville, 52, Consultant, Barcelo & Co.
Barcelo is the political consultant and pollster of choice for Republican bigwigs in Jacksonville. In addition to working with northeast Florida's political glitterati, including Mayor John Peyton and former Mayors John Delaney and Al Austin, Barcelo has carved a niche advising on state and local referenda.

Sergio Bendixen
Coral Gables, 55, President, Bendixen & Associates
Hispanic public opinion expert Bendixen, a Democrat, has advised politicians and policy-makers in Latin America, the U.S. and south Florida for more than 25 years. His multilingual polls, conducted in as many as 12 languages, gauge everything from candidate preference to views on the Iraq war, Cuba and taxes. Born in Peru and educated at Notre Dame University, Bendixen works with the premiere Hispanic broadcasters, CNN en Espanol, Telemundo and Univision. Bendixen is helping to shape the 2004 presidential debate. His poll, conducted this summer for the New Democratic Network, surveyed Latino voters in the battleground states of Florida, Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico.

Adam Goodman

Tampa, 35, President, The Victory Group
GOP media consultant Goodman has worked with top Republican politicos, including former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and 2004 U.S. Senate candidate Mel Martinez. But it is Goodman's close ties to U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris, which began with her successful 1994 race for a state Senate seat, that put him at the center of the action. As secretary of state, Harris turned to Goodman and GOP strategist Mac Stipanovich for advice during the 2000 presidential election debacle in Florida.

Susan MacManus

Tampa, 57, Professor, University of South Florida
MacManus' top-flight research has made her the media's favorite political expert to turn to for analysis on Florida politics. A native of Pasco County with a doctorate from Florida State University, MacManus also has the governor's ear. She led Jeb Bush's transition team on health services policy and is a member of the Governor's Council of Economic Advisors.


Brian Ballard & Jim Smith

Tallahassee, 43 & 64, Partners, Smith, Ballard and Logan
Former state Attorney General and Secretary of State Smith and son-in-law Ballard have built one of the most prestigious lobbying firms in Tallahassee. Ballard is a University of Florida-trained lawyer and former chief of operations for Republican Gov. Bob Martinez.

Ron Book
Plantation, 51, Lobbyist
The veteran Broward County lobbyist and fund-raiser was once a track star at the University of Florida, and he's just kept running. With more than five dozen clients, including BellSouth, Miami-Dade County and Florida Power & Light, Book is a player on most of the key issues in Tallahassee.

Pete Dunbar

Tallahassee, 57, General Counsel, Florida Department of Financial Services
Dunbar moves seamlessly between the public and private sectors in Tallahassee. For now, he's helping out his old friend, state CFO Tom Gallagher. Dunbar's primary role in recent years, however, has been representing private and public sector interests, notably Tampa Bay Water and Time Warner Telecom, in the halls of power in Tallahassee. The 30-year Tallahassee insider served for a decade in the 1980s as a member of the Florida House, moving from there to become Gov. Bob Martinez's general counsel.

Randy Hanna
Tallahassee, 46, Managing Partner, Bryant Miller & Olive
Hanna, a Tallahassee lawyer, former chairman of the state Board of Community Colleges and member of the Florida A&M University Board of Trustees, is a quiet but key player in Florida education policy-making.

Mike Hightower

Jacksonville, 59, Chief Lobbyist
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida
For more than two decades, Hightower has been a key Republican fund-raiser in north Florida and a proponent of the GOP's tort reform initiatives. This month, he'll be the focus of George Bush's efforts in northeast Florida as chair of the Republican Party in Duval County and point man for the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign in Jacksonville and surrounding counties.

Frank Ryll Jr.

Tallahassee, 62, President, Florida Chamber of Commerce
A behind-the-scenes player, Ryll has led the state's largest business association for almost 25 years. Frustrated by the increasing number of constitutional amendments on the Florida ballot, Ryll launched VoteSmartFlorida.org to inform Floridians about the constitutional amendment process and to urge them to vote this month in favor of Amendment 2, which would require that voter initiatives be filed nine months prior to an election.

John "Mac" Stipanovich

Tallahassee, 55, Managing Shareholder
Fowler White Boggs Banker
If anyone knows how the game is played in Tallahassee, it is Mac. He arrived in Tallahassee with Bob Martinez and never left, now representing clients as diverse as U.S. Sugar and Pinch A Penny pool supply stores. It's as a political campaign operative that he is in his element, though. He played that role quietly in 2000, advising then-Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris in the state's wrangling over hanging chads and the outcome of the U.S. presidential election.

John Thrasher

Orange Park, 60, Vice President, Southern Strategy Group
Attorney, Smith, Hulsey & Busey
A close friend of Gov. Jeb Bush and Speaker of the Florida House from 1999 to 2000, Thrasher is part of Tallahassee's top lobbying firm, Southern Strategy Group. Along with Paul Bradshaw and David Rancourt, Thrasher works the power elite network of almost 100 clients, including Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida, Merck, St. Joe Co. and Walt Disney World.

Steve Uhlfelder

Tallahassee, 58, Owner, Uhlfelder & Associates
When Uhlfelder talks, people in Tallahassee listen. Although he has a gold-plated list of lobbying clients, including American Express, Tenet Healthcare and UPS, Uhlfelder is best known for his high-profile role in education. He is a member of the Florida Board of Governors and was a leader in the efforts to obtain $23 million in funding for pre-K programs in the state. In August, Gov. Jeb Bush tapped Uhlfelder to serve as volunteer CEO of the steering committee for the Florida Hurricane Relief Fund, a not-for-profit similar to the We Will Rebuild effort after Hurricane Andrew. Uhlfelder's clout comes from his connections on both sides of the political aisle. A Democrat and University of Florida-trained lawyer, he switched his allegiance to George W. Bush in 2000, co-chairing Democrats for Bush.


State Sen. Jeff Atwater
District 25, North Palm Beach, 46
Atwater won the upset victory of the 2002 elections by beating Bob Butterworth. He's on Republican Party and media pundit lists of possible future statewide candidates.

State Rep. Allan Bense
District 6, Panama City, 53
The incoming House Speaker has accumulated influence mostly by staying out of the spotlight. A Republican businessman from Panama City, he thinks the state has serious, big-picture infrastructure problems.

Gov. Jeb Bush
Age 51
Bush has redefined the powers of the governor's office and restructured many functions of state government. He's done more to change the state's educational system than any governor in state history. Bilingual -- he gave hurricane briefings flawlessly in both Spanish and English -- Bush will remain influential long after he leaves the governor's office.

Charlie Crist
Attorney General, 48
Mr. Public Relations has surprised even his most ardent detractors with his strong, focused performance as attorney general.

Tom Gallagher

Florida CFO, 60
After the governor, Gallagher is possibly the most powerful person in state government, with dominion over a vast array of financial and insurance regulation.

Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings
Orlando, 55
A businesswoman in Orlando, Jennings is the former president of the Senate, where she ran a tight ship and earned high marks as a consensus-builder. Among other accomplishments, she kept welfare reform on track.

State Sen. Ron Klein

District 30, Delray Beach, 47
The Democrat from Delray Beach served as minority leader in the last legislative session. He's vocal and particularly active in technology and social issues.

State Sen. Tom Lee

District 10, Brandon, 42
The incoming Senate president, a Republican from Brandon who's a home builder by trade, wants to build a new budgetary system that will address the state's services needs. He's willing to take on tax reform.

U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart
21st District, Miami, 50
A Republican who's an insider with his party's leadership, Diaz-Balart is a member of the powerful House Rules Committee and was named one of 10 most influential Hispanics in the nation by Hispanic Magazine in 2000. He has focused predominantly, some say too much so, on Cuba.

U.S. Rep. Mike Bilirakis

9th District, Tarpon Springs, 74
Bilirakis is active in health legislation, including Medicare and Medicaid as chairman of the health subcommittee of House Energy and Commerce Committee. Elected in 1982, he's a former Democrat trusted by Republican House leadership.

U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw
4th District, Jacksonville, 55
A Republican, Crenshaw was only elected to the House in 2000 but has already made a positive impression. He holds seats on Appropriations and Budget committees and also serves as a deputy whip; he's active in military and transportation issues.

U.S. Rep. Jim Davis

11th District, Tampa, 47
Davis has carved out influence for himself as a middle-of-the-road Democrat who's a deficit hawk. He has at least one foot in the water as a contender for the governor's office.

Porter Goss

CIA Director, 66
The former CIA agent retired from his 14th District seat this year and was named director of the CIA.

U.S. Sen. Bob Graham

Age 68
The two-term state senator, representative and governor wields considerable influence as a three-term U.S. senator. He's played key roles in developing national security, intelligence, environmental and healthcare policies. Graham led a successful effort in 2002 to restore a centralized board to oversee Florida's university system.

U.S. Rep. John Mica
7th District, Winter Park, 61
Mica, less strident than in past years, has been a leader on post 9/11 aviation issues, including formation of the TSA and the airline bailout bill. U.S.

Sen. Bill Nelson

Age 62
The fifth-generation Floridian, a former state legislator and insurance commissioner, is active in environmental and military issues. A NASA expert and fitness buff, he has flown aboard a shuttle mission.

U.S. Rep. E. Clay Shaw Jr.

22nd District, Fort Lauderdale, 63
Shaw, a Republican, is chair of the Social Security subcommittee of House Ways and Means. He's prominent in welfare reform and was a behind-the-scenes player in keeping the changes in 2003.

U.S. Rep. Dave Weldon
15th District, Palm Bay, 51
A physician, Weldon is a player in the movement to ban cloning of human embryos for any purpose, including medical research. He's a big NASA booster who also focuses on veterans issues.

U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young
10th District, Indian Rocks Beach, 72
The outgoing chair of the Appropriations Committee, Young has steered millions to his district for everything from roads to education.

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