Politics' Hired Guns
Today, Florida's professional political consultants know more about voters than the voters might like. But for all the tools at their disposal, it's still tough -- and more expensive -- to get a message out.
POLITICAL CONSULTANTBruce Barcelo
Barcelo & Co.
Bruce Barcelo [Photo: Kelly LaDuke]
Political leaning: Republican
Specialty: Public opinion research and message design for referendums and international consulting .
Example: In 2006, Barcelo was hired by the “Neighbors Protecting Neighbors Committee,” which was fighting a charter amendment intended to get the U.S. Department of Defense to re-establish a Navy jet base at Cecil Field. The plan would have required the city to eject business owners from the Cecil Commerce Center at the former Cecil Field and return it to the U.S. Department of Defense. “What we were able to show in our early polling was that even though folks here love the Navy, as a pure business proposition, they didn’t think giving land back to the Navy was a smart thing to do. We told our clients that the referendum was going to fail, and they needed to stick to a disciplined message strategy, and the referendum failed 60% to 40%.”
Property taxes: Barcelo predicts that the property tax issue will continue to be a hot potato, despite the passage of Amendment 1, which increased the homestead exemption and made the “Save Our Homes” tax break portable. Barcelo says the tax break will radically change local governments’ funding and strap their ability to provide services. “We’re going to have to deal with the aftermath — government service cuts, probably recriminations, and a lot of finger pointing.”
Overseas: Barcelo spends much of his time abroad doing “Democracy building” in countries like Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Afghanistan and Ukraine. “It’s very fulfilling to watch people in a post-totalitarian culture sort through public policy choices and sort through political conversations.”