“An anti-establishmentarian, Rick Wilson loves the way social media and the Internet have democratized politics,” reads a profile of Rick Wilson in POLITICO. “A PowerPoint he’s presented includes a slide that reads, ‘POLITICAL PARTIES SUCK. What part of dysfunctional, wasteful and incompetent are we supposed to love?’”
But don’t assume that Wilson doesn’t work with parties. To the contrary, this brilliant mind of Florida politics has deep experience in the trenches. He served as Florida field director for the 1988 presidential campaign of George H.W. Bush; served as a political appointee in Bush’s Defense Department under its secretary, Dick Cheney.
He joined a Florida media firm in 1994, made ads for Rudy Giuliani’s 1997 New York mayoral campaign and moved to New York in 1999 to work at City Hall and then on Giuliani’s aborted Senate bid against Hillary Clinton. Wilson then worked for former Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas, the Republican Governors Association, the Republican National Committee and a number of Florida campaigns.
“Rick has an uncanny instinct about things and isn’t afraid to go against the mindset of the establishment when he knows he is right,” says Ryan Wiggins, owner of and chief strategist at Full Contact Strategies. “He is always happy to offer advice or play devil’s advocate to up and comers, regardless of their political affiliation.”
“I’ve never known a person more willing to give of his time and expertise to anyone–even complete strangers–who ask for it,” she adds.
Wilson may be most well known for a few of his more controversial ads, including one for Sen. Saxby Chambliss that used an image of Osama bin Laden to attack then-Sen. Max Cleland, a triple-amputee Vietnam War veteran.
And don’t expect him to backpedal afterwards.
“It would be a serious misstep to mistake his kindness for weakness, however,” Wiggins says. “With credibility earned through decades of being in the game and influential friends around the country who trust him implicitly, Rick can be a powerful ally or an exceptionally formidable foe.”
In his own words, Wilson enjoys: “Politics, science, history, technology, aviation, space, guns, dogs, hunting, cooking, and inappropriate language. Apologies? Not so much.”
Despite or because of this unique way with words, Wilson is held in high regard by peers.
“A 21st century Renaissance man, no one we know in our business can read and interpret volumes, prolifically tweet, maintain client service and host a fine garden party like The Rick can,” says another of Florida’s brightest minds, David Johnson. “The new age of multitasker, I should add with all of the above he’s a terrific parent to great children. He also does not sleep.”