Floridians won’t hear Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam speak in his latest television ad.
Instead, they’ll hear testimony and a de-facto endorsement from Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, who delivers a 30-second spiel on the need to deport “illegal immigrants” to keep communities safe and promises Putnam, who’s running for Governor, will help law enforcement do so, if elected.
The ad, which will begin airing across the state Tuesday, opens with Judd saying, “I’ve dedicated my entire adult life to keeping Florida families safe and I know Adam Putnam has our back.”
The focus of the ad then turns to illegal immigration — particularly in cases when immigrants who are not citizens are convicted of a crime.
“Adam believes we have the responsibility to keep our borders, cities and neighborhoods safe and secure,” Judd continues. “He’ll make sure that illegal immigrants who commit crimes will be held accountable and deported — not released back into our communities.”
Judd closes with: “Adam Putnam will stand with law enforcement and enforce the rule of law.”
It evokes memories of Republican state House Speaker Richard Corcoran‘s January ad cut by his Watchdog PAC, which focused on the issue of sanctuary cities, or the concept that local authorities could, in theory, refuse to cooperate with federal immigration officials, effectively creating a ‘sanctuary’ for immigrants who are not citizens.
But there are stark differences between the Speaker’s television venture and Putnam’s latest. Corcoran’s ad depicted the killing of a woman in California by an undocumented immigrant, whereas Putnam’s features only him and Judd, and avoids the term ‘sanctuary city’ altogether.
Corcoran, then widely expected to enter the Governor’s race after the 2018 Legislative Session, aired the ad after the House quickly passed a bill banning sanctuary cities in the state. He decided in May to stay out of the race and subsequently endorse Putnam.
For Putnam, messaging on immigration through television marks an investment in a strategy that tracks to the right as he competes against U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis for the Republican nomination. DeSantis has the backing of Donald Trump, and is frequently on Fox News defending the President.
The ad also is a working endorsement of Putnam from Sheriff Judd, who is influential in Republican circles and known well beyond the borders of Polk County (where Putnam is originally from). Judd helped lead a series of workshops called by Gov. Rick Scott immediately after the Parkland shooting. He is a staunch advocate for arming teachers and championed what eventually became the Guardian Program. He is one of Corcoran’s appointees to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission.
The ad also could act as quick damage control for a story published last week that undoubtedly called Putnam’s leadership into question. Although, a poll that coincided with that story still reflected strong support for the Agriculture Commissioner.