In what part of town do you live?
How long have you lived in the Gables?
16 years, a month ago.
Where are you originally from?
I’ve lived in Florida my whole life. I moved from Tampa to Miami for Bill Nelson’s reelection campaign in 2005.
What were you doing for Bill Nelson?
I was his South Florida fundraising director.
Are you in still in politics?
I’m a political consultant. I no longer really do the fundraising side of things. I serve as a general consultant or chief strategist to campaigns.
Would you share a little about your journey in politics?
I did one year in college and then came back and started working on campaigns. I spent about 10 years doing fundraising for democratic campaigns. I did Nelson. I did Hillary Clinton’s Florida fundraising in 2008. I did Alex Sink. Post Citizens United, I started to become one of the go-to guys for doing democratic Super PACS and political committees. That’s how I got into the running campaign side of things. I ran the medical marijuana campaign in 2014, which was not successful. But then I ran the next one in 2016, which was. I was one of the chief strategists for Nicki Fried’s successful campaign for Ag commissioner in 2018. Then I ran the successful initiative campaign to raise Florida’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2026.
What made the campaign in 2016, more successful than 2014?
Mostly the passage of time, honestly. We started the campaign in 2013, right after the first two states had legalized marijuana. We started when public opinion really started to shift in a big way on marijuana nationally. We faced gigantic opposition in 2014. Sheldon Adelson put in five and a half million dollars just himself. That was the first time a medical marijuana campaign had financed opposition. The opposition ran a very good campaign against us in 2014 that talked about the loopholes in the law. We changed a word here and there and closed the loopholes. We went from getting two thirds of the editorial boards in the state to 95% of the editorial boards in the state. And, we had more money in 2016 and they has less money.
What was Adelson’s motivation to fight it?
I think he was just a mean old man. The Republicans in the state were anti medical marijuana at that point. That’s changed.
Has it changed enough that there is a path to legalization in Florida?
No. There was a ballot initiative that got rejected recently. If Florida was allowed to vote on it tomorrow, it would pass tomorrow with more than the required 60% of the vote that you need to pass a constitutional amendment. Before the Republicans were restricting voting rights, they were restricting the rights of people to petition their government for change through the ballot initiative process. They’ve made it extraordinarily expensive to put something on the ballot.
And then there’s Ron DeSantis’s Supreme court. He had three Supreme court appointments that replaced three fairly moderate to liberal justices. I think that the only path to legalization in Florida is a Democratic governor and both houses of the legislature flipping to democratic. Especially after redistricting next year, that’s not going to happen for awhile.
(A+W) LNB Groves is a licensed CBD grower. We have our first crop coming later this year. And, we still trying to figure out what we will do.
(BP) People ask me all the time, how do we get into the medical marijuana business in Florida? How do we do the groundwork for when it legalizes? Getting into medical marijuana in Florida is almost impossible now, unless you’ve got a hundred million dollars sitting around to buy one of the licenses. My advice to everybody is get a hemp license and establish a brand.
What would the general public be surprised about the political world? Is there a behind the scenes view that would surprise us?
I think something people don’t understand is a lot of times behind scenes, especially in Congress, it’s a bunch of kids that are running the show. Most of like the legislative branch and the White House are run by 25-year-olds. If you go to Congress, a lot of chiefs of staff are under 40. Everybody that works there is young.
What do you enjoy about your role?
I like the notion that you can make big, meaningful changes in people’s lives. There are currently a half million active medical marijuana patients in the State of Florida. A few years ago there was zero. There are people having a better quality of life because of something that I helped achieve. And, in a bigger way is our success on minimum wage. People think that people in politics are cynical. Some people are, but it’s tough to do this for a living and be cynical. You have to give a shit about this. The rewarding part is giving a shit.
What are you excited to be working on next?
I’m excited to try and elect a democratic governor and dispose of what we’ve got. I’d really like to see one and hopefully both of these congressional seats in Miami to go back to being represented by Democrats.
How did you discover LNB?
I discovered you at the Pinecrest farmer’s market, not long before COVID. The first time we went there, we saw this line halfway down the aisle for smoothies. We waited in line for 20 minutes, with our two little kids and I was so pissed. But, then we got to try the smoothies and I was no longer pissed. The whole genius of the rainbow smoothie keeps the line moving pretty quick. Since there was no ordering, it’s just like large or small.
What’s it been like coming to the drive-thru?
It was about 20 minutes to get to Pinecrest, and now you’re about 30, so it’s not that much farther. I like to go by myself and have that hour of meditative daddy time to myself. I’m very excited about the new turnpike exit. It’s like is was built for you!
What do you pick up when you come by?
We always get the smoothies. We love the sorbets, particularly the Pineapple Thai Basil. My kids love the ice cream.
What other restaurants or stores do you guys like to go to often?
Every Sunday or Monday evening, like clockwork, I get take out from Tropical Chinese. Also, Madruga Bakery. My wife is French and her parents are French and make baguette requests when I go to see them in Clearwater, FL.
Where would you go for a special occasion?
Our date night place, pre pandemic, was always Michael’s Genuine.
What would you say is Miami best kept secret?
Maybe the fact that you can get a good, strong cup of espresso basically anywhere for like a $1.25. It’s an unbelievable feature of Miami.
What for you is a worthy splurge?
Travel. We haven’t gone in two years, but we like to go to Paris once a year for two weeks.
What community groups, philanthropic groups or community events are important to you that you might like to promote or share?
We are members of Fairchild Tropical Garden, which going back to your question about best kept secrets of Miami, is certainly one of them. I would encourage anybody who lives in Miami-Dade county to get a membership and support them. Also, The Lotus House. They are a shelter and support system for abused women and children.
Is there a pitch about anything you are working on that you would like to share?
No. I’d pitch, be nice to one another.
The next question is, do you have a challenge, question, or words of advice for the community?
That would be the same advice. It’s almost trite to say it at this point, but it’s getting even more true of how divided we are as a country. We’ve lost basic respect for one another. We’ve lost the point where you can agree to disagree. I think the core function of democracy is eroding before our eyes. A lot of it has to do with accepting the person in front of me even if I completely and wholeheartedly disagree with everything they just said. I can still treat them like a human being.
Is there a question that you would like to ask us?
(BP) What is the back end operation of LNB? What else are you doing besides selling smoothies?
(A+W) The family farm, LNB Groves, has been going for 40 years and is a wholesale fruit farm. At the Grovestand, we only use a small portion of the fruit grown on the farm. The majority goes to supermarkets and stores up the east coast.
Any final thoughts?
Thank you. This was fun.