Matt Caldwell racks up Panhandle endorsements - Florida Politics

Matt Caldwell racks up Panhandle endorsements

Agriculture Commissioner candidate Matt Caldwell on Tuesday announced his ninth wave of endorsements, showcasing support from key local leaders in the Panhandle.

The North Fort Myers Republican state Representative’s newest supporters include elected or retired officials in five Northwest Florida counties: Escambia, Holmes, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa and Franklin.

In Santa Rosa, County Sheriff Robert Johnson, retired Sheriff Wendell Holmes and Property Appraiser Gregory Brown are backing Caldwell’s Cabinet bid.

Holmes County Sheriff John Tate, Property Appraiser Bryan Bell and Tax Collector Harry Bell also are backing Caldwell.

Other endorsements include Escambia Tax Collector Scott Lunsford and Franklin Sheriff A.J. Smith, along with Sheriff Larry Ashley and Clerk of Courts J.D. Peacock, both from Okaloosa County.

In a statement Caldwell, who chaired the Government Accountability Committee in the 2018 Legislative Session, said he was proud of the support.

“Florida’s next Commissioner of Agriculture will work closely with these key leaders to support businesses and families across the Sunshine State and I am honored that they have placed their trust in me,” Caldwell said.

Though Caldwell represents a Southwest Florida district, he hasn’t had trouble appealing to officials in Florida’s Panhandle. The newest wave of support isn’t the first from notable Northwest Florida officials.

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, whose CD 1 seat eclipses all of Escambia, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, and Walton counties, backed Caldwell in October. A former colleague of Caldwell in the Florida House, Gaetz said then he was backing Caldwell “because he is a consistent conservative.”

Gaetz has since offered tidbits of support for Caldwell via Twitter.

Walton County Sheriff Mike Adkinson also has previously endorsed Caldwell.

Traveling the state is a centerpiece of Caldwell’s campaign. Dubbed #2LaneTravels, the Ag Comish candidate’s digital tool allows voters to monitor his stops across Florida. It also shows who in each county has backed him for his Cabinet quest. So far Caldwell’s camp claims to have covered just under 60,000 miles of Sunshine State pavement.

A state legislator, Caldwell could not raise funds during Session. But since March 11, the most recent available campaign finance records show he’s amassed $38,475 in his PAC and $11,250 in his campaign account since Session. The campaign claims it currently has over $1 million cash-on-hand.

Republican primary opponents Sebring state Sen. Denise Grimsley and former state Rep. Baxter Troutman present formidable fundraising totals. The News Service of Florida reported earlier this month that Grimsley began April with $870,000 on hand, and Troutman has self-funded his race to the tune of $2.7 million.

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