Adam Putnam Archives - Page 2 of 48 - Florida Politics

More hits to citrus: Forecast portends further decrease

As Florida’s citrus industry “seeks consideration for federal emergency funding,” a U.S. Department of Agriculture forecast Thursday “confirmed a continuing decline in production due to Hurricane Irma’s impact on this season’s crop,” the Florida Department of Citrus said in a press release.

“The report predicts Florida orange production for 2017-18 at 50 million boxes of oranges, a 27 percent decrease over last season,” it said. “Florida grapefruit is expected to produce 4.65 million boxes, a decrease of 40 percent.”

“Unfortunately, I don’t think this will be the last decrease we see,” said Shannon Shepp, the department’s executive director.

The monthly forecasts are best guesses; the real numbers come after the growing season ends. It’s those figures that tell the story of citrus in Florida.

The state’s citrus industry also has been hit by the citrus greening epidemic. The so-far incurable disease attacks the fruit, causing it to turn green and bitter, and eventually killing the tree.

“Hurricane Irma had widespread impact on our industry and growers are still trying to pick up the pieces,” Shepp added. “High winds and flooding rains damaged already weakened trees making it even more difficult to hold on to the fruit that’s left.

“Luckily, Florida citrus growers are a resilient group of hardworking individuals and I know they’ll find a way to carry on like they always do.”

In a separate statement, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam later said the “lowered forecast shows that the damage to Florida citrus from Hurricane Irma is still unfolding.”

“And it will continue to for some time,” Putnam said. “Florida’s growers need support and they need it fast. I will continue to work with Gov. (Rick) Scott and leaders in Washington to get Florida’s growers the support and relief they need to rebuild as quickly as possible.”

Here’s more from the Department of Citrus release:

Florida growers reported 30 to 70 percent crop loss after Hurricane Irma’s landfall on Sept. 10, with the southwest region of the state receiving the most damage.

The hurricane uprooted trees and left many groves sitting in standing water for up to three weeks, potentially damaging the root systems.

In October, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services announced that Florida citrus sustained more than $760 million in damages due to Hurricane Irma. Those numbers are expected to grow as the season continues.

Rick Scott refuses to play pundit over GOP’s bad night

If Rick Scott runs for the U.S. Senate next year (as nearly everyone in Florida politics expects), he will have to deal with Donald Trump and his sagging poll numbers.

But less than 48 hours after Democrats posted big wins across the country Tuesday, the Republican governor shows no appetite to analyze the results of the off-year elections.

“I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of pundits that are going to talk about things like that,” Scott said during an appearance at Weather Tite Windows, a West Tampa window and door replacement company. “I’ve got 424 days to go on my job.”

He then launched a litany of talking points, which could very well transfer to a stump speech next year: “My focus is to make this the number one place for jobs, the number one place for education, and a place where people are safe. We’re at forty-six year low in our crime rate. Our higher education system just got ranked the best in the entire country.”

That last comment referred to U.S. News and World Report ranking Florida as the best state in the nation for higher education, with its relatively low tuition rate for colleges and universities and how more than half of students who seek a two-year degree either graduated on time or within three years.

Another Republican aspiring to a statewide ballot next year is Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. This week, the Republican gubernatorial candidate showed no reluctance to weigh in on the election.

“We are at a crossroads. Make no mistake. Look what happened in Virginia and New Jersey” Putnam said Wednesday in Winter Park. “There should be a sense of urgency about this election. Not complacency,

Scott’s main purpose for visiting Tampa was to tout his proposed $180 million in cuts to taxes and fees for 2018, his last year in office. His plan includes a mixture of license fee reductions, reducing traffic fines for drivers who attend a basic driver-improvement school after getting a ticket and a 10-day tax holiday on school supplies and clothes.

Many expect Scott will challenge incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in his re-election bid next year. On hand to observe the event was Ryan Patmintra, who earlier in the week was named Florida political director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Puerto Rico leaders say evacuees’ needs may last years; Adam Putnam pledges help

The influx of Puerto Rican refugees to Florida may reach the hundreds of thousands, many might stay, and the need to help them recover from Hurricane Maria and assimilate could take years as the commonwealth slowly recovers from the devastation, a group of Central Florida Puerto Rican leaders told Adam Putnam Wednesday.

And the Republican gubernatorial candidate pledged them his help.

Meeting at the Puerto Rico Family Response Center in eastern Orange County, LatinoLeadership Executive Director Marucci Guzman, her husband state Rep. Rene Plasencia, Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President Julio Fuentes, Orange County Commissioner Pete Clarke, and others, Putnam commended Gov. Rick Scott’s efforts to help Puerto Rico, but added that “we have a whole new crisis that needs to be dealt with right here in our backyard in Central Florida.”

The center, established by LatinoLeadership, is providing first-contact responses for Puerto Rico evacuees arriving in Central Florida, either through its desk at the airport or its East Orange location, to help them connect with housing, food, clothing, education, health care and other needs. Estimates offered now top 120,000 Puerto Ricans who have arrived since Oct. 1, mostly in Central Florida, and Guzman, Plasencia, and Fuentes offered that this is only the beginning.

“We need to keep in mind this is an issue that’s ongoing. It’s not just a month ago, it’s not just right now, but it’s going to be a three or four or five year-long process. We don’t know how long it’s going to take Puerto Rico to rebuild, but we do know is we have hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans who are looking to us here in Florida, to possibly call this their new home,” said Plasencia, a Republican from Orlando. “And we have to make sure we’re doing everything we can both as communities,whether  as community leaders, as faith leaders, or as just regular citizens who are opening our homes, but also as political leaders who have the power to make things more efficient and the transition more fluid.”

Putnam, Florida’s agriculture commissioner and Republican gubernatorial candidate, toured the center, and praised the volunteers “who are working tirelessly to welcome our neighbors and fellow Americans who are at one of the darkest points in their lives.”

With state Sen. Jack Latvala‘s gubernatorial campaign and legislative career in jeopardy due to sexual misconduct allegations, Putnam is currently the only major Republican running. Democrats running include Gwen Graham, who last month had volunteered to help with Puerto Rican assistance at another center, the Acacia Florida Puerto Rican Center about a half-mile down the street, Chris King, Philip Levine, and Andrew Gillum.

Putnam promised to take the concerns he heard at the Puerto Rico Family Response Center, and the model of non-profit assistance he observed, back to the state Capitol.

“This is ground zero. This is the Puerto Rican embassy in Central Florida,” Putnam said of the center. “The word is out. This is where people come when they come to Florida. They come straight here. This is not a glitzy, high-profile government agency. There’re no acronyms. They’re not worried about what their reimbursement rates will be from the Stafford Act [which created FEMA.] This is food goes on the pantry, and the next morning a family goes in and gets the food to feed their family, which they haven’t done in 48 days…. That’s the beauty of what’s going on here: this is really charity in action. This is faith in action. And this is Americans doing what we do best, which is look out for our fellow neighbor.”

He urged people to bring donations over, or to volunteer.

And Putnman said he expects the Florida Legislature to take up the Puerto Rico evacuees’ cause in the upcoming Legislative Session. Among others, state Rep. Bob Cortes, a Republican from Altamonte Springs, is writing a bill to address housing needs for evacuees, as well as the broader shortage of affordable housing in the state.

Putnam said the affordable housing issue predates the hurricanes, and noted places in Florida such as Everglades City and the Florida Keys have major housing shortages now.

“As a state I think it’s important for us to continue to remove any obstacles or red tape that would prevent families to adapting to the new normal in their time of crisis,” Putnam said. “If you have a professional license in Puerto Rico there ought to be minimum interference to using a professional license in the state of Florida. “So I think it’s important that as a state we not allow disaster fatigue creep into our mindset, because there still are thousands of families seeking shelter in our state.”

Fuentes said the estimates of Puerto Rican evacuees could range up to 300,000, representing a true crisis. “Whatever that number is, it’s a lot,” he said. He said Orlando is the center for Puerto Rican migration, but “we are seeing this now in other parts of the state, in Miami, in Tampa and in Jacksonville.”


Adam Putnam sees wake-up call in Virginia elections

Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam sees a wake-up call in the Democrats’ victories in Tuesday night’s elections in Virginia, New Jersey and elsewhere and declared Wednesday that it’s a call for a campaign to convince grassroots voters that the state’s conservative-principaled prosperity is at stake.

“We are at a crossroads. Make no mistake. Look what happened in Virginia and New Jersey. There should be a sense of urgency about this election. Not complacency,” Putnam told an Up and Adam gathering at a Winter Park restaurant Wednesday morning. “The inertia is for Florida to be more like New York than like Texas. The inertia is for the left to hijack our elections in Florida.”

Putnam, Florida’s agriculture commissioner, is honing his message to be that of continuing and building upon the conservative leadership he says Gov. Rick Scott has used to make the state’s economy the envy of the nation. At The Coop, a southern-cooking themed restaurant from John Rivers, Putnam continued his call for aggressive support for technical education, saying community colleges and trade schools have gotten “a stick in the eye” from the Florida Legislature in recent years. And he continued his assaults on liberals he says are out to turn Florida into a liberal bastion yet economic basket case like Illinois.

Yet, drawing on lessons he sees in Tuesday’s off-year elections as potential signaling a Democratic resurrection, Putnam also stressed the need to remind voters of the Republican’s accomplishments in Florida, and to get them out to vote to continue the program.

With the hobbling of state Sen. Jack Latvala from an investigation into alleged sexual misconduct, Putnam, of Bartow, now stands as the only serious Republican officially seeking the governor’s office in 2018, though he has to keep an eye out for potential candidacies of Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis. The Democrats, meanwhile, have four major candidates in the race, former state Rep. Gwen Graham, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, and Winter Park businessman Chris King, whose office is within easy walking distance of The Coop.

“There’s certainly a wake-up call here,” Putnam said after his 20-minute speech. “People are fed up with an absence of results in Washington. People were sent to fix our health care system, reform our tax code, and there’s just, there’s no results. It’s a warning against being complacent on turnout.

“But every election, every campaign is local. And you look at the strength of Florida’s economy, the growth in the number of jobs we have here, I think Floridians are looking for a governor who is going to build on our economic progress and give young people the the skills to stay in Florida and succeed,” he added.

He urged the gathering of about 50 people at The Coop to get engaged in his campaign and stay engaged, and to work to convince the conservative grassroots to vote, lest Florida see Virginia’s experience.

“And if we don’t get engaged, then you will have a sanctuary state. You will have an erosion of gun laws. And you will have the types of high taxes and bloated bureaucracy that is driving people from Chicago and New York in droves to our states,” Putnam said. “So don’t let Florida become more like New York and Illinois. We’ve got to fight in this election for the future of our grandkids. We’ve got to fight for a stronger, better Florida, in our infrastructure, in workforce development, and in a pro-business environment that we know Florida can be. That is our challenge in 2018. And that is my vision as your next governor.”

South Florida lawmakers back Matt Caldwell for Ag. Commissioner

Commissioner of Agriculture candidate and state Rep. Matt Caldwell announced support from seven South Florida lawmakers in what his campaign called its “fourth wave” of legislative endorsements.

Included in the Monday announcement were House Speaker Designate Jose Oliva, and Reps. Bryan Avila, Michael Bileca, Manny Diaz, George Moraitis, Jeanette Nunez and Carlos Trujillo. Prior “waves” included blocks of Caldwell’s Republican House colleagues from the Panhandle, Southwest Florida, and Northeast Florida delegations.

“I am proud to support my friend, Matt Caldwell, in his bid to serve as our next Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Matt is a trusted conservative that we can count on to serve as a key decision maker on Florida’s Cabinet, protect Florida’s consumers, and fight to grow jobs in our Agricultural sector,” Oliva said.

In all, Caldwell’s campaign has announced endorsements from 25 current Republican members of the Florida House.

“I’m honored to receive the endorsements of such an impressive delegation. I have been blessed to serve with each and every one of these individuals for five-plus years and together, we have been able to shape policy, fight for limited and accountable government, and ensure prosperity for the Sunshine State,” Caldwell said.

The announcement also included a highlight reel of Caldwell’s “#2LaneTravels Work Days Tour,” which shows him getting his hands dirty trying out some of the jobs overseen by the Commissioner of Agriculture.

Caldwell is is running against Sen. Denise Grimsley and former legislator Baxter Troutman in the Republican Primary to replace termed limited Ag Commissioner Adam Putnam. A fourth Republican, Paul Paulson, still has an open campaign account, but late last last month said he was bowing out and backing Caldwell.

Troutman currently leads the pack in fundraising, though nearly all of his $2.5 million in cash on hand came from his own pocket. Grimsley and Caldwell were neck-and-neck through the end of September with each having about $875,000 on hand.

Also running is Democrat R. David Walker, who is currently the only non-Republican candidate with an active campaign account.

Adam Putnam headed to Lake City Tuesday

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam plans a swing into the heart of North Florida Tuesday, including a “family-style dinner” in Lake City.

Putnam will be joining “grassroots supporters,” per the campaign, “for a family-style dinner and evening” at Florida Gateway College’s Howard Conference Center.

The event starts at 5:30, with the program starting at 6 p.m..

Putnam is riding high in all polls against potential primary rivals, and — with over $19 million banked as September ended — he had more resources than the rest of the presumptive GOP field combined.

Attendees can expect an increasingly road-tested message, as Putnam has demonstrated in just the last week, speaking at stops as diverse as a grassroots supporters’ “Up and Adam Breakfast” in Orange Park and AP Day in Tallahassee.

Putnam has focused on technical education — an appropriate topic given his venue in Lake City — and attendees Tuesday night can almost certainly expect a riff along these lines.

Workforce development has been a key talking point of Putnam’s, who believes community colleges have a unique role in reversing the “talent flow” out of Florida  and “becoming a magnet … diversifying our economy: manufacturing, logistics, and trades.”

The payoff could be “generational in nature,” Putnam has been saying.

“Those future nurses,” Putnam said, “are going to come from a community college … and they need an education that is local and affordable.”

Rick Baker won’t protect St. Pete from Tallahassee attack on home rule, Florida Democrats say

It’s no secret that the Florida Legislature has been pushing policies in recent years that would take away local control from municipal governments.

While most of the criticism has come from big-city Democratic mayors like Bob Buckhorn and Rick Kriseman, Republicans like Kathleen Peters have also bashed Tallahassee’s so-called “assault” on home rule when announcing she would step down from the Legislature for a County Commission run in 2018.

Citing the $350,000 he’s received from Republicans in Tallahassee to his Seamless Florida political action committee, the Florida Democratic Party is questioning whether Rick Baker would push back against such pre-emption if he were elected mayor next week in St. Petersburg.

“Rick Baker has been so desperate for campaign cash he’s willing to sell out St. Pete to Tallahassee Republicans,” said Florida Democratic Party Deputy Communications Director Amir Avin. “Baker is going to owe big favors for the big checks he’s gotten from Republicans like Rick Scott, Richard Corcoran, and Adam Putnam. Tallahassee’s most extreme Republicans are supporting Rick Baker for a reason.”

“Voters aren’t naive enough to believe Rick Baker would be receiving these contributions if his policies didn’t align with Tallahassee’s far-right agenda.”

That includes $25,000 from Rick Scott’s Let’s Get to Work PAC, $25,000 from Florida Grown (Adam Putnam‘s PAC) and $10,000 from Corcoran and Johnston (headed by Michael Corcoran, brother of House Speaker Richard Corcoran).

On the campaign trail, Baker repeatedly said he’ll fight for St. Pete when it comes to intrusions from Tallahassee or Washington.

“Generally, I believe government closest to the people is best suited to respond to their needs, and I support home rule,” he said Thursday.

At a candidates forum in Disston Heights last month, Baker was asked about the Trump administration cutting programs to U.S. cities.

“Anything that we can do to help the urban center of our city is important, and I think the federal government has a role in it,” he said.

Baker added he would venture to Washington, Tallahassee or anywhere else to protect the city’s interests.

However, one area where the former mayor is OK with Tallahassee pre-emption is on gun control legislation.

It made sense for the state to set the laws, Baker said, so that Pinellas Park, Largo and St. Petersburg other communities across Pinellas County didn’t have different sets of gun laws.

Jack Latvala says legislative ethics reform is ‘overdue’

A testy Sen. Jack Latvala, Republican candidate for governor, had earlier turned questions about sexual harassment in the Senate to his advantage, saying the Legislature needs wholesale ethics reform.

“An entire package of ethics reforms is probably overdue,” he told the crowd at Thursday’s Associated Press pre-Legislative Session planning meeting.

Latvala also said that former Sen. Jeff Clemens‘ extramarital affair with a lobbyist was leaked by “somebody that has an ax to grind.” He added that he had “figured out” by whom, but wouldn’t name names.

Some privately have suggested it was former Sen. Frank Artiles or his allies, seeking payback for his ouster from the Senate after accosting two black lawmakers last Session at the Governors Club and using racially charged language.

But in a gaggle with reporters, the Clearwater Republican and Senate Appropriations Committee chair made clear he would have no more of the “sex” questions.

POLITICO Florida has reported that he had been the subject of surveillance, including showing him kissing a lobbyist in a parking lot after a dinner meeting in Tallahassee.

“Latvala vehemently denied any romantic relationship with the lobbyist in an interview with POLITICO Florida,” the website reported. “The lobbyist sent POLITICO a sworn statement to the same effect.”

“I asked the (Senate’s) general counsel to find out whether I had any problems with this,” Latvala said Thursday, speaking to a POLITICO Florida reporter who asked if the chamber had a sexual harassment problem.

“And she wrote a memo to your boss — I didn’t know she was writing a memo — that said I never had any incidents like that,” he added. “But that very day, you were on the phone trying to stir up one.” He then walked away.

Latvala earlier took a swipe at Republican contender Adam Putnam, the current Agriculture Commissioner who’s also campaigning for governor in 2018, saying the state’s next chief executive needs “business experience.”

Latvala owns his own printing business; Putnam has a stake in Putnam Groves, his family’s citrus business, but has been in elected office since his twenties.

As he promised, Latvala has not toned down his gruff, sometimes combative style: “I’m an old school Republican. I’m not going to be one of those guys who changes their philosophy to run statewide.”

Ag Commish Adam Putnam hits stump speech notes at AP Day

Going into November, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam had all the momentum he could want in his bid for the 2018 GOP nod for Governor.

Putnam is riding high in all polls against potential primary rivals, and — with over $19 million banked as September ended — he had more resources than the rest of the presumptive GOP field combined (to say nothing of the field of under-capitalized Democrats).

Running for office since April, his campaign shook off early organizational stumbles. And when he addressed Tallahassee media at “AP Day” on Thursday morning, he did so with the momentum — and the stump speech — of a presumptive nominee.

He balanced that with the responsibilities of a Cabinet officer tasked with handling the aftermath of Hurricane Irma’s devastation to Florida’s agriculture industry.

And he took questions at the end of his prepared remarks on both.


“I’m talking about hurricanes and wildfires and child nutrition — it’s hard to compete with sex, but I’ll do my best to keep it interesting,” Putnam quipped in his opener, referring to the previous session with Senate President Joe Negron dealing with a lot of questions about the Senate’s sexual harassment policy.

Putnam went on to discuss the hurricane, noting that Florida’s produce crop will be reduced this Holiday season, and expressing hope that federal assistance would be provided.

Another issue Florida dealt with this year: wildfires across the state, with Putnam describing the paradox of seeing charred forest land immersed by Irma’s floods, and warning that heavy rain this fall could lead to a replication of those conditions this spring.

To that end, Putnam is going to ask for a “significant number” for capital equipment for wildfire prevention, including dozers.

In better news, Putnam noted that school lunch participation has gone up during his tenure.

“These are outside the norms,” Putnam said about what people expected from a commissioner of agriculture.

However, “Florida’s most important crop is our children.”

Putnam also noted a commitment to conservation easements, with an ask for $75 million for the Rural and Family Land Program.

Overall, Putnam noted that during his tenure, Florida’s economy has turned around, with unemployment below the traditional “full employment” number of 6 percent, and the biggest complain being infrastructure not keeping up with growth.


Eleven minutes in, Putnam dispensed with the overview of his tenure as commissioner, pivoting to stump speech oratory about Florida as a “launch pad for the American dream.”

Career and technical education, Putnam said, needs to be brought into Florida schools to that end.

Putnam then launched into a stump speech riff extolling men and women in “bucket trucks” and people removing debris “without tearing up your water line.”

“Those are all good-paying jobs,” Putnam said.

Workforce development: a key priority of Putnam’s, specifically regarding giving community colleges a bigger piece of the pie.

“We need to reverse that talent flow” out of Florida, Putnam said, and “become a magnet … diversifying our economy: manufacturing, logistics, and trades.”

The payoff could be “generational in nature,” if “generational challenges” like preparing young people to compete in the global economy are met.

“Those future nurses,” Putnam said, “are going to come from a community college … 31 maybe 32 … balancing not just one job but several jobs … and they need an education that is local and affordable.”

“By putting Florida first,” Putnam said as he has for months on the stump, “we’ll be the launch pad for the American dream.”


The stump speech wrapped, Putnam took questions — and one of them was existential regarding his current role.

Putnam was asked about the necessity of the role of the agriculture commissioner, calling it an important role — even in light of aspersions cast by one questioner as to whether the role was necessary.

“When you look at what we’ve done in the department collectively,’ Putnam said regarding child nutrition, water policy, and conservation, there is a “strength of having an elected leader on the Cabinet who recognizes these challenges.”

Putnam added that the lack of an agriculture commissioner could potentially be fatal for the sector.

Another question had to do with campaigning — specifically, raising big money from special interests.

Advertising is “extraordinarily expensive,” Putnam said, “given the number of media markets in the state” and the multiple platforms on which one must advertise.

Putnam, as any sentient candidate would, went on to emphasize the importance of grassroots.

“But grassroots isn’t free,” Putnam added. “Running statewide in Florida has to be done on more than car washes and bake sales.”

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