Jacob Engels is one of the rising stars in Florida politics and at the age of 26, a political consultant, publisher/writer and politico to watch. Roger Stone called Jacob Engels one of the “best young political consultants in Florida,” so the INFLUENTIAL caught up with Jacob to find out more how he is influencing the political spectrum one of the nation’s most important states.
SLEVIN: Roger Stone, in his recent Influential Interview, named you as one of the best young political consultants in Florida. How did you meet Roger and what have you learned from one of the fathers of modern-day political consulting?
ENGELS: I met Roger on the night of my twenty-first birthday in 2013. We had clashed for a few months on Twitter over the U.S. Senate race between Rubio/Crist and it got quite heated. My publication, East Orlando Post, was in its infancy and one day Roger reached out to me over Twitter suggesting I cover his speech to the Orange County Libertarian Party. He was considering a Libertarian bid for Governor at the time and the opportunity to cover a legend like Stone up close and personal was not something an aspiring journalist could pass up.
I remember telling my Mom that we’d either come to blows or become great friends. After our dinner at KRES in Downtown Orlando, it was thankfully the latter. He has such an electric and serene aura. Yes he is ruthless and cunning, but he is also a deeply compassionate and caring man. He uplifts so many people with mentorships and guidance in politics, warriors in his mold that go on to do really remarkable and extraordinary things for the American people.
ENGELS: Following my Chairmanship of the Florida Federation of TeenAge Republicans and as the Finance Director for the Florida College Republicans, I had the honor to work with Congresswoman Sandy Adams and help her get elected to congress in 2010. At 18, she placed her trust in me to run her digital media, online fundraising, and assist the communications department. Sandy, like Stone, is a fighter and builder of people. They both helped me realize my true potential and never asked for anything in return.
She crushed the weak kneed Democratic incumbent and I went to college. Always an entrepreneur, I started a small business providing the same services to candidates and small business. From web-design to graphic design and press relations, we did it all. From 2011 to 2013 that’s what I focused on professionally, until the opportunity to purchase a failing local publication presented itself.
I bought East Orlando Sun, or more so the rights to their email lists and advertiser contacts, and rebranded it as East Orlando Post. Peter Schorsch, the undisputed God Emperor of Alternative Media in Florida inspired my interest in journalism and I used his Saintpetersblog as a template. I continue to look to his Florida Politics publication, Sunburn and Last Call email blasts for inspiration, as any person of merit in Florida does and will do for quite some time.
We quickly became one of the most read political blogs in the state and made sure to cover local business and human-interest stories ignored by the mainstream media. Soon, we expanded and opened Seminole County Post in 2014 and ran both of those publications in tandem until the end of 2016. Central Florida Post launched in early 2017 and we have had our content reprinted and featured in hundreds of publications around the world, on prime time cable news.
People have threatened to sue us over our hard-hitting coverage, they have intimidated my family and friends, sent private investigators to sit outside my house and even make attempts to enter my home and vehicle. We remain unafraid in the way we provide the news to our readers and will never back down.
SLEVIN: What is your approach or style to getting political candidates elected to office?
ENGELS: Nowadays, I try to provide the voters in Florida a fair appraisal of the people who are asking for their votes through our commentary at the Central Florida Post. My direct involvement with campaigns has come to an end for now, but I feel much more effective and powerful in reporting the facts as we see them.
Mainstream media does such a piss poor job at providing entertaining and insightful coverage in the political realm. I came up with the power-brokers and bigwigs that are in Tallahassee and Central Florida, they trust me and know that I won’t come at them sideways, unless they deserve it. Sometimes we agree and sometimes we disagree. I actually know the content I am covering, I’ve lived it. These talking heads on TV and in your local newspaper have, for the most part, never worked a campaign or seen how the sausage is made.
Because of that, their commentary is more often than not off base and not realistic. Our authentic, often brash and brazen approach grabs voters interest. I want them to love it or hate it, anything in between is a failure.
SLEVIN: You’re an outspoken LGBTQ activist, who is also a conservative Republican. How do you reconcile this apparent contradiction of terms to conservatives who don’t understand that many of the LGBTQ issues are consistent with our conservative principles?
ENGELS: Conservatives want to live their lives with as little interference from the government, private enterprise, and our fellow man. We did see a shift in conservative politics where religious promulgated homophobia within the conservative movement and Republican politics. Hell, before I was comfortable in my own skin I was part of that movement.
However, when I realized that we are all imperfect creatures just trying to make it in this world, my worldview changed. It does not matter who you sleep with or who you love, that is none of my business. Are you committed to liberty and freedom? Do you want lower taxes, a restrained government? Are you willing to defend our 1st and 2nd amendment rights at all costs?
If the answer is yes, you could be an inter-dimensional space demon who identifies as they/them and we as conservatives should welcome anyone willing to abide by these principles.
SLEVIN: Has there been any campaign or project that you have gained the most wisdom or satisfaction that’s impacted how you consult clients?
ENGELS: Sandy Adams taught me about honor and loyalty. We had a tough race in 2012 when she was pitted against an entrenched 20+ year incumbent in the GOP primary. I wanted to use all tools at my disposal to win at all costs, within the law of course. She pulled me aside one day and said that we’d run this race the right way, with our head up and principles intact.
Sandy made it clear that she had made a promise to her supporters and her opponent to run a clean race. We ended up losing, but I helped her keep that promise and remain loyal to those who had helped us get to congress in the first place. Loyalty and your word are all that matters in politics.
SLEVIN: What projects are you working on now that you can share with us?
ENGELS: Central Florida Post is gearing up for Election 2018 and we will be releasing more and more video content over the next few months. I work with very talented filmmakers and students at the University of Central Florida’s film school to provide creative, visually appealing interviews with candidates for office. These aren’t stuffy and scripted, we shoot the shit and I let the subject drive the discussion. Voters will either identify with them and reward them with the honor of high public service, or they wont.
SLEVIN: Forgot to ask how old are you and what’s your philosophy of success?
ENGELS: I am 26 years old. Loyalty above all else. Incompetence can be forgiven and corrected. Helping people grow and become better at their craft teaches you a lot about yourself and the individuals you surround yourself with.
If someone is not loyal… all else does not matter. If you cannot count on someone to have your back and be with you through rough waters, why should they get to benefit from the good times?
You dance with who brung ya as they say. It’s important to surround yourself with people who support you, but are also not afraid to call you on the carpet.
SLEVIN: What political analysis are you willing to share for this election cycle in Florida? Who do you believe will be the parties’ nominee for governor and who will win the US Senate race Bill Nelson or Rick Scott?
ENGELS: 2018 has already been a wild year and we are just getting started. The Democrats have an opportunity to nominate a true brawler like Andrew Gillum and they should. Milquetoast standard-bearers like Alex Sink and Charlie Crist have gotten them jack shit. Yes, Gillum will have the stink of George Soros, but wouldn’t Democrats prefer to leave it all on the field? Gwen Graham is more desperate to become Governor than Jeb Bush was to become President, she reeks of the same “this is mine” mentality. Chris King has no spine and is more Republican-lite than an actual Democrat. Phillip Levine has the pocketbook, but it remains to be seen how he performs in North Florida and the Tampa Bay area. Gillum gets it in a walk, it will be hard to beat the black vote in a Democratic primary, IF he can turn African-Americans out to vote.
As for the Republicans, Ron DeSantis is a hot mess right now. I exposed a few rotten votes he made, in particular his support of food stamps for illegals, and his campaign has been in a tailspin ever since. His goons threatened me and actually told me “You will take that article down”. When that didn’t work, Mr. DeSantis went to the Soros funded Politifact website and a liberal Democratic congressman for cover. He is running his entire campaign on the fact that President Trump tweeted something nice about him once, yet DeSantis refused to defend the President’s mental health when asked, which is despicable and pathetic. He even met with the Soros funded Indivisible group last year, which means he has two points of contact with the liberal billionaire, not sure how that plays in the Republican primary.
Adam Putnam, the Boy-Wonder of Bartow, has been in politics for a longtime. In this climate that is going to be a hurdle he will have to overcome. I’ve been critical of his campaign, actually before anyone was really, and am not his biggest fan. However, what he has done as Agriculture Commissioner has been revolutionary. He modernized that operation and launched Fresh From Florida, which showcases homegrown recipes, success stories, and bright spots in the Sunshine State. He’s got the money and the team, but will have to work VERY HARD to not become the Ginger-Jeb of the GOP primary for Governor.
Lesser-known candidates like Bob White and Bruce Nathan are true believers with not a lot of campaign coin. Mr. White’s anti-corruption shtick is admirable and much needed in politics. Nathan’s stance as the only truly pro-pot Republican is his greatest asset.
Richard Corcoran remains the dark horse of this race, the only currently unannounced candidate that has the money and gumption to destabilize this primary and sneak up the middle. His ad campaign on sanctuary cities was brilliant, bold, and badass. He is not anti-immigrant, he is PRO-AMERICA.
This is Putnam’s race to lose. I still believe that he wins the primary and becomes our next Governor. If Brad Herold can get control of Ron DeSantis’ campaign, he will be Putnam’s most formidable opposition.
Rick Scott might very well dispatch Bill Nelson. His decision to strip 18-20 year olds from their constitutionally protected right to bear arms will be his biggest hurdle. He has never won a race with a large margin, in fact it’s often by tens of thousands of votes out of millions cast. If the 2A crowd decides to punish him, even slightly, it could cost him everything. He has a lot of explaining to do with conservatives in this state. The progressive crowd that he was trying to appease with that horrifically illegal piece of legislation damned him for not going far enough. I will say this about Rick Scott, his response to Hurricane Irma and jobs creation has earned him positive marks from even my most liberal friends, the people who have the “Rick Scott Is An Asshole” bumper stickers. A few even said they’d toss him a vote over the space cadet.
However, Governor Scott and his wife did escape accountability for their role in the biggest Medicare fraud in US history, so there is that. Expect a flurry of ads on that end, complete with the curly-haired Rick Scott deposition tapes.
Senator Nelson has no real accomplishments in his entire career that people could point to if asked. This is either his greatest asset or biggest problem. Do voters sit there and give Bill another term with the feeling that he hasn’t really done anything to harm the state… or will they want some form of action, even if it’s from Lord Voldemort?
SLEVIN: How is Donald Trump doing in the central Florida area? Has there been any noticeable tics one direction or another, and how will he impact the mid-term central-Florida elections?
ENGELS: President Trump has a tremendous amount of support in Central Florida. Despite what the mainstream media will tell you, he enjoys support from people on all ends of the political spectrum both locally and abroad. Lower taxes, more jobs, amazingly effective tweetstorms, and peace with North Korea? How can you argue against that?
Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg, who got elected in 2016, is a successful millennial businessman who self-funded his campaign. He ran a tough campaign against a grumpy and corrupt old incumbent (a la Hillary Clinton). Joel is a no holds-barred type of guy and an example of how political newcomers can win in the Trump vein on a local level.
SLEVIN: Jacob, thank you for sharing a bit of your time and insights for the INFLUENTIAL. What social media can readers find you and follow you?
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