When former state Rep. Baxter Troutman was 16, he attended Boys State. There, he ran for Agriculture Commissioner.
Three decades later, Troutman has followed up on the reality of a rather idiosyncratic-seeming childhood goal.
He is one of four Republicans vying for the opportunity to become Agriculture Commissioner.
Unlike the incumbent, Adam Putnam, who seemed like he was angling to be Governor from the time he entered politics, Troutman sees the Ag Commissioner slot as a final destination.
“This is it for me,” Troutman said.
In part because the prospect of running statewide for something else eight years from now at the age of 60 doesn’t interest him. But also in part because being Agriculture Commissioner is his goal.
Troutman is one of those politicians who says he’s “not a politician.”
He seems to believe it.
A citrus farmer by lineage, who set up a labor staffing agency to find workers to build a prison at Cross Creek 20 years ago (“an American dream type story,” Troutman related), Troutman thinks that — unlike Reps. Denise Grimsley and Matt Caldwell — he has relevant private sector experience.
“I consider myself a statesman, not a politician,” Troutman said. “If voters look under the sheets, that sets me apart.”
Troutman intended to run in 2010 — but got talked down by the man who currently holds the job.
“At the end of the discussion,” Troutman recounted, “we decided I would wait.”
“I termed out of the Legislature,” Troutman added, “then I went home and waited.”
He is animated by the panoply of challenges faced by the Agriculture Commissioner, running the gamut from the “plight” of ranchers and farmers to the rich tapestry of consumer services, a field which “touches everyone’s lives.”
However, this will be an expensive race: Troutman has staked his own campaign $2.5 million, giving him a cash-on-hand advantage. Meanwhile, in terms of fundraising Caldwell and Grimsley are ahead.
While Troutman can spend the money, if he is a threat it will be spent against him.
Nasty opposition will float, Troutman knows, including from an incident with his wife years back that made statewide news.
On his birthday, the Troutmans had a disagreement. He was accused of throwing a bedspread at her. 911 was called.
Troutman spent a night in jail.
The “unfortunate, unnecessary incident … the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to me,” said the candidate, is ancient history.
“I don’t know of any marriage that doesn’t go through a challenging time,” Troutman said. “We’re stronger today than we’ve ever been.”
Noting that his wife runs a political committee on his behalf, Troutman adds that “my wife fully endorses my campaign.”