#politics | Valentine’s Day is brought to you by these Florida lobbyists and political associations


Valentine’s Day is here, and retailers say it’ll be one for the record books.

A new survey touted by the Florida Retail Federation predicts Americans will spend upward of $27.4 billion celebrating the holiday — nearly a third more than last year’s record $20.7 billion.

The shopping spree will cut across several categories, including candy, flowers, cards, jewelry and more. Making sure shelves are overflowing with those Valentine’s Day necessities is a team effort, and many of the largest players have a footprint in the Sunshine State.

Those grabbing something sweet, whether candy hearts or a box of fine chocolates, will likely be doing Florida’s agriculture industry a favor. Sugar, after all, is one of Florida’s most prized exports.

The king of the industry, U.S. Sugar, gathers its cane from loads of family farms. And it also has loads of lobbyists on the ground in Tally. The 22 advocates plying the Legislature on behalf of the Clewiston-based corporation include firms in every weight class.

Among their expansive team: Brian Ballard and Chris Dorworth of Ballard Partners; Gregory Black of Waypoint Strategies; Carlos Cruz of Converge Government Affairs; Charlie Dudley and Cory Guzzo of Floridian Partners; Richard Heffley and Kelly Horton of Heffley & Associates; Frank Mayernick and Tracy Mayernick of The Mayernick Group; Christopher Smith of Tripp Scott; and solo lobbyists Mike HaridopolosStephen Dyal, and Screven Watson.

Flowers are another Valentine’s Day staple. While the Florida Wildflower Foundation may not play a hand in stocking stores with roses, they do a lot to ensure Florida’s native wildflowers stick around for all to enjoy.

Their efforts include conservation, education, and research projects, all directed at increasing the presence of wildflowers and supporting the wildlife that depend upon them.

When they need help in the Capitol, they turn to Susan Goldstein of The Legis Group.

According to FRF, the most purchased item of all will once again be Valentine’s Day cards. That’s no surprise, given that everyone from elementary school students to golden-agers hands out at least one or two.

For many, the most convenient place to pick one up is Target, especially since the national chain will also have plenty of candy and flowers on the shelf, allowing Floridians to work through their checklist without crisscrossing the town — thanks in part to Target’s team of lobbyists crisscrossing the Capitol Complex.

Their roster includes in-houser Tracey Hester as well as Katie Flury, John Harris, Joe Salzverg, Robert Stuart and Jason Unger of GrayRobinson.

Of course, not all Valentine’s Day purchases fit in a shopping cart. Since the holiday falls on a Friday this year, it provides a perfect opportunity for couples to skip town for the weekend.

For some, an ideal getaway means booking a room at a swanky hotel. Expedia is one of the best places to shop for rooms and, if its in cards, a last-minute plane ticket. While Floridians peruse the site in hopes of booking a trip, Expedia’s lobbyists — Jennifer Green, Melanie Bostick and Timothy Parson of Liberty Partners of Tallahassee — will be busy booking appointments with lawmakers to make sure has a say on travel industry legislation.

If a couple of nights in a cozy bungalow or private beach house is on your Valentine’s wish list, a vacation rental might be in the cards. That means navigating to Airbnb, which has a large selection of homes and apartments ready to book.

The company also has a large team of lobbyists helping their effort to get statewide vacation rental rules through the Legislature. Their advocates include Oscar Anderson, Brian Bautista, Paul Bradshaw, David Browning, Rachel Cone, Christopher Dudley, Mercer Fearington, Sydney Ridley and Clark Smith of The Southern Group; and Natalie Kato, Lori Killinger and Martin Lyon of Lewis Longman & Walker.

For those who can’t travel far, maybe there’s a nearby concert or show that would help make the evening a memorable one. Whether you’re looking for live music or theater tickets TicketNetwork has you covered. Their go-tos in the Legislature are Matt Bryan, Jeff Hartley, Lisa Hurley and Teye Reeves of Smith Bryan & Myers.





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