Republican gubernatorial candidate and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam brought his “Florida First” campaign to the Orlando area for the first time Tuesday afternoon, promising conservative, pro-growth values and belittling liberals he expects to go after him.
The fifth-generation Floridian and former state and U.S. lawmaker continued the opening themes of his brand new campaign, declaring “Florida exceptionalism” is why people want to visit and move here and vowing to promote that as Florida’s governor, and to prevent it from turning into a liberal and high-tax bastion like California, Illinois and New York.
“I believe there is a special obligation to be a Floridian, to keep Florida special, knowing that people from all over the world want to visit or move here. I want to Florida to be more than a prize for a life well-lived someplace else. I want Florida to be the launch pad for the American dream!” Putnam said to a warm reception of more than 100 people at the Eastmonte Civic Center in Altamonte Springs.
“And it can be that if we put Florida first!” he declared.
In his speech Putnam broke little new ground compared with what he’s been saying since he kicked off his campaign before 2,000 people in his hometown of Bartow last month.
In a press availability afterwards, Putnam said there is plenty in the 2017-18 budget just passed by the Florida Legislature that he would veto, though he was not specific; he criticized the Legislature for not reaching a deal on a medical marijuana enactment bill; said he would vote as a member of the Florida Cabinet to pardon the “Groveland Four,” as requested by the Legislature.
He also deflected a question about whether he would, as governor, invoke a states’ waiver included in the American Health Care Act to opt Florida out of having to cover pre-existing conditions. As a former member of Congress, Putnam expressed skepticism that the waiver will still be in the bill when it leaves the U.S. Senate, and said he hopes the final bill includes coverage for pre-existing conditions.
Putnam begins his campaign with a 10-day, 22-stop tour that’s hitting both big cities and small towns.
So far he has no real competition for the Republican primary, and his independent political committee, armed with almost $8 million to start, may intimidate away all but the most courageous. The Democrats, meanwhile, are heading for a primary brawl, with three major candidates so far, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, and Winter Park businessman Chris King, and others mulling the race.
Putnam spoke of conservative leadership over the past six years fueling the Florida economy, painting images of hotel maids opening their own bed-and-breakfasts, and of the Space Coast being even better with private space industry emerging there than it ever was when it relied on NASA.
“American exceptionalism, Florida exceptionalism, is still very much alive and well in the Sunshine State in 2017 and it will be even stronger when I get elected,” he said.
“Florida, with limited government, a focus on Constitutional freedom, liberty, law and order, Florida is the destination of choice for people to come here to find their piece of the American dream,” he added.
He called for protection of gun rights and boasted that the state’s number of concealed weapons permits dramatically increased under his commission, and argued that is a key reason why Florida’s crime rate has fallen.
Putnam also called for the state to not only push technical and vocational education more, but said the state needs to do a better job of advising students of the high-wage jobs they can pursue with vocational education.
He also vowed great support and homage to be paid to service members, veterans, police and other first responders.
“And our men and women in law enforcement, the military, and those who serve our nation and their families will know that Florida is the most veteran and military and law enforcement friendly state in the entire country, hands down,” Putnam said.