Adam Putnam Archives - Florida Politics

Sabato’s Crystal Ball calls Florida’s 2018 gubernatorial race a ‘toss-up’ in initial ratings

With so much uncertainty about who is in or out of the 2018 Florida gubernatorial race, it’s not surprising that at least one political seer has deemed Florida too-close-to-call.

Initial 2018 gubernatorial ratings released Thursday by Sabato’s Crystal Ball ranked Florida as one of 10 states considered a “toss-up” going into the 2018 election cycle. The ratings found more than half of the 38 gubernatorial races on the ballot next year either start in “competitive toss-up or leans Republican/Democratic categories.”

The report noted Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam has been “gearing up for a gubernatorial run for years” and is seen as the favorite on the Republican side to succeed Gov. Rick Scott. But with several other Republicans considering a run, authors Geoffrey Skelley and Kyle Kondik report it is “hard to say just how clear his path to the nomination will be.”

Putnam has been touring the state meeting with local Republican and business group to talk about his vision for the future, and has been building up his campaign coffers in advance of his expected bid. State records show Florida Grown, the political committee expected to fuel his gubernatorial bid, has raised more than $10.5 million since 2015, and had more than $7.7 million cash on hand at the end of March.

The Bartow Republican is scheduled to have a barbecue in his hometown on May 10, just five days after the expected end of the annual 2017 Legislative Session. The event, according to the Tampa Bay Times, will be held at the Old Polk County Courthouse.

But Putnam could face competition from Sen. Jack Latvala and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, both of whom are believed to be considering a 2018 bid.

Latvala, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, raised more than $246,000 for his political committee, the Florida Leadership Committee, in the days leading up to the start of the 2017 Legislative Session. That one-week fundraising haul in March came after one of his best fundraising months to date, when his committee raised nearly $1.1 million in February.

The Democratic side isn’t any easier to predict, according to the team at Sabato’s. While the authors write it might “come down to Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and ex-Rep. Gwen Graham, both of who could be considered rising stars in the party,” the team does note there are “some wealthy wild cards who could self-fund, such as 2010 Senate candidate Jeff Greene, businessman Chris King, and well-known attorney John Morgan.”

Gillum and King are the only Democrats who have filed to run, but Graham is widely expected to jump in the race soon, as is Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, who could fall into the self-fund category.

State records show Levine pumped $2 million of his own money into his political committee, All About Florida, in March. Levine has spent the last few weeks touring the state meeting with community members.

Both Gillum and King have been staffing up. Gillum announced this week that Scott Arceneaux, the former head of the Florida Democratic Party, would be joining his campaign as chief strategist; while King unveiled a host of key hires, including Raymond Paultre as his director of strategic engagement and Stephanie McClung as his finance director.

Gillum announced earlier this month he had raised $765,000 — spread between his official campaign and his political committee Forward Florida — since the start of 2017, most of which was raised since March 1. Meanwhile, state records show King brought in nearly $1.2 million for his official campaign in March. That sum included a $1 million contribution King made to his own campaign.

But a crowded field could be an issue for Democrats hoping to turn Florida blue, according to Sabato’s Crystal Ball. The rankings noted that although Democrats came close to winning in 2010 and 2014, they “haven’t won a gubernatorial race in Florida since 1994 … so an extremely crowded field in an expensive state with a late primary could be problematic for them.”

Daniel Sohn announces Agriculture Commissioner bid

A South Florida Democrat has announced he plans to run for Agriculture Commissioner in 2018.

Daniel Sohn announced Wednesday he was throwing his hat in the race to replaced Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in two years. In a 2 minute and 30 second video announcing his intentions, Sohn he plans to meet with Floridians, business and environmental groups about how to improve the state.

“Now there is no harm in recognizing that the success of Florida’s economy lies within the agricultural industry, for after all it is Florida’s economic engine,” he said in the video. “But Florida deserves a leader that can continue focusing on the needs of our industries, while beginning to do what Florida should have already been doing best — taking care of our people.”

Sohn is expected to kick-off a statewide tour at the Democratic Veterans Caucus of Palm Beach County meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Guatemalan Mayan Center in Lake Worth. He’s expected to attend the Broward Democratic Progressive Caucus meeting in Plantation on Thursday, before attending the South West Florida Clean Water Festival in Fort Myers Beach on Sunday.

This won’t be the first time Sohn has sought public office. While he initially expressed interest in running for Dania Beach City Commission in 2016, records show he failed to qualify for the spot on the ballot. Instead he ran for the Palm Beach Soil & Water Conservation board, losing that election to Matthew Bymaster.

According to the campaign’s Facebook page, Sohn current serves as the district aide to Palm Beach County Soil & Water Conservation District Supervisor Pat Edmonson. Edmonson, according to a news release Wednesday, is coordinating his campaign.

Sohn will be the second Democrat to jump into the race to replace Putnam, who can’t run again because of term limits. State records show Michael Damian Christine filed to run for the seat on April 11.

Republicans Denise Grimsley and Paul Paulson have already to file to run for the seat, and Matt Caldwell is widely expected to file to run later this summer.

 

In Sarasota, Adam Putnam warns GOP of complacency in 2018

Electorally speaking, for two decades now, it’s been a good time to be a Republican in Florida.

But after last fall’s victory by Donald Trump, the Chicken Chard and salmon dill seemed to go down even smoother Thursday night at the Sarasota County Reagan Patriot Day Dinner in Venice.

“Gosh, isn’t it great to be a Republican? Even greater that The Donald is our President,” said longtime Sarasota Republican Cynthia Crowe kicking off the festivities at the Jacaranda West Country Club.

“And isn’t it refreshing that we have a politician who keeps his word?”

“He’s not a politician!” a voice shouted from the back of the room.

Nobody will ever accuse Adam Putnam of not being a politician.

The state’s Agriculture Commissioner has served in public office for nearly half of his 42 years on the planet, and is running hard to succeed Rick Scott as the next Governor of Florida, even though he hasn’t actually declared his candidacy yet.

The keynote speaker for the evening, Putnam has often described his native Florida as a “reward for a life well lived,” which is great if you’re gunning for the over 60-crowd.

However, it isn’t dynamic enough for a general election campaign, something he’s obviously aware of. That’s because he now pivots off that signature phrase to say that the Sunshine State can now be a “launchpad for the American dream.”

“We’re already the envy of the nation,” Putnam says. “Now we can be the envy of the world.”

If Marco Rubio was a champion of American exceptionalism during his ill-fated run for president a year ago, Putnam is running as a champion of Florida exceptionalism.

The state’s Agriculture Commissioner talks about the look in the eyes of out-of-state families when they arrive at a Florida airport for a vacation, and when they depart.

“They have made memories of a lifetime,” he says with the reverence of a child coming back from a week of enjoying theme parks, before stating with pride that “something like two-thirds of all Make a Wish Foundation requests are to come to Florida. That’s our state.” The crowd cheers.

(He asked not to be ‘PolitiFacted’ on that quote.)

Putnam is clearly on Rick Scott’s side in the debate with House Speaker Richard Corcoran over the merits of retaining Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida.

“Coke doesn’t stop advertising. Budweiser doesn’t stop advertising,” he said, adding that the state needs to “invest in telling Florida’s story,” especially if it wants to diversify its economy.

While Florida is a classic Purple State in presidential elections, it’s otherwise awash in red, which is why Republicans have to revert to what it was like in the 1990s when talking about Democratic rule in Tallahassee (Putnam boasted about how crime rates have gone down 45 percent in Florida in the two decades since Republicans began ruling the roost, even though that has been a national trend).

Perhaps that’s why Putnam took aim at New York City Mayor Bill deBlasio instead, saying his policies are making people flee New York for Florida and calling him the best economic developer Florida’s ever had.

“We’re going to make him the honorary chairman of Enterprise Florida. How about that?”

And while Putnam praised the conservative government rule the state has been under for the past two decades, saying that’s why it’s done better economically than states like New York, California and Ohio, his policy prescriptions have tremendous room for growth.

“My strategy for infrastructure is to put up a picture of Atlanta,” Putnam said, decrying traffic conditions in the Georgia capital. But with Florida’s population growing again, traffic concerns are felt in the state’s biggest metropolis like never before.

Putnam ended his half-hour address with a stark reminder of how important it was for Republicans not to be complacent going into next year’s election cycle.

Referring to how the party out of power traditionally does well in off-year congressional elections, (not mentioning the intense grassroots Democratic opposition that manifested itself at town halls this winter and spring), Putnam said the GOP needs to reverse that narrative in 2018.

“We cannot rest on our laurels,” he stressed. “We have to be driven and focused and never take our foot off the gas. We can’t let up,” adding that “Florida has come too far, and America has come too far for us to sit back and become complacent and let the Democrats strip away all the gains we have made.”

So far, Putnam has already raised more than $9 million for the race, even though he’s still not officially a candidate for governor.

Nevertheless, the Democrats are indeed treating him as one, with the Democratic Governors Association requesting a full investigation into Florida Grown PC, a political committee associated with Putnam.

The DGA says that a Miami Herald report and public records show the committee has repeatedly circumvented requirements to reveal the ultimate purpose of a majority of its spending.

Joe Henderson: Rick Scott’s approval rating climbs because the economy trumps everything

The steady increase in Gov. Rick Scott’s approval rating has reinforced the notion that if voters have a job and the economy seems to be humming along, other things don’t matter much.

The latest poll, released this week by Morning Consult, put Scott’s approval number at 57 percent. Considering that he stood at 26 percent in 2012 according to Public Policy Polling, that’s downright miraculous.

That same PPP poll five years ago included a forecast that Scott would lose a then-theoretical matchup with Charlie Crist by 55-32 percent. Scott was declared to be the most unpopular governor in the country.

What changed?

The economy. Duh!

Scott still has the singular focus he brought to Tallahassee as an outsider in 2011. We all remember what the economy was like then as the nation tried to recover from the Great Recession.

Scott’s game plan of offering business incentives to attract jobs has been unrelenting. He has targeted regulations that he says strangle job growth.

While his disregard for environmental laws proved disastrous last summer when guacamole-like runoff from Lake Okeechobee became national news, voters appear inclined to overlook that as long as they have a steady paycheck. That’s how Scott got out of controversies that included the messy dismissal in 2014 of Florida Department of Law Enforcement chief Gerald Bailey. That was handled so poorly that even Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, a member of Scott’s cabinet, claimed he was “misled” by the governor’s staff.

Scott also had to spend more than $1 million in taxpayer money to settle seven public records lawsuits because of his penchant for operating in the shadows.

Even the ongoing battle with Republican House Speaker Richard Corcoran over two of Scott’s major programs for business development and tourism promotion — Enterprise Florida and VISIT FLORIDA — hasn’t hurt the governor. If anything, it seems to have enhanced his standing with voters.

All of this would seem to bode well for his expected challenge for Bill Nelson’s U.S. Senate seat in 2018. Scott’s approval number has inched above Nelson’s, which is significant (maybe).

A lot can happen before that Senate race; remember the poll that said Crist would easily beat Scott for governor. Scott is closely aligned with President Donald Trump, and there is no way to tell how that will impact the race.

And while the economy is doing well and Scott is reaping the benefit now, everyone would be advised to remember another campaign from the dusty past as an example of how quickly things can change.

Republicans circulated a flier saying their candidate for president would ensure “a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage.”

That was in 1928. The candidate was Herbert Hoover. He won with 444 electoral votes. A year later, the stock market crashed, and the Great Depression changed everything. Just four years after his landslide, Hoover lost to Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose electoral college total was 472.

Translation: Things look good now, but don’t get cocky.

Denise Grimsley raises $260K in March for Ag. Commissioner bid

Sen. Denise Grimsley raised more than $260,000 in just one week toward her 2018 Agriculture Commissioner bid, far outpacing the only other Republican candidate in the race.

But state campaign finance record show Grimsley could face stiff fundraising competition from Rep. Matt Caldwell, whose political committee raised more than $224,000 in the same one-week period.

State campaign finance records show Grimsley, a Sebring Republican, raised a combined $260,756 between March 1 and March 6, the eve of the 2017 Legislative Session. Grimsley brought in $85,008 to her official campaign account; her political committee, Saving Florida’s Heartland, brought in $176,000.

Records show Innovate Florida, Sen. Bill Galvano’s political committee, gave Grimsley’s committee $50,000, making it the top contributor during the fundraising period. The committee also received a $25,000 contribution from Floridians for a Stronger Democracy, which is linked to Associated Industries of Florida. Other top donors included the Florida Prosperity Fund, Costa Nursery Farms, OD-EYE PAC, and the Jacksonville Kennel Club.

Grimsley ended the one-month period with nearly $276,000 cash on hand in her official campaign account, and more than $450,000 cash on hand in her political committee.

Grimsley announced in February she was running for Agriculture Commissioner. A fifth generation Floridians, Grimsley was first elected to the Florida House in 2004, where she served until 2012. She was elected to the Senate in 2012, and easily won re-election in 2016.

So far the only other Republican to file to run for the seat is Orlando Republican Paul Paulson. State campaign finance records show Paulson raised no money in March.

Paulson, however, is far from the only Republican eyeing the race. In February, Caldwell, a North Fort Myers Republican, said he intended to file to run for Agriculture Commissioner in August. That’s meant to honor a request from House Speaker Richard Corcoran that members of his leadership team hold off filing to run for higher office until after the legislative session.

State records show Caldwell’s political committee — Friends of Matt Caldwell — raised $224,980 between March 1 and March 6, the day before the start of the 2017 Legislative Session. The committee received $25,000 from Six L’s Pack Company and $20,000 from Troyer Bros. FL.

The committee ended the fundraising period with more than $659,000 cash on hand.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam can’t run for re-election because of term limits. He’s widely expected to announce a 2018 gubernatorial bid.

oranges

Citrus forecast generally holds steady, USDA says

The bad news in citrus: “Grapefruit production declined.” The good news: “Florida orange production remained steady.”

That’s the upshot of the latest forecast by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, according to the Florida Department of Citrus (FDOC).

“The April report projects the state’s orange crop to stay at 67 million boxes for the 2016-17 season,” a Tuesday news release said. “The grapefruit crop was reduced by 800,000 boxes to 8.1 million.”

The industry has been savaged by a citrus greening epidemic. The so-far incurable disease is attacking fruit, causing it to turn green and bitter, and eventually killing the tree. Florida’s famous oranges are most at risk.

“It’s a tough hit for Florida’s grapefruit growers who have been so committed to fighting pest and disease to maintain this staple of Florida’s economy,” said Shannon Shepp, FDOC’s executive director.

The department, funded mainly through box taxes paid by the state’s citrus growers, serves as the chief marketing, regulation and promotional arm of the industry.

“Florida grapefruit is, by far, what world consumers seek out for its unique flavor profile, sweetness and juiciness,” Shepp added.

In a separate statement, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said the latest forecast “represents a more than 70 percent collapse in production of our state’s signature crop” since the 1997-98 season.

“Until a long-term solution is discovered, which some of our state’s brightest minds are working on, we must support Florida’s multi-billion dollar citrus industry and the more than 60,000 jobs it supports,” he said.

Greening is caused by a jumping plant louse and the bacteria it hosts. The tiny bugs feed on citrus leaves and infect the trees with the bacteria as they go. Researchers have been looking into ways to cure the disease or to grow a strain of citrus resistant to the bacteria.

Florida’s growers and industry groups have sought approval from the federal government to use antimicrobial treatments to fight greening.

Putnam “issued a crisis declaration in 2016 regarding their application to the Environmental Protection Agency, which allowed the immediate use of these treatments,” his release said.

Florida may pay millions to homeowners for lost citrus trees

Florida may end a long-running battle and pay millions to homeowners whose healthy citrus trees were torn down in a failed attempt to eradicate citrus canker.

The Florida House has $66 million in its proposed budget to pay lawsuits filed on behalf of homeowners in Broward, Lee and Palm Beach counties. There are also lawsuits ongoing in Orange and Miami-Dade counties.

Rep. Carlos Trujillo, the House budget chairman, said the payments should be made because courts have already ruled against the state in those counties.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam says the state should wait until the lawsuits reach the Florida Supreme Court.

So far Senate Republicans have not included the payments in their budget.

Canker damages citrus trees. From 2000 to 2006, the state removed citrus trees within 1,900 feet of an infected tree.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Jack Latvala raises more than $244K on eve of 2017 Legislative Session

Jack Latvala raised more than $250,000 in the first week of March, much of which was raised in a single day.

Florida Leadership Committee, the Clearwater Republican’s political committee, raised at least $252,160 between March 1 and March 6, according to contribution data posted to the committee’s website. The committee received about $244,600 of that sum on March 6, the day before the 2017 Legislative Session kicked off.

Top contributors during the brief fundraising period, according to data posted on the website, including Associated Industries of Florida, Comcast Corp., Amscot Corp., Friends of Mount Sinai Medical Center, Minto Communities, Auto Tag of America, and the Florida Manufactured Housing Association PAC.

Latvala, the chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, is believed to be considering a 2018 gubernatorial bid and appears to be boosting his coffers ahead of an eventual decision. State records show Latvala raised nearly $1.1 million in February, marking one of the committee’s largest fundraising hauls to date.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and House Speaker Richard Corcoran are also often mentioned as possible 2018 contenders

On the Democratic side, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Orlando businessman Chris King have already announced their 2018 run, and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham are expected to formally jump into the race soon.

Adam Putnam political committee brings in big bucks in March

Adam Putnam is poised to have another record fundraising month, laying the groundwork for his likely 2018 gubernatorial run.

Florida Grown, the political committee that will fuel Putnam’s likely 2018 run, raised at least $872,841 in March, according to contribution data posted on the committee’s website. That sum is expected to rise to nearly $1.1 million once final numbers are reported to the state Division of Elections in the coming days.

“As we travel the state, we’ve seen overwhelming support for Adam and his vision,” wrote Justin Hollis, the chairman of Florida Grown, in an email to supporters. “And that support is evident is contributions to the Florida Grown PC. To date, Florida Grown PC has received more than $10.5 million in contributions with $1,077,000 coming in March, and more than 1,700 supporters to date.”

That anticipated one-month haul would make March the second biggest fundraising month for the political committee to date. In February, the committee raised $2.5 million, it’s largest one-month fundraising haul since it opened in 2015

While Putnam hasn’t officially thrown his hat in the race, he’s acting the part of a candidate. In his email to supporters, Hollis said Putnam and Florida Grown have been “very busy crisscrossing the state meeting with supporters, including parents, teachers, small business owners, nurses, truck drivers and everything in between.”

“With every discussion, he learns more about the people of our state and what they want to see in future leadership. And Adam shares his vision for our state. He believes Florida is more than just the prize for a life well-lived somewhere else,” wrote Hollis. “He wants to attract folks to Florida decades sooner, so they can start their lives, build their businesses and grow their families right here in the Sunshine State. He believes Florida is not just a prize at the end of a career, but it can be the jumping off point for the American Dream.”

House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala are also believed to be considering a 2018 gubernatorial run.

On the Democratic side, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Orlando businessman Chris King have already announced their 2018 run, and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham are expected to formally jump into the race soon.

Poll shows Floridians undecided on 2018 gubernatorial options

If the results of a new poll are any indication, Floridians just aren’t that interested the 2018 gubernatorial election.

The survey — conducted March 28 through March 29 by Gravis Marketing for The Orlando Political Observer — found 36 percent of Democratic voters and 63 percent of Republicans said they were uncertain who they would vote for in their respective primaries. The survey also showed many voters were still “uncertain” in several hypothetical head-to-head general election showdowns.

The poll of 1,453 registered voters, which was conducted using automated phone calls and web responses of cell phone users, has a margin of error of 2.6 percent.

The poll found 24 percent of Democrats said they would pick former Rep. Patrick Murphy in the Democratic primary; while 23 percent said they would choose Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum. Orlando attorney John Morgan received 9 percent support, followed by former Rep. Gwen Graham with 8 percent support, and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine with 1 percent.

On the Republican side, 21 percent of GOP voters said they would pick Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, while 5 percent support went to former Rep. David Jolly and House Speaker Richard Corcoran. Sen. Jack Latvala received 4 percent, followed by former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker with 2 percent.

In a head-to-head match-up between Putnam and Gillum, Putnam would receive 32 percent of the vote to Gillum’s 31 percent. The poll found 37 percent were uncertain.

Morgan would best Putnam, 34 percent to 33 percent; however, 32 percent of voters said they were uncertain. Graham would defeat Putnam 34 percent to 32 percent; but in that instance, 35 percent said they were uncertain.

Gillum has a clear lead over Corcoran, 33 percent to 26 percent. But again, the poll found a significant number of voters — in this case 42 percent — said they were uncertain who they would vote for.

In a match-up between Morgan and Corcoran, Morgan would receive 39 percent of the vote to the Land O’Lakes Republican’s 27 percent. The poll found 34 percent were undecided. Graham, the poll found, would best Corcoran 34 percent to 29 percent; but 38 percent were undecided.

 

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