Now that Adam Putnam is the erstwhile frontrunner in the Florida Governor’s race, the Agriculture Commissioner seems more eager than ever to dump on Gov. Rick Scott.
Despite serving nearly eight years in the Florida Cabinet, working shoulder to shoulder with Scott – and standing with the Governor (and newly minted U.S. Senate candidate) at a “Let’s Get to Work” rally in Sarasota this week – Putnam nevertheless badmouths Scott’s legacy at every turn on the campaign trail.
For example, during a recent appearance on “This Week in South Florida,” the former congressman from Bartow shared his vision for education – highlighted by a call for increased school funding.
“The vast majority of our students are in a traditional public school, and we need to make sure the resources are following those students so that teachers and students have the tools they need to compete in this global economy and win,” Putman told hosts Michael Putney and Glenna Milberg.
Of course, Putnam did not acknowledge the recently passed Florida budget — the state’s largest ever – which included $21.1 billion for K-12 schools, an increase of $485 million from last year, or nearly $102 more in per-student funding.
In another reproach to Scott’s legacy, Putnam boasted that if elected, he would reverse current policy and revive the “drug czar” position to lead the state’s battle with opioid addiction. Shortly after taking office in 2011, Scott eliminated the Office of Drug Control, scrapped the state’s prescription drug database program and ended the position of drug czar.
However, in March, Putnam floated a return to the drug czar concept at an opioid roundtable: “It doesn’t necessarily have to be a reinvention of the old drug czar … but we need a coordinator of the response to this crisis.”
But nowhere did the candidate credit Scott for working with state lawmakers this year to set aside $65 million for expanding treatment and give the overdose antidote naloxone to law enforcement and paramedics. The measure also imposes a new three-day limit on most opioid prescriptions, though doctors could extend that to seven days if “medically necessary.”
In addition, physicians and staff must now check with a statewide database before prescribing or dispensing such controlled substances.
Putnam has also been quite vocal lately in criticizing the Department of Children and Families – an agency that answers to Scott – for its lack of response to a series of red flags about Nikolas Cruz, the former student who killed 17 people Feb. 14 at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
“The Legislature’s commitment to funding that Safe Schools account has gone down over time,” he told WJXT Jacksonville. “I think that complacency, unfortunately, potentially crept in … It’s unfortunate that it took the Parkland event to refocus everyone on the need to harden these schools.”
In a direct rebuke of Scott’s leadership, Putnam pointed out that DCF did nothing after “[visiting] the home because he posted a video online saying that he wanted to be a shooter and he was threatening to cut himself.”
At the time, Putnam’s criticism was the highest-profile attack from a Republican against Scott and the GOP-led Legislature, accusing them both of disregard for school safety.
It’s clear that Scott is term-limited, so criticism is far from unexpected. However, becoming a lame duck should not mean there is an automatic target on the Governor’s back, especially coming from a member of his own Cabinet.