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Gwen Graham to Adam Putnam: ‘Defend’ Florida oranges

Steel and citrus brought us to this:

Gwen Graham is calling on Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam to defend Florida orange juice if President Donald Trump triggers a trade war with our European allies,” Graham’s campaign said in a Friday email.

Um, what?

Here’s what happened: “News broke this morning that the European Union is considering banning imports of American orange juice if Trump moves forward with plans to start a steel trade war.”

(Not mentioned by the Graham camp: That same story said EU officials also “are considering tariffs on other agricultural products,” including whiskey and dairy, “if Trump follows through with a steel tariff.” That whiskey is considered an “agricultural product” is a story for another day.)

“Orange juice is  … absolutely vital to Florida’s agriculture industry and our state’s economy,” Graham said in a statement. “Adam Putnam needs to put Florida first, pick up the phone, call his friend Donald Trump and defend our state’s jobs.”

If you need your memory jogged, former congresswoman Graham is a Democratic candidate for governor in 2018; Putnam is a Republican candidate.

Putnam campaign spokeswoman Amanda Bevis did not respond to Florida Politics’ request for comment, but told the Tampa Bay Times: “If you can’t grow it, you can’t export it. Even a half day pretending to work in citrus would teach Gwen Graham that the number one issue in Florida citrus is greening, not the EU.”

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

Meantime, we await defenders for Florida whiskey (yes, it exists) and dairy.

Eyeing gubernatorial bid, Phil Levine’s political committee raises $2 million in June

With Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine traveling the state to speak with Floridians about the state’s direction and how to best position Florida for the future, his political committee, All About Florida raised $1.7 million in June.

A nearly $2 million boost brings the total for his political committee to about $4 million. Officials with the Levine campaign were quick to note that this number is double what officially announced Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham has raised so far.

The Mayor — a Democrat and close friend of former President Bill Clinton — remains noncommittal about entering the Governor’s race and has even floated the idea of running as an independent.

“There’s one assumption that you made there — that somehow if I ran for Governor I would be a Democratic governor,” Levine told a Tampa Tiger Bay audience in May. “Too much is about Democrat and Republican. It needs to be about the people; maybe possibly it’s time we do something different.”

Right now, much of Levine’s time is being taken up by his listening tour, funded by All About Florida. If he should run for Governor, however, Levine — worth about $100 million as a cruise ship industry executive — told the Miami Herald in March he is “100 percent” open to the idea of self-funding a campaign, much like Rick Scott, Florida’s current chief executive.

“Mayor Levine is focused on traveling the state to talk with Floridians who are eager to see fresh leadership with a record of getting things done,” said Christian Ulvert, an adviser to Levin. “As he continues to hear from Floridians, Mayor Levine is more committed than ever to ensure Florida is best positioned to be the future state and June is proof positive that his message is being well received.”

Levine closed the month by hosting the largest-ever U.S. Conference of Mayors in Miami Beach where record attendance brought mayors from across the country to discuss important issues like infrastructure investments, local control, climate change, living minimum wage and health care.

While financial information for June has not been released yet by other candidates, GOP front-runner Adam Putnam is widely expected to lead the fundraising race among announced candidates for governor, with an estimated $15 million between his campaign account and his Florida First committee.

Kamia Brown endorses Andrew Gillum for governor

Orlando Democratic State Rep. Kamia Brown has thrown her support Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in the Democratic governor’s race.

“I have watched with great pride as Mayor Andrew Gillum has campaigned all over this state for governor,” Brown stated in a news release issued by Gillum’s campaign. “He is connecting with Floridians from every walk of life and every corner of Florida. I am proud to endorse him for governor, because I know he will be a champion for Orlando, for women, and for all those who need a voice against the special interests. I look forward to knocking doors with him in Orlando and beyond, to take back our state in 2018.”

Gillum faces former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee and Winter Park affordable housing developer Chris King for the Democratic nomination in the 2018 governor’s race. The leading Republican candidate so far is Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

Brown’s endorsement adds his list that includes those of state Sens. Jeff ClemensPerry Thurston, and Bobby Powell; and state Reps. Joseph AbruzzoLoranne Ausley, Ramon Alexander, Shevrin Jones, Al Jacquet, and Patrick Henry.

“I’m honored to have Rep. Kamia Brown’s endorsement in this campaign,” Gillum stated in the release. “She’s brought passion and energy to her work in the Legislature, and I can’t wait to work with her as governor. She is going to help us bring our message to Orlando and all across the I-4 Corridor, and I’m excited to be on the trail with her.”

Adam Putnam surpasses $15 million raised for gubernatorial bid

In the two months since Republican Adam Putnam filed to run for governor in 2018, his campaign account and political committee combined have blown past the $15 million mark in contributions, a campaign spokeswoman announced Wednesday.

“That’s two back-to-back months of more than $2 million in contributions each month,” Amanda Bevis said.

Here’s a breakdown of the numbers:

— $15.67 million collected to date (campaign and PC combined).

— $11.65 million cash on hand at the end of June (campaign and PC combined).

— $2.127 million collected in June 2017 alone (campaign and PC combined).

— 4,268 contributors to the campaign to date.

— 3,254 small dollar contributors (<$500) to date.

“The strong finance numbers are matched by the strength in grassroots support for Putnam,” Bevis said. “After a record-breaking kick-off in May, he continued the grassroots momentum in June with ‘Up & Adam’ Breakfasts in Bradenton, Newberry and Ocala, and campaign stops in Apopka, Winter Park and Miami, among others.”

There’s “no summer break for this campaign,” she added. “Over the holiday, Putnam was greeting supporters at Florida’s biggest Fourth Parade. Dozens of volunteers turned out to walk with Adam in the Independence Day Parade in Brandon. It was a ‘Redhead, White and Blue’ Fourth for this crew.”

Adam Putnam’s net worth now $8.7 million, report shows

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, also a Republican candidate for governor in 2018, on Friday posted an $8.7 million net worth, according to his financial disclosure filed with the state.

Putnam’s form was received Friday by the Florida Commission on Ethics.

The latest filing shows Putnam’s worth rising incrementally from $7.2 million in his 2013 filing, the earliest still available on the commission’s website.

Assets include his 20 percent stake in Putnam Groves, his family’s citrus business in Bartow, valued at $2.9 million. He also listed his $260,000 house in Tallahassee and his Bartow home, valued at $174,000.

Putnam has interests in three other houses in Babson Park, Lake Wales and on Little Gasparilla Island, and owns “vacant land” six miles east of Lake Wales, according to the disclosure.

His “household goods and personal effects,” not required to be itemized, come in at over $162,000. Putnam also listed a number of investment funds and money market accounts.

A $105,000 mortgage is listed as a liability; the reports does not specify which property it is for.

He disclosed his state salary as $123,576 a year.

Earlier Friday, outgoing state Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater reported a $2.5 million net worth for 2016, as part of his annual financial disclosure statement. And Attorney General Pam Bondi has disclosed her most recent net worth at nearly $1.7 million.

Gov. Rick Scott had yet to file his disclosure for 2016 as of Friday afternoon. Last year’s filing showed his worth at over $119 million.

Gwen Graham draws more endorsements: Steelworkers, Mark Pafford, Katie Edwards, John Cortes

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham has drawn more endorsements including former Florida House Minority Leader Mark Pafford and state Reps. Katie Edwards and John Cortes

The endorsements announced by her campaign Thursday also included Duval County Soil and Water District Chair Shannon Blankenship, and Jacksonville City Councilman Tommy Hazouri.

Her campaign also announced the first major labor endorsement of the season, from the United Steelworkers.

“This isn’t just about the next election. After almost twenty years of Republican rule, we are out of time. Our future and our very way of life are at stake,” Graham stated in a news release issued by her campaign. “I’m proud to have the support of these elected officials. Together, we will renew our promise to public schools, protect our environment and build an economy that works for everyone.”

Graham is in a race for the Democratic primary for  the 2018 election with Winter Park affordable housing developer Chris King and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum. The one major Republican candidate is Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

“Gwen Graham is clearly the best choice to represent the interests of all Floridians,” USW International President Leo W. Gerard stated in a news release. “In Congress, she fought for policies to lift workers and our families, including her support for new laws to ensure fair pay and protections from workplace discrimination.”

“I have dedicated my career in public service fighting against the Republican status quo in Tallahassee. After years of one-party rule, we can not afford to lose another election. I’m supporting Gwen Graham because she’s offering real progressive solutions to the challenges we face,” stated Pafford,  who represented Palm Beach County in the House of Representatives and now is an administrative officer in the Orange County Tax Collector’s Office.

“As governor, Gwen will end Tallahassee’s education industry and put a stop to high-stakes testing by ending the destructive school-grading system and trusting teachers to do what they are trained and hired to do. She will protect our environment by banning fracking and oil drilling off our beaches. And she’s working to build an economy that works for every Floridian,” he added.

Cortes of Kissimmee, stated, “Gwen’s momentum in Central Florida is growing as fast as our region’s population. From fighting for our environment to working in public education, Gwen Graham has dedicated her life to the issues we care most about. I look forward to working with her as our next governor.”

 Hazouri added, “From the first week of her campaign, Gwen Graham has shown she understands how important Jacksonville is towinning back our state. From her commitment to human rights to her passion for protecting our natural resources and environment, Gwen Graham is focused on issues that matter to Democrats, the City of Jacksonville and the entire state of Florida. For these reasons, among many more, I’m proud to support and help Gwen win Jacksonville and win the governor’s race in November 2018.”

 

Jack Latvala: ‘It is very possible I end up announcing something in the near future’

Sen. Jack Latvala didn’t use an appearance at the Tiger Bay Club of Southwest Florida to announce a 2018 gubernatorial bid.

Then again, he didn’t use it to quash any rumors about his plans for the future.

“We have several members of the press here today, so if I was to specifically make an announcement, then there wouldn’t be a reason for them to come to an announcement if I had one,” said the Clearwater Republican when asked what was in his future.

“I will say this: I have been involved in government in Tallahassee for a long time. I think I know the good and the bad, how many things happen and how to solve problems,” he said. “As I look at being term limited in the Senate, I obviously think about giving it a go and seeing what I can do. It is very possible I end up announcing something in the near future.”

Latvala, the chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, is believed to be considering a run for governor in 2018. If he decides to run, he’ll join Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in the GOP race to replace Gov. Rick Scott. U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and House Speaker Richard Corcoran are also believed to be considering a run.

 “If I do it, it’s going to be based on the same principles that I’ve conducted myself. There might be some yelling, but mostly how I conduct myself is straight talk,” he said. “If people ask me a question, I give an answer. If I give somebody my word, I keep it. I work hard, and I think that’s what we need to have in our public officials at every level. I’m not going to be the best looking candidate, I’m not gonna be the slimmest candidate, but I think there’s not many jobs in government that I couldn’t do.”

When asked was going into making his final decision, Latvala said it wasn’t as much about making the final decision, but having enough time to make sure he could tell everyone he’s worked with over the years what his decision will be.

“There’s a lot of preparation that goes into it,” he said. “I want to do it right.”

While Latvala’s political future was on many people’s mind Wednesday, it wasn’t the only reason Latvala attended the Tiger Bay Club of Southwest Florida’s meeting. He was also on hand to discuss the 2017 Legislative Session, as well as the special session that followed.

Latvala called the 2017 Session “the worst one” in his years in the Legislature.

“We had, without a doubt, a tough session this year. By far, it was the worst one in my opinion. It was the least fun,” he said. “I think people are letting egos get in the way of their good judgement. They’re worried about their owned advancement, they’re worried about their own philosophy.”

Still, Latvala pointed to some achievements during the 2017 Session, including a legislation backed by Senate President Joe Negron to build additional water storage south of Lake Okeechobee, which will help alleviate discharges into the Calooshatchee River. He also touted money for beach renourishment projects and pay raises for state workers, both of which were personal priorities during the 2017 Legislative Session.

And Latvala said he was among those members who were concerned with the way the Session ended, with several big bills being negotiated behind the scenes.

“I hope we learned our lesson,” he said. “I think the Senate is not doing thing that way next year, people expect us to debate things on merit.”

 

Richard Corcoran’s agenda and style get bashed (and sometimes praised) by panel of Pinellas lawmakers

He wasn’t on the dais, but Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s policies and public comments were front-and-center when a panel of Pinellas lawmakers spoke Wednesday in Clearwater about the recently concluded legislative session.

Dubbed “the most interesting man in Tallahassee” in a recent Miami Herald profile, the 52-year-old Land O’Lakes Republican came into leadership last year with a firm and aggressive agenda, and achieved some major accomplishments in state government. And with a potential gubernatorial candidacy in the offing, opinions regarding his policies and legislative style were not in short supply from his fellow Republicans.

No one has been more critical of Corcoran’s tenure than the man who may be competing against him next year for the GOP nomination: Clearwater state Senator Jack Latvala, who lashed out at Corcoran’s recent comments that state legislators are more responsive to Floridians than local governments.

“I think it’s probably one of the most ridiculous things that has come out of his mouth,” Latvala said to laughter and applause from the business-friendly crowd which gathered for French toast and sausage at Ruth Eckerd Hall. “And I’ve heard a lot of ridiculous things come out of his mouth.”

The event was sponsored by the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce and moderated by FloridaPolitics/SaintPetersBlog publisher Peter Schorsch.

Latvala went on to say that the people who run for local office generally raise money from the people that they will ultimately represent on a city council or county commission. Not true in Tallahassee, he said, where most lawmakers contributions come via lobbyists.

“A lot of our legislators – particularly our newer ones – have the attitude that somehow or another they know more than the same folks who elected them at the local level,” Latvala continued. “I’ve never had that attitude, and I never will.”

When reached for comment later in the day, Corcoran responded by saying that “our point was based on the beliefs of our founding fathers.”

“Every branch of government should stay in their constitutionally authorized lane,” Corcoran said..”When local governments try to ban our citizens from using Uber; raise taxes on its citizens every single year; force small businesses to pay an unsustainable minimum wage; strip our citizens of their 2nd Amendment rights, and lobby the legislature to try and stop them from giving homeowners a property tax cut, then they are out of their lane and, more importantly, completely out of touch with the will of the people.”

Corcoran’s determination to eliminate state funding for Enterprise Florida, Visit Florida, and a host of other economic incentive programs, including those targeting professional sports teams and the entertainment industry, created a virtual civil war amongst Florida Republicans in the first half of 2017. Ultimately, Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida retained a substantial amount of funding, though EFI lost the bulk of its money for job incentives.

That proposal resulted in an intense ideological battle between Corcoran and Governor Rick Scott, who spent weeks traveling to the districts of House Republicans who supported the plan to defund the agencies.

“Unfortunately, the Speaker made a lot of people vote for that bill before he changed his mind and made his deal and then we had an about face and the end result was a decent bill,” said Latvala. “A lot of young House members were made to march the plank in their communities … just because of this ideological proposal from the House Speaker.”

Sitting right next to Latvala on the dais at the event was Seminole’s Larry Ahern, who was one of those House Republicans who supported Corcoran’s push to defundthose state agencies.

“No more does one corporation get all the benefits,” said Ahern of the final product. “Now it will be a better package for job training and creation throughout the state.”

South Pasadena Republican House member Kathleen Peters said she refused to “walk that plank,” and said she was quite vocal about not supporting it, before getting in her own dig at Corcoran.

“When I look at good leadership, I look at leaders who are not divisive, leaders who can see a problem and bring all the stakeholders together and come up with a good solution,” Peters said. “And that’s not what happened here in the beginning.”

Palm Harbor Republican Chris Sprowls supported the controversial legislation.

“When the Quick Action Closing Fund, paid for by tax dollars, says to an out of state company like Wa-Wa we’re going to give you millions of dollars in taxpayer money to come and compete with homegrown Florida businesses, I’m offended by that,” he said. “We all should be.”

St. Petersburg Democrat Wengay Newton said that Corcoran crashed a House Democratic meeting one Wednesday to persuade some of the members to his cause to get rid of Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida.

“He said I need you to stand with me,” Newton said in recounting that meeting. “That tells you right away that he didn’t have every Republican delegation in lockstep.”

Ultimately, 20 Democrats did support Corcoran on that vote.

Another controversial bill that Scott recently signed was House bill 7069, the education bill that includes the “schools of hope” plan for charter schools that was another pet project of Corcoran’s. The bill does many things, including add measures that force school districts to share construction money with charter schools and that create financial incentives for new charters to open and compete with low-performing public schools.

The bill was also a passion project of sorts for Chris Latvala, who spoke for so long about how important the legislation was that he was ultimately cut off by Schorsch.

Newton, like every Democrat in the Legislature, vehemently disagreed with the education bill.

“If you think that you’re going to be able to spend that amount of money on a charter school because they had some success somewhere else without bringing the people that’s providing that success and a government structure to the areas where you’re trying to implement it, it’s never going to work,” Newton said.

And speaking of education, the issue of USF being stripped of “preeminent” status in an education conforming bill near the end of session still rankles alumni and friends of the university. One anonymous audience member blasted Sprowls (scheduled to become Speaker of the House in a few years) on how could he let such a thing happen, or be so out of the loop as to not know it was about to happen.

While other members criticized the process, Jack Latvala said that USF officials were being too negative about how they fared overall this year.

“USF leadership is really good at the doom and gloom and highlighting the negatives, but what they haven’t told anybody was that USF got $42 million in new, additional operating money this year, as apart of the Senate’s various program to supplement higher education,” he said.”So it was one problem, but they got a lot of new money.”

The lawmakers were all asked who they believe their respective gubernatorial nominee will be next year. With many of the Republicans being loyal to Latvala, they opted not to weigh in, since he has not declared whether or not he’ll be a candidate.

Well, not everybody played possum. Ahern extolled the virtues of Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who, as of today, remains the only major Republican to have entered the race.

 

Which came first, Donald Trump’s ‘America First’ or Adam Putnam’s ‘Florida First?’

Since announcing his presidential run two years ago, Donald Trump has kept a focus on “America First” – strong national interests in global security, foreign policy and trade.

Just as “America First” propelled Trump to the White House, Adam Putnam hopes a similar theme will help drive him to the Governor’s Mansion.

That could explain why the new header of Putnam’s Twitter profile boasts a bright red background, emblazoned with the words “#FloridaFirst.”

Hey, it worked for Trump; why not go with a winner?

So, we wondered – which “first” came first.

Wait a minute, says Putnam’s campaign; the former U.S. Representative and current Agriculture Commissioner used “Florida First” for several years before Trump declared “America First,” and well in advance of his presidential campaign.

More than 2,000 supporters heard Putnam proclaim Florida First when announcing he was entering the governor’s race May 10. That same day, the phrase took a prominent role in visuals at a rally in downtown Bartow, Putnam’s hometown, as well as at events throughout his statewide bus tour.

Florida First was also clearly visible in the background of Putnam’s Facebook Live Q&A from Pensacola May 19.

Nevertheless, that was far from the first time Putnam used the term Florida First, says a campaign spokesperson. It has been on campaign and other materials as early as 2012, years before Trump entered politics.

In fact, the state’s official 2012 Collector’s Edition Christmas Ornament (in the pre-Trump era, when Putnam was Ag. Commissioner) was also titled “La Florida First,” celebrating the “innovation and discovery since Spanish explorers first stepped ashore in 1513,” which was REALLY before Trump.

Joe Henderson: Jack Latvala sounds like a candidate for Governor, even though he hasn’t announced

State Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater keeps saying he’ll decide in a few weeks whether he is running for the Republican nomination for Governor, but he sounds like a candidate right now.

He is making himself available for interviews (always a good sign) and speaking engagements around the state. More importantly, he actually is saying things that are newsworthy and sound suspiciously like common sense.

Take this quote, for example, given over the weekend to WFOR-CBS 4’s Jim DeFede on “Facing South Florida.”

When asked if he would make a better governor than current GOP front-runner Adam Putnam, Latvala responded: “Oh, absolutely.”

Then he dropped this into the conversation.

“I’m an old-fashioned Republican from the standpoint that I think government ought to stay out of our lives – and that includes our personal lives,” he said. “Some people think that makes me a moderate. Let them think what they want.”

Well, well!

Let’s pick at that nugget a bit, shall we?

In addition to being the Senate budget chairman, Latvala sponsored a bill during the Legislative Session that would have banned housing discrimination for “sexual orientation or gender identity.”

The bill died in committee, but give Latvala credit for trying.

Under the mask of conservative values, some Republicans love nothing better than to tell people different from them how to live their lives. Latvala’s quote could be part of his game plan to stand in contrast to other GOP candidates.

For instance, Putnam, the state Agriculture Commissioner and presumed Republican front-runner, was criticized by LGBT groups when his statement on the anniversary of the Pulse nightclub massacre had no reference to fact that many of the 49 people killed and 58 wounded that night were gay.

Why is that a big deal? Gays were clearly the target of the attack by killer Omar Mateen.

That promoted Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Florida, to say of Putnam, “We hope he does that, and we hope any candidate running for office that invokes the name of Pulse has the courage to name the victims and make clear their stance, not in platitudes, but in real promises.”

The field of candidates in both parties will be crowded, which puts fund-raising and name recognition at a premium. If Latvala makes the leap, he will have a lot of catching up to do.

Putnam has raised more than $12 million, including $1 million in May. If House Speaker Richard Corcoran jumps in, he could have the backing of the Koch Brothers and all the clout that brings.

Latvala has positioned himself as a problem-solver, interested in the environment, with extensive business experience. He has tried to label Putnam as a career politician.

But the biggest thing he might going is trying to steer Republicans back to their roots — less regulation, more freedom everywhere, for everybody. It’s a bold gambit for a party that has moved steadily toward regulating any lifestyle but the one it favors. Whether that works in a potential campaign remains to be seen, but it sure is refreshing to hear.

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