Republican Gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam continued barnstorming the state Wednesday evening, with a stop in Jacksonville Beach.
Putnam — the first serious declared candidate on the GOP side — expected and got a warm reception from locals in Duval County, with 158 politicians and GOP insiders out in force.
The sepia-tinged speech, revolving around themes of “Florida exceptionalism” rooted in an era that is arguably either bygone or never actually happened, is more or less unchanged stop to stop. However, Putnam will need a strong showing in Northeast Florida, and with that in mind, this report focuses on that specific play.
Putnam was introduced by a political legend in these parts: former Rep. Ander Crenshaw, who vowed to “spend the next year” working for the Agriculture Commissioner.
Crenshaw, the last major candidate to run for Governor from these parts, spoke in general terms before passing the mike to Putnam … who himself spoke in general terms, about his appeal to “all of Florida … every corner of Florida.”
Putnam mixed it up, just a bit, saying Florida “needs a CEO who knows the difference between Callahan and Clewiston,” before going broad again, saying the race was “not North Florida versus South Florida … interior versus coasts.”
Rather, it’s about all of Florida — the “launch pad for the American dream,” and the “wonderment” people feel when they experience the Sunshine State for the first time. That trope was interestingly negated just minutes later, when Putnam spoke of the need to “rebuild the middle class, rebuild Main Street,” as if mere “wonderment” alone won’t get the job done.
Putnam spoke in broad terms about his philosophy of education, which includes “eliminating stupid laws and stupid rules” and not letting any “bureaucrat” stand between parents and students.
As well, the candidate took a position in favor of “hard work,” which we’ve “stigmatized … somewhere along the way.”
Putnam did namecheck, in broad terms, the importance of Mayport and JAXPORT. But those were footnotes in a road tested speech — the stump equivalent of nostalgia mayonnaise on a saltine cracker. It was filling — the crowd, including many elected politicians, liked the speech.
But in terms of nutrition, of specifics … there wasn’t a lot of there there.
The interview time, after the remarks and the handshakes wrapped, didn’t offer much more either.
We asked Putnam about his advice to Governor Rick Scott to be aggressive with the veto pen, which many took as an aggressiveness targeted toward Florida House members who voted against economic incentives.
Of members of the Duval Delegation in the House, only one voted for incentives — and he wasn’t carrying any appropriations bills.
Putnam didn’t mean it that way, he said.
“What I said was that if I was the governor, I would use the line item veto aggressively, and that would be a better approach than vetoing the entire budget, which would require the entire Legislature to come back into session,” Putnam said.
Rejecting the characterization of that advice as punitive, Putnam said he was simply advising Scott to “exercise his executive authority.”
We then asked about some potential opponents: House Speaker Richard Corcoran and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis from the right, State Sen. Jack Latvala from somewhere closer to the center.
As the only person in the race, Putnam is the default front runner; however, what happens when opponents and political committees start gunning for him?
Putnam was not concerned.
“I’ve been a conservative my whole life. That’s not changing. And I’ve been an optimist my whole life. You have to be when you’re a farmer, so if they want to pack a lunch, sharpen their knives, come on, let’s go.”
When asked specifics about Northeast Florida, and what he would bring to the region, Putnam took a high-level view.
“Northeast Florida,” said Putnam, “is a critically important part of the state’s economy. And the state’s political base. Northeast Florida has a unified business community, and they send hardworking men and women to Tallahassee and Washington.”
“So whether it’s the jobs that Northeast Florida continues to attract, the importance of the port, the importance of the river, Northeast Florida is and will always be an important part of the state’s political conversation, and most importantly, the state’s economy,” Putnam added.