Adam Putnam Archives - Page 3 of 53 - Florida Politics

Ron DeSantis for Governor? ‘Stay tuned’, he tells Fox and Friends

Apparently, Ron DeSantis is still making way toward the Governor’s race, if a favorable interview on Fox and Friends Wednesday were any indication.

The Republican congressman was grinning from ear to ear, as the studio’s big screen showed a tweet from part-time Florida Man and full-time President Donald Trump: “Congressman Ron DeSantis is a brilliant young leader, Yale and then Harvard Law, who would make a GREAT Governor of Florida. He loves our Country and is a true FIGHTER!”

The hosts invited DeSantis to “break some news,” but he declined that offer — still smiling.

“I can tell you that when that tweet went out, the amount of buzzing on my phone from calls and texts, I thought the phone was malfunctioning, or there was something going on,” said DeSantis. “When he tweets, and he has 100 million people that are seeing that, it’s a really, really big deal, and I really appreciate the kind words from the President.”

“[Trump] loves Florida, and he’s been good for Florida, and I anticipate he’ll continue to do that,” DeSantis said, adding that he’ll “come back on [the show] in the new year and break some news then.”

When one of the hosts said that by promising to break the news, it was as if DeSantis were breaking news, the still-smiling congressman urged him to use his “deductive reasoning” skills.

A DeSantis run — with Trump’s imprimatur — is a game changer for current GOP front-runner Adam Putnam.

The Agriculture Commissioner, who has run a disciplined campaign up until now, will now necessarily have to distance himself from Trump.

Also, Gov. Rick Scott — who Trump encouraged to run for the Senate — will not be able to co-brand (in any meaningful way) with the man who served in his Cabinet for seven years.

Imported citrus numbers continue to grow in Florida

An increase in imported orange juice is anticipated by the Florida Citrus Commission to offset a decline in tax revenue from the state’s hurricane-battered growers, who await congressional action on disaster relief.

The commission – during a brief conference call Wednesday – agreed to shift $556,147 from reserves to help cover the Department of Citrus’ budget for the current fiscal year, with the transfer leaving a $682 negative balance. Taxes on citrus pay for the department’s operations.

Christine Marion, commission secretary, said continued demand by Floridians for orange juice is expected to increase the need for citrus to be imported, which – because it is taxed like citrus grown in the state – should offset the negative balance.

Unlike in past years, imported citrus now accounts for more than half – currently topping 55 percent – of the citrus taxed by the state.

Meanwhile, Florida agriculture leaders, including Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Citrus Commission Chairman G. Ellis Hunt, rushed to Washington, D.C. as some kinks emerged in a reported deal announced Tuesday to include $2.6 million for crop losses – with an emphasis on citrus – in an expanded $81 billion disaster-relief bill.

“It’s a roller coaster up here,” Hunt said Wednesday morning. “We’ve had some good news yesterday, and then we a little jumped the tracks, maybe, at the moment. … There’s quite a team assembled and we’re all working extremely hard and trying to kind of push this thing over the finish line.”

The overall relief package – nearly double the White House’s requested $44 billion proposal – has been attached to a short-term “continuing resolution” needed to keep the federal government open through January 19.

The resolution was initially expected to go before the U.S. House on Tuesday, but is now expected to come up for a vote later this week. The measure would then go before the Senate.

Issues have emerged regarding reauthorization of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in the package, while Texas officials are pushing to get more money for its post-Hurricane Harvey recovery.

The plan is the third disaster-relief package this year in response to hurricanes in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico and wildfires in California. The biggest parts are $27.6 billion that would go to replenish the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster-relief account and $27.8 billion for community development block grants that could be used toward flood prevention and infrastructure repairs.

Gov. Rick Scott released a statement Wednesday saying disaster relief is critical for the agriculture industry, as well as local school districts educating students who came to Florida from Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. He also said the package needs to be clear that money would go to infrastructure projects such as repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike around Lake Okeechobee.

“As Hurricane Irma was bearing down on our state, we were forced to evacuate communities surrounding the lake due to safety concerns identified by the Army Corps of Engineers,” Scott wrote. “The lake reached dangerous levels, and Florida cannot go through another hurricane season without exploring all avenues of federal funding to fix the dike.”

For Florida’s citrus growers, on pace for the lowest harvest since the 1944-1945 growing season, the impact of Hurricane Irma in September came after they have struggled for a decade against citrus greening disease.

Putnam’s department estimated in October that the state’s agriculture industry suffered a $2.5 billion hit from Irma, with the citrus industry losses at $761 million. The citrus figure is expected to top $1 billion as damages continue to be reported and some growers in the southwestern part of the state face 70 percent to 90 percent losses.

Putnam, in seeking citrus-industry aid in the disaster relief package, has warned that imports could take hold in greater numbers as the state’s signature crop continues to struggle while beverage companies seek alternative sources of citrus.

“You have the major brands, Coke, Pepsi, Florida’s Natural, who are trying to meet the needs of consumers,” Putnam said last week. “And in many cases, it’s going to result in additional imports from Brazil, which also undermines Florida citrus and its market share.”

The Citrus Commission, while determining revenue for the Department of Citrus’ $17.8 million budget, had previously projected that orange juice imports – primarily from Brazil and Mexico – would surpass, in terms of volume, the amount of oranges grown this season.

A so-called “box” tax on growers, which provides revenue for the Department of Citrus, was set in October with a projection of 124.34 million 90-pound boxes being filled with oranges, grapefruit and specialty fruits by Florida growers and through imports.

The agency charges growers 7 cents on each box of processed oranges, grapefruit and specialty fruits.

In the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture forecast, Florida growers were projected during the current growing season to fill about 51.5 million boxes, of which 46 million were expected to contain processed oranges.

When setting its budget for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1, the Department of Citrus projected – based upon June figures – that imports would account for 37.5 million boxes, almost all oranges.

Since then the import projection has already been raised to 63.9 million boxes.

Marisa Zansler, director of the agency’s Economic and Market Research Department, has indicated the imports will likely continue to grow to reach the budget projections.

The agency is awaiting the January crop estimate for Florida and revised data from Mexico and Brazil to determine if a revision is needed.

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Adam Putnam says ‘it is time’ for Jack Latvala to resign


Jack Latvala resigned from the Senate Wednesday afternoon. In a resignation letter to Senate President Joe Negron, Latvala wrote: “I have never intentionally dishonored my family, my constituents or the Florida Senate.

“My political adversaries have latched onto this effort to rid our country of sexual harassment to try to rid the Florida Senate of me.”


Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam called on Sen. Jack Latvala to resign for the first time following a damning report by an independent Senate investigator that could lead to criminal charges.

“No person, in any setting — and certainly not in the state Capitol — should be subjected to this behavior,” Putnam said in a statement.

Putnam is the front-runner in the governor’s race and is facing Latvala for the 2018 GOP nomination.

While they are political opponents, Putnam shied away from calling on him to resign when the sexual harassment allegations first came to light early in November. Instead, he said the Legislature should investigate and “ensure victims may be heard without fear or reprisal.”

After special master Ronald Swanson released the report on Tuesday, Putnam quickly changed his tone. After interviewing dozens of witnesses, Swanson found probable cause that the powerful Clearwater senator inappropriately touched Rachel Perrin Rogers, a top Senate aide, for several years. He also found probable cause that the powerful senator engaged in other sexual misconduct with female lobbyists, including offering to trade his vote for sex.

The sexual “quid quo pro” finding, Swanson wrote, was confirmed in text messages and may violate public corruption laws. He recommended the matter be “immediately” referred to law enforcement.

“Now that the investigation is complete and its findings of probable cause and the referral of the most serious allegations to law enforcement, it is time for Senator Latvala to resign,” Putnam said.

Disaster relief package would help citrus industry

Florida’s storm-battered citrus growers are closer to landing federal relief sought since Hurricane Irma devastated large parts of the state’s agriculture industry in September.

The U.S. House on Wednesday will consider providing $2.6 billion for lost farm crops as part of an $81 billion disaster-relief package, which has been attached to the latest short-term “continuing resolution” needed to keep the federal government open.

The overall relief package, nearly double the amount requested in November by the White House to aid communities recently damaged by hurricanes and wildfires, comes after Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said last week there was no “plan B” for the state’s citrus industry without federal assistance.

“Today’s announcement of proposed emergency funding for Florida agriculture is the first bit of good news we’ve heard in months,” Putnam said in a prepared statement Tuesday.

If the package passes the U.S. House on Wednesday, it then would go to the Senate for consideration.

Putnam and Gov. Rick Scott have pushed Florida’s congressional delegation to attach assistance for the citrus industry to post-storm relief packages.

“I am glad to say we finally cleared the first major hurdle by securing this funding in the latest disaster supplemental bill,” U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, a Republican who is the only Floridian on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, announced late Monday.

The Florida agriculture industry, which Putnam’s department estimated took a $2.5 billion hit from Hurricane Irma, was left out of two earlier disaster-relief packages approved by Congress.

Florida is expected to get a large part of the money for farmers, with crop losses covered for citrus growers.

The biggest parts of the relief package are $27.6 billion that would go to replenish the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster-relief account and $27.8 billion for community development block grants that could be used toward flood prevention and infrastructure repairs.

Another $12.11 billion would go to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to repair damage from the natural disasters and to bulk up facilities from future risk, including $537 million for flood control and coastal repairs.

Another $3.99 billion would help public and private schools handling displaced students.

Florida citrus growers, including many in the southwestern part of the state who were hit hard, incurred an estimated $761 million in damage from Irma. However, that estimate from early October is expected to top $1 billion as flood damage to trees continues and as harvest numbers drop.

U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, a Lakeland Republican, said the funding will help the industry, which before Irma had been fighting citrus greening disease and is now on pace for its lowest harvest since the 1944-1945 growing season.

“We finally reached a deal that will help Florida farmers recover from the storm with $2.6 billion and prevent these jobs from going overseas,” Ross said in a prepared statement. “While we still have a long road ahead, I’m glad that Florida citrus will have a fighting chance.”

Also Wednesday, the Florida Citrus Commission will discuss shifting about $556,000 from reserves — nearly matching the amount in its reserves as of Oct. 31 — to cover programs in the current fiscal year.

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Gwen Graham on being a woman candidate in today’s political environment

As 2017 sets and the 2018 election year begins to dawn, Gwen Graham clearly is contemplating what it means to be a woman in the Florida governor’s race in an era of time when gender issues have been sparked aflame by the recent flurry of sexual harassment and assault cases and the #MeToo movement.

Elections this year have shown powerful effects of women’s votes in Virginia and Alabama, with the flurry of sexual harassment cases and the #MeToo movement, in which women throughout the world began telling their stories on social media and elsewhere of experiences with sexual harassment and sexual abuse, falling in between those elections.

“I think being a woman is an advantage, particularly at this time, because I can understand a perspective that [men,] I just think it’s difficult to walk in the shoes of woman who has lived in a man’s world,” she said.

“Everywhere I go, everywhere I go, and this is pre- the #MeToo movement, pre-Virginia, pre-Alabama, I feel that women are engaged, and this is in a bipartisan way. I go all over the state and I have women say, ‘I’m a Republican, and I can’t wait to vote for you,’ Graham said Monday. “I think it’s a recognition of what I represent, and as a woman as well, is a type of leadership that is something that we can all feel positive about.”

Graham, the former congresswoman from Tallahassee, was in Orlando Monday to perform one of her “Work Days” at the Second Harvest Food Bank, volunteering a shift to help bring in donated food and prepare it for distribution to churches and pantries throughout Central Florida to help feed the needy.

Like all the candidates, Graham’s bigger challenge will be to expand beyond her natural constituencies. Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, a Republican candidate, has unabashedly been trying to lock up Florida’s rural and small-town voters, and the state’s big business community. Democratic Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum has earned strong support from many leaders of Florida’s African-American community. Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine is of South Florida, where the lion’s share of Florida’s Democrats live, and also appeals to business leaders willing to support a Democrat. Winter Park Democrat Chris King also seeks to appeal to the business community and to younger voters, since he is of them. That’s the base for their 2017 starts. They all would need more.

To date only Putnam has broken out with any signs of dominance, both in fundraising and in statewide polls, and his “Up and Adam” breakfasts, as ubiquitous as Graham’s Work Days, have given him hand-to-hand, and face-to-face time with voters, scores at a time, throughout the state. Levine, the newest major candidate, has shown early robust fundraising and already is using his money to run television commercials to expand his name recognition within and beyond South Florida.

Graham also is counting on her base expanding through her message on issues, particularly public education, the environment, the economy, and investing in the state’s infrastructure, but also because of her family’s legacy. The Graham brand remains strong, she said, due to her father Bob Graham‘s eight years as governor in the 1970s and ’80s, and his 18 years in the U.S. Senate in from 1987 to 2005. People remember, she said, and she’s not discounting what she said is the fond response she daily receives from her father’s supporters.

But if the 2018 elections are as affected by women voters as 2017 suggests, it may be because women can provide a different kind of leadership, something that voters across the board hunger for, Graham said.

“I think one of the things that’s important about the #MeToo issue is the recognition of imbalance of power. And why it’s so important we elect more women into leadership positions. I think women bring a different leadership approach than men,” she said.

GOP tax bill to help Florida farmers recovering from citrus greening, Irma

Republican-led tax reform scheduled for a vote by both houses of Congress this week includes a provision that will benefit Florida farmers grappling with Hurricane Irma and the costly and deadly citrus greening disease.

Sponsored by Longboat Key Republican Rep. Vern Buchanan and co-sponsored by every member of the Florida Congressional delegation, the measure provides tax incentives for farmers who cannot afford to replace damaged trees. It will allow those farmers to tap investors to raise capital for replanting crops instead of bearing the full cost alone, as current law requires for the tax break.

Incentives would be available to farmers as long as they maintain a majority stake in the grove.

“Immediate tax relief is crucial to help Florida citrus growers rebuild and get back on their feet,” Buchanan said. “I’m pleased that my bill to help farmers recover from Hurricane Irma has been included in this key legislation.”

Citrus greening (also known as Huanglongbing or HLB) is a disease spread by an insect called the Asian citrus psyllid. The psyllid feeds on the stems and leaves of the trees, infecting the trees with the bacteria that causes citrus greening. Greening impairs the tree’s ability to take in nourishment, ultimately resulting in fewer and smaller fruit over time. Once a tree is infected, there is no cure.

While the disease has devastated citrus farmers over the past decade in Florida, the Lakeland Ledger reported that in August, an industry consultant’s new estimates for the 2018 crop ran 10 percent above production for 2017, as measured by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, marking the first upswing in output in five years.

Then came Hurricane Irma, which Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam calls “a major calamity” for Florida citrus farmers.

Buchanan’s legislation is included in Section 13207 of the final “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” conference report — the product of negotiations between a joint House-Senate conference committee.

Gwen Graham mocks Matt Gaetz’ FBI probe, taunts Adam Putnam, Richard Corcoran

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham, a former member of Congress herself, on Friday attacked U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz for his campaign to get the FBI investigated and to halt the bureau’s investigation of President Donald Trump, then challenged her Republican rivals to state their positions.

Graham, of Tallahassee, took to Twitter first, calling out, “Matt Gaetz, what are you so afraid of?”

Gaetz, a Fort Walton Beach Republican, has been one of the leaders in a Republican congressional effort to both get an investigation of how the FBI looked into Hillary Clinton allegations of misconduct last year, and to get Special Counsel Robert Mueller fired for what Gaetz and the other Republicans in the effort contend has been a partisan, biased “witch hunt” investigation of alleged connections between Trump, his election campaign team, his White House staff, and Russia.

“Calls to fire him undermine the fundamental rule of law,” Graham tweeted. “The special counsel and DOJ must be allowed to investigate – even the president – without partisan interference.”

Gaetz office did not immediately respond to an inquiry about Graham’s tweets.

She then went after Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and House Speaker Richard Corcoran. The former is the leading Republican candidate in the governor’s race, the latter a likely major candidate. That included a mash-up picture of Corcoran and Putnam standing with Gaetz, who stands behind a podium with a Trump campaign sign.

“Congressman @MattGaetz asked Republicans to join his attacks against Robert Mueller. Do @AdamPutnam and @RichardCorcoran stand with Gaetz or do they stand with the rule of law? Floridians deserve to know,” Graham tweeted.

In a press release her campaign then put out, Graham also went after another potential major Republican gubernatorial candidate, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach. Both Gaetz and DeSantis flew with Trump to Pensacola last week and joined him at a campaign rally there which, in part, was aimed at supporting Roy Moore in the neighboring Alabama U.S. Senate race.

“Today Congressman Matt Gaetz called on his Republican colleagues to join him in a partisan campaign to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Floridians deserve to know, do their leaders stand with Gaetz or with the rule of law?” Graham stated in the news release. “Adam Putnam and Richard Corcoran won’t be able to hide from the president and his connections to Russia forever — they must answer whether or not they stand with Matt Gaetz against Robert Mueller.”

Adam Putnam, Richard Corcoran pulling in committee cash in December

It’s only been a few days since November campaign finance reports were filed, but gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam and his likely Republican Primary rival House Speaker Richard Corcoran have kept the money rolling in to their political committees.

Putnam’s committee, Florida Grown, has brought in another $135,000 since the start of December according to the committee’s website.

The biggest donor so far is Coral Gables investment banker Bruce Berkowitz, who chipped in $50,000 on Dec. 6. Florida Crystals and real estate developer Wayne Rosen, also of Coral Gables, each chipped in $25,000, while the committee received $10,000 a piece from SWBG Operations Group, G-T Consulting Service Inc. and Committee of Florida Agents. Peter V. Cowie of Palm Beach Gardens chipped in the other $5,000.

Putnam finished November with more than $15 million on hand between his committee and campaign accounts, with $12.83 million of his cash on hand in Florida Grown.

Corcoran hasn’t yet declared as a gubernatorial candidate, though in December he has added another $113,000 to his committee, Watchdog PAC, after bringing in more than $750,000 last month, and starting December with about $4.7 million on hand.

His top donor in the early days of December was MHM Services, which chipped in $40,000, followed by Florida Prosperity Fund at $20,000 and Anheuser-Busch at $15,000.

Currently the only other major Republican running for governor is Clearwater Republican Sen. Jack Latvala, who has been fighting back against sexual harassment allegations for more than a month.

His contributions slowed to a crawl last month and his PAC, Florida Leadership Committee, hasn’t reported any new December contributions since last updating its totals on Dec. 6.

The committee had just shy of $4 million on hand Nov. 30, and Latvala had another $808,062 in the bank for his campaign account.

Democrat David Walker begins making his case for Agriculture Commissioner

While much is made about how a Democrat hasn’t held the Florida governor’s mansion for nearly two decades, the drought is almost as long as for the state’s three other Cabinet officers.

While Alex Sink served as Chief Financial Officer from 2007-2011, Democrats haven’t made much noise in years, particularly in the Agriculture Commissioner’s race, echoing a trend also seen around the country.

Of the twelve states with elected agriculture commissioners, none are Democrats.

David Walker hopes to change that next year. He’s the only Democrat in the race (so far) in the race to succeed Adam Putnam, who is term-limited next year.

“It’s more than a job, it’s my passion,” Walker said about the position as he introduced himself at the Hillsborough County’s LGBTA Democratic Caucus at the DoubleTree Hotel in Tampa Wednesday night.

A fifth-generation Floridian born in Plant City and now living in Fort Lauderdale, Walker is president of South Florida Audubon and sits on the Everglades Regional Conservation Committee. Walker says Everglades restoration “is a huge deal for me,” and one of the components of his platform in running for office.

Citrus greening had a disastrous impact on Florida citrus landowners; due to the disease, production is down 61 percent over the past decade. Walker says that he wants to help those growers convert their land to host solar farms.

“That’s a way for them to make money on their land without polluting and without using water,” he says.

He’s also concerned about agricultural runoff and what it’s doing to the state’s water system, not just in South Florida but also in Central Florida. And he’s dead set against fracking, referring to his concerns about South Florida developer Joseph Kanter‘s plans for a permit for a single exploratory well in wetlands about six miles west of Miramar in Broward County.

“It’s a huge deal,” he said, adding that the Florida Environmental Regulation Commission’s July 2016 vote to approve a new water quality standards that will increase the amount of cancer-causing toxins in Florida’s rivers and streams made it a dangerous proposition.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is also the state agency responsible for issuing concealed carry weapon licenses. Walker says he has a CCW permit but believes the questionnaire required to get the permit is something of a joke.

“Before taking this test, they give you the answers,” he says, promising to change that if he were elected.

Walker also talked about his personal story. He drew cheers after saying he believed in legal protections for the LGBT community against discrimination, as a “member of the LGBT community, myself.”

He also talked about his extremely challenging birth and early years.

Walker was born prematurely at 27 weeks, he spent only 13 days at home during his first two years, with his doctors questioning whether he would survive.

Saying that technology in the 1980s wasn’t like it is now, he dealt with bleeding in the brain and undeveloped lungs and wasn’t able to speak until he was five years old.

“So I had many, many hardships growing up,” he said.

Walker will undoubtedly have a challenge winning the Agricultural Commissioner’s race. Since entering the contest in August, he’s raised a very modest $5,230.

That amount pales in comparison to the enormous numbers all three Republicans have raised to date: Former state Rep. Baxter Troutman of Winter Haven has raised more than $2.5 million, nearly all of it out of pocket. Lee County Rep. Matt Caldwell has collected more than $467,000 in his campaign account and more than $1 million in his political committee; Sebring state Sen. Denise Grimsley has raised more than $1.9 million between her campaign and committee.

Update: Our initial story reported that there was one Democratic Agriculture Commissioner, but, in fact, he was defeated by Republican Kent Leonhardt in 2016.

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