State lobbyists begin to feel out the new crop of legislative candidates

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At the heart of lobbying — as in sales and other businesses — is relationships.

Effective lobbyists need to form a connection with lawmakers and decision makers as the first step in effectively speaking on behalf of their clients.

Imagine how difficult it is to form a bond between advocates and legislators if they barely know each other, or (at worst) have never met. Becoming familiar with all the key players in Tallahassee is the secret of the best lobbyists.

The November elections are still nearly six months out, but the Florida Association of Professional Lobbyists has already geared up to learn about prospective legislators they may be working with next year.

During each election cycle, the FAPL starts the Candidate Interview Schedule, a type of meet and greet with some of the people with whom they are likely to cross paths in the 2015 legislative session.

The first of four such events begins Wednesday between 9 a.m. at 4 p.m., hosted by John Sebree of the Florida Association of Realtors, located at 7025 Augusta National Drive in Orlando.

This gives both sides an opportunity to discuss and share ideas, becoming the starting point for advising clients on how the candidates respond on issues.

FAPL interviews will focus primarily on open races for the state House and Senate. If a candidate wanting to attend is running against an incumbent, they will be allowed, but the FAPL will also notify and invite the incumbent.

The other three candidate interview events around the state:

  • Tuesday, June 3 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., hosted by Robert M. Levy, Levy & Associates at the City Hall Restaurant, 2004 Biscayne Blvd. in Miami.
  • Thursday, June 19 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., hosted by Ron Pierce, RSA Consulting at the Tampa Bay Times Forum conference room, 401 Channelside Drive in Tampa.
  • Tuesday, July 15 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., hosted by Liberty Partners of Tallahassee, The Fiorentino Group and Ramba Consulting at the Hospitality Square Conference Room, second floor, 200 W. College Ave. in Tallahassee.

 For more information, or to register for the candidate interviews, visit

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.