Brightest minds in Florida politics: Randy Nielsen/Rich Johnston

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Here is Florida’s most well-known “twofer”: Randy Nielsen and Rich Johnston, the owners of Public Concepts, an award-winning West Palm Beach political consulting firm. Founded in Florida in 1991, the duos outfit now operates in 25 states.

These guys can be found when Googling ‘Florida campaigns’ or ‘public polling’ or ‘direct mail’. And while it may not always be the most popular item in the mailbox, if you live in Florida, you’ve seen their infamous attack-ads.

“Randy Nielsen is one if the craftiest in the business,” says Strategic Image Management’s Anthony Pedicini. “Trusted by some of Florida’s titans of industry, Randy has made a career out of employing timely and well thought out strategies that often make the difference between winning and losing.”

“Nielsen taught me a lot about fighting for your own, never giving up and his passion was infectious,” he adds. “Many of Florida’s top politicos at one time or another called 5730 Corporate Way home.”

Randy Nielsen has been affectionately (or otherwise) called an “attack-meister” — an expert in producing those scathing, frightful pieces that give candidates the chills to imagine. Just ask Miami Republican Alex Villalobos what that felt like in 2006; or Paige Kreegel, in 2004.

“When it comes to nasty politics in Florida, the conversation inevitably gets around to Randy Nielsen,” Tampa Bay Times reporter Lucy Morgan wrote in 2007. “(Nielsen) proudly wears the mantle: the state’s foremost expert on attack ads.”

“People call it negative campaigning,” Morgan adds, “but Nielsen says it’s in the finest tradition of the First Amendment: His work ensures that ‘voters have the right information to make a conscientious decision.’”

The two are also partners in Viewpoint Florida, a joint public opinion research effort with Pat Bainter’s Data Targeting Inc. — and are among the most highly utilized consultants by the Republican Party of Florida, for polling and consulting and advertising and pretty much everything else that goes into the GOPs grip on campaign communications.

Nielsen and Johnston are political animals — and of the species that you really, really want on your side.

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Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.