RALEIGH — The 2022 short session at the North Carolina General Assembly proved to be relatively efficient as legislators focused on necessary legislation before departing the capital for election season.
Over 750 individuals registered as lobbyists or legislative liaisons for the 2022 legislative session. Each was considered as the North State Journal sought to determine the top lobbyists in North Carolina for a third year.
For the second year, the North State Journal’s rankings also include the top legislative liaisons, a group of legislative influencers who advocate for the policies of state institutions, cabinet agencies and council of state offices.
The North State Journal staff surveyed legislators, staffers, reporters and business leaders and parsed data on the clients represented by the registered lobbyists for 2022. Forty Legislators cast ballots for this year’s rankings. Ninety-one individuals received at least one vote.
The alphabetical list includes the Top Ten Lobbyists, Top Five Liaisons, and Top 25 Lobbyists.
The list is primarily comprised of lobbyists with significant clients — both in number and in quality — but also includes company lobbyists, agency advocates, and trade association representatives. The lobbyists survey was conducted in January 2023 and was delivered to every member of the General Assembly via email.
Less than 4% of all registered lobbyists made the list.
TOP 10 LOBBYISTS
Patrick Ballantine, Ballantine Company — The former state Sen. and 2004 Republican nominee for governor represented 12 clients, including the Sports Betting Alliance and Distillers Association of North Carolina.
Harold Brubaker, Brubaker & Associates — The former N.C. House Speaker represented 32 clients, including his familiar stable of blue-chip companies. Brubaker added electric vehicle brand Rivian along with Amazon, BlueCross and Blue Shield of NC, FedEx, GlaxoSmithKline, PepsiCo and SAP. Brubaker also represented the N.C. League of Municipalities, NC Beer & Wine Wholesalers and the High Point Market Authority.
John Hardin, Manning Fulton & Skinner — Attorney and lobbyist Hardin represented 44 clients in 2022. High profile clients like Food Lion, SAS, Charter Communications were joined on Hardin’s client list with Durham Performing Arts, the N.C. Railroad Company, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and the Commissioner of Major League Baseball.
Jim Harrell, Bode & Harrell — Former state representative Harrell registered for 33 clients in 2022. His clients included the Accenture, N.C. Retail Merchants and WakeMed.
Tracy Kimbrell, Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein — Kimbrell, a former top lieutenant of Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, represented 19 clients, including Apple, SAS Institute, Duke Energy, State Farm, LabCorp and Atrium Health.
Ches McDowell, KTS Strategies — McDowell represented 56 clients at the General Assembly in 2022. His clients included the PGA Tour, NBA, Charlotte Hornets, Major League Baseball, Truist, UPS and DoorDash. At the state level, his clients included the Lumbee Tribe, Piedmont Triad Airport Authority and RDU Airport Authority.
Ryan Minto, Duke Energy — Minto, who heads government affairs for North Carolina’s largest utility, is again on the Top 10 list following a 2021 campaign where he shepherded major energy legislation. Late 2022 attacks on power infrastructure means Duke Energy will again be front and center with increased legislative focus on power grid security.
David Powers, Powers Strategies — A member of the UNC Board of Governors, Powers represented 14 clients in 2022, including the Sports Betting Alliance. He also represented Blue Cross and Blue Shield of NC and several other health-related interests.
Dana Simpson, Smith Anderson Blount Dorsett Mitchell & Jernigan — Perennial top-lobbyist Simpson represented 33 clients in 2022. AT&T, Duke Energy, and Nationwide Insurance were some of his national brand clients. Simpson also represented varied pharmaceutical interests, including Gilead Sciences, Novartis, Perdue Pharma, and WakeMed.
Zane Stilwell, Stilwell Group — Stilwell is making his debut on the Top 10 list this year. He represented 18 clients in 2022, including ALG Senior, Carvana, Penn National Gaming and Golden Entertainment. His portfolio also included several healthcare and education interests.
TOP 25 LOBBYISTS
Sarah Bales (Brubaker & Associates)
John Cooper (Connect C)
Andy Ellen (N.C. Retail Merchants Association)
David Ferrell (Nexsen Pruet)
Tom Fetzer (Fetzer Strategic Partners)
Nelson Freeman (KTS Strategies)
Bryan Holloway (Holloway Group)
Harry Kaplan (McGuireWoods Consulting)
Laura Kilian (N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services)
Andy Munn (EQV Strategic)
Dylan Reel (McGuireWoods Consulting)
Jackson Stancil (Jones Street Consulting)
Cady Thomas (Focus Public Affairs)
Susan Vick (Fetzer Strategic Partners)
Kevin Wilkinson (EQV Strategic)
TOP AGENCY LIAISONS
Matthew Dockham — Appalachian State University
Laura Kilian — N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
Chris McClure — University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Fred Steen — N.C. Department of Public Instruction
Sam Watts — N.C. Department of State Treasurer