Adam Putnam Archives - Page 6 of 48 - Florida Politics

Incoming Puerto Rican students eligible for free school meals

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam announced Friday that Puerto Rican students displaced by Hurricane Maria will be able to get free school meals through the National School Lunch Program.

That’s “in response to the ongoing crisis in Puerto Rico and in preparation for an influx of evacuees,” Putnam’s office said in a release.

Since 2012, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has overseen the state’s school nutrition programs.

“Federal laws allow students in households evacuating a designated disaster area access to free school meals,” it said.

“Our neighbors and fellow Americans in Puerto Rico need all the help and support we can provide,” Putnam said. “To any families fleeing Puerto Rico and coming to Florida, you will not have to worry about how you’re going to pay for your child’s school meals.”

For more information, call (800) 504-6609 or email

Richard Corcoran is the biggest threat in the Governor’s race … and he’s not even running

A new Florida Chamber of Commerce poll released this week gives Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam a significant early lead in the 2018 race for governor.

This comes as little surprise, especially since some view the Chamber as one of Putnam’s biggest cheerleaders.

However, the survey does have one shocking element. Richard Corcoran scored dead last in the Chamber-backed poll.

This poor showing begs a slightly closer look at polling and why the Land O’Lakes Republican might just be poised to be the biggest threat to Putnam.

In the GOP primary, Putnam gets 26 percent, with U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis at 9 points and state Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater with 2 percent. Corcoran manages only a single point.

As Speaker of the Florida House and a prominent figure in state politics, that Corcoran would receive such sparse polling numbers raises more than a few questions.

First, some background. According to state financial reports, political committees tied to the Chamber gave $785,000 to Putnam’s campaign in 2017 alone, with nearly half of that coming after he officially declared his candidacy.

In contrast, Watchdog PAC, the committee led by Corcoran, has received no Chamber money.

Why is that? One possible explanation is, during Session, Corcoran publicly struck out strongly against a Chamber priority – the state funding for VISIT FLORIDA. That certainly did not inspire the Chamber to open its checkbook.

What also makes this lack of financial support intriguing is that only last year, the Chamber scored Corcoran as an A-rated, pro-business legislator at 97 percent.

So the Chamber loves how Corcoran votes, just not enough to give him any money.

Now, compare this week’s Chamber survey to a similar poll taken three weeks earlier by Florida Atlantic University — a neutral third-party.

Both polls include the same four major Republican Party candidates (as well prospective candidates) for governor: Putnam, Corcoran, DeSantis and Latvala.

Both polls offer similarities: Putnam’s share is 1 point apart in the polls (26 versus 27 percent). DeSantis’ is same in both polls (9 percent). Latvala is also the same at 2 percent.

Also, notable in the Chamber polling is the margin of error, which typically changes with the number of respondents for primaries (only 256 Republicans surveyed) versus the number of respondents for general elections (615 surveyed). For the general, both surveys offer a margin of error of +/- 4 percentage points, although the FAU margin of error — when broken down to Democratic or Republican primary only — increases to +/- 6.5 points. (The FAU poll does point out those changes as the sample size decreases.)

Nevertheless, the one key difference between the two polls is Corcoran.

Corcoran drops from 10 percent (solidly in second place) in the FAU survey to a single point (last) in the Chamber poll.

But why all the skepticism, you may ask. The Speaker is emerging as everyone’s favorite target in the governor’s race. And he’s not even running.

While on the stump, in media and digitally, Democrats have attacked Corcoran with alarming regularityGwen Graham, Andrew Gillum and even Philip Levine (who has been flirting with, but not committed to, a run for governor). Putnam and Latvala have also been consistent in their attacks.

Could it be that Corcoran is the most dangerous candidate to all of the above?

This summer, the Speaker had been quickly raising money ($4 million in 100 days) as well as assembling a top-notch political team (including admen and the winning pollster for President Donald Trump and Gov. Rick Scott). The Speaker also has a strong conservative record to lean on, which would make a compelling case in a Republican primary.

In addition, all polls show the race as wide-open – with some giving Corcoran double digits (despite not yet being an official candidate). That this is happening so early in the race is noteworthy.

Compare that to DeSantis, whose entire potential campaign now rests on a series of appearances on FOX News.

What’s more, other than two significant donors, DeSantis’ aligned committee raised little money (only $1M after the transfer from his federal PC) in nearly six months of its existence. That suggests a lack of infrastructure.

And with waning approval ratings for both Congress and Trump, a sitting congressman in the gubernatorial race is not necessarily setting the world on fire, at least among those in the state Republican Party.

All things considered, as Corcoran builds momentum and is positioned to become Putnam’s most practical challenger, why would the Chamber bother putting a thumb on the scales?

Perhaps not, but the Chamber would have 785,000 reasons to do so if they did.

Adam Putnam calls for Florida to prepare for Hurricane Maria evacuees ‘with open arms’

Florida Agriculture Commissioner and leading Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam told the Florida Chamber of Commerce Wednesday that Florida needs to do more to help Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, including preparation for a mass migration of Hurricane Maria aftermath evacuees.

Putnam, speaking before the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s 2017 Future of Florida Forum in Orlando, and in remarks afterwards, cautioned that Florida, its schools, its businesses and its services must prepare for thousands of displaced Puerto Ricans and Virgin Islanders, especially in the heart of the state’s Puerto Rican community, stretching from his home, Polk County, through Osceola, Orange and Seminole counties and into the Space Coast.

But first he called for more to help with what he deemed an unfolding humanitarian crisis. He said all of America watched with pride and admiration as Floridians came to each others’ aid “in common decency” and “extraordinary spirit” following Hurricane Irma, “and it will extend to our neighbors and fellow Americans in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands who got it much worse than we did.”

“We will open our homes. We will open our businesses. We will open our schools and our hospitals to embrace our neighbors who have lost everything,” Putnam told the chamber’s opening luncheon.

“We have to do everything we can to assist them, and to make sure they find a home here in the Sunshine State,” Putnam added. “Because they have just… these storms, we’ve seen it with other natural disasters: the people with the least lose the most.”

Afterwards, speaking with, Putnam said Florida needs to recognize at all levels of government and business that a major influx of migrant evacuees from the islands is likely coming. He said he’s talked to Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart about making sure the schools are prepared for a large wave of late enrollees.

That includes asking the schools to delay their counts of students until much of the influx can be absorbed, waiving caps on English language learners funding, and allowing temporary flexibility on class sizes and the use of portable classrooms. He said there’s no way to know what those numbers will be, “but we know enough to know they’re coming.”

Putnam said he expects that to be especially an issue through Central Florida where there already are hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans and Virgin Islanders.

“It’s logical that those leaving the islands now will move in first with a family,” Putnam said. “Anyone who wants to seek some type of new normalcy for their children, to get them into schools as quickly as possible, to get them readjusted, to take in vulnerable populations. I fully expect we’ll see the impacts of those in Florida and we should welcome them with open arms.”

Adam Putnam: renewed push for technical education key to fixing economic woes

A lot of Florida’s economic weaknesses and longterm economic security can be treated with a bigger, more focused attention on vocational and technical education, Adam Putnam told a gathering of business leaders at the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s conference in Orlando Wednesday.

Given just enough time, he surmised, to talk about just one issue in any depth, the Republican gubernatorial race frontrunner chose his ongoing crusade to push for a rethinking of Florida’s education policy, one in which students are advised and steered early on, in middle school and certainly by high school, to consider preparing for the trades rather than for college.

It would be better for many students, and better for many businesses, he argued, considering how many high-skill jobs go unfilled in Florida because of the skills gap, a gap discussed earlier at the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s 2017 Future of Florida Forum, held Wednesday and Thursday at the J.W. Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes resort.

“If we’re serious about rebuilding the middle class in Florida, if we’re serious about diversifying our economy, in aviation, logistics, ship building, heavy equipment operation, construction, high-tech manufacturing, agriculture, we have to produce a workforce that understands what they can earn –  starting in middle school and high school, before we pressure them into student-loan debt for a degree they don’t want and can’t use,” Putnam said.

Putnam, Florida’s agriculture commissioner, was shown earlier Wednesday in a Florida Chamber of Commerce poll to have commanding leads over other Republican candidates and potential candidates for governor, and clear leads over all Democratic contenders in this early stage of the 2018 election.

After his 13 minutes of remarks at the forum, Putnam said his proposals to re-emphasize trades education from middle school through community college, including “supporting community colleges like we really mean it,” are key to resolving many of Florida’s economic weaknesses. He said that is why he chose that theme for his chamber address.

“It’s the key to rebuilding the middle class. It’s the key to rural economic development as well as inner-city economic development. It’s the key to lifting average incomes in Florida and keeping our younger people in Florida, instead of moving away to other places,” Putnam said in post-speech comments to

Poll: Adam Putnam is front-runner in governor’s race

It’s clear that Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam has been running a careful race for Florida governor.

And Republican voters like what they are seeing, according to a new poll from the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

Putnam is obliterating the GOP primary field, says the live-dial poll of 256 Republican likely voters conducted Sept. 14 through Sept. 21. The Bartow Republican enjoys the support of 26 percent of respondents, well ahead of U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, coming in second at 9 percent.

Clearwater Republican Sen. Jack Latvala (2 percent) and House Speaker Richard Corcoran (1 percent) both trail an enigmatic “someone else” (3 percent).

If there is any silver lining for the single-digit candidates, it’s that more than half of respondents (59 percent)are undecided.

Putnam offers voters the best combination of name identification and favorability of the field, the Chamber poll says.

Though his favorable rating is a relatively modest 24 percent, that is still more than twice his unfavorables (at 11 percent).

Putnam’s aggregate +13 favorable rating (and the fact that 54 percent had heard of him) bodes well, as no other candidate has a similar level of favorability or visibility.hen polled in many head-to-head contests against potential Democratic adversaries, Putnam also prevails.

When polled in many theoretical head-to-head matchups with potential Democratic adversaries, Putnam also prevails.

In a hypothetical head-to-head contest, 615 respondents (263 Democrats, 256 Republicans and 96 others), put Putnam over Gwen Graham (39 to 37 percent), John Morgan (40 to 37 percent), Andrew Gillum (40 to 33 percent), Philip Levine (40 to 32 percent), and Chris King (40 to 31 percent).

Expect Putnam to continue what he is doing, given that no Republicans are even close to him right now and his support in a general election is consistent, no matter which opponent he faces.

Chris King calls for ‘modernized’ voting systems, automatic voter registration

Declaring it is time for Florida to “modernize” it’s voting systems, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King unveiled a policy statement Tuesday calling for universal voter registration and for voters to vote anywhere in their county.

King, a Winter Park-based developer of affordable and senior housing, rolled out a seven-point voting and elections plan Tuesday to mark National Voter Registration Day during a speech at Florida State University. The address was the first of his campus college tour, which also includes stops Tuesday at the University of Florida and the University of North Florida.

His Every Florida Voter Plan include calls for the abolition of gerrymandering, restoration of certain non-violent felons’ voting rights and some proposals aimed at making voter registration and voting easier.

King is battling with former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum for the Democratic nomination to run for governor in 2018. Both of them also have expressed strong support for the restoration of voting rights, and abolition of gerrymandering. The leading Republican candidates are state Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

“Our government should work for ordinary people, not special interests and those in power,” King stated in a news release issued by his campaign. “The first step to restore our democracy is to put that power back in the hands of the people of Florida.

“But expanding voter registration and increasing access to the polls are not enough to increase voter participation,” King added. “Past candidates and elected officials from both parties have failed to give Floridians a reason to get out and vote. This campaign will be different. It will be unafraid of fighting for a new fair and Florida-focused economy that lifts up all Floridians, and championing fresh ideas to give people a reason to stand and be counted.”

King’s voter plan includes a handful of Democratic standards adopted by most of the party’s candidates, including his Democratic primary rivals, such as restoration of rights, expansion of early voting and same-day voter registrations. It also calls for technological advances and automatic voter registration, meaning registrations of eligible voters would be automatically recorded as they sign up for any state services, unless they chose to opt out.

He proposed updating Florida’s voting infrastructure to allow universal online voter registration. He also suggested that voters should be able to vote at any polling place in their county on Election Day, just as they can currently vote at out-of-precinct polling places in early voting periods.

“Florida should end the antiquated voter registration system that hasn’t kept up with a mobile, modern society,” King’s campaign stated in the news release.

The statement said King would provide a path to the restoration of civil rights “for more than 1.6 million nonviolent offenders who have served their time, paid their debts to society, and have earned a right to be contributing members of their communities again.”

“Florida simply cannot systematically disenfranchise millions of its citizens any longer,” the release stated.

For King, the gerrymandering position comes from close to home. His father David King was the lead attorney who argued and won redistricting cases on behalf of the League of Women Voters in Florida that forced Tallahassee to redraw congressional and state senate districts. In those suits, judges found the state’s congressional and Florida Senate districts were created through gerrymandering that had been banned by the 2010 Fair Districts amendments to the Florida Constitution.

“Voters should pick their elected representatives, not the other way around,” the release stated. “For too long, Republicans in the state legislature have tried to gerrymander districts. The people of Florida deserve a leader in Tallahassee who will fight for Fair Districts during upcoming redistricting.”

Jack Latvala says he sides with Donald Trump’s criticism of NFL players

After Tampa Bay Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans opted not to stand for the national anthem in protest of Donald Trump’s election, Pinellas state Sen. Jack Latvala said he would personally boycott Bucs games until Evans apologized or was cut from the team.

He is maintaining that stance after Evans and fellow Bucs wide receiver DeSean Jackson joined many of their NFL brethren on Sunday by kneeling during the playing of the national anthem. The protests were in response to Trump’s comments made Friday night that NFL owners who have players “disrespecting the flag” should “get that son of a bitch off the field right now, he’s fired.”

“A year ago, long before I became a candidate for Governor I called out the Bucs receiver who knelt for the national anthem,” Latvala wrote on his Facebook page Sunday night. “This is not a new issue for me and my attitude has not changed.”

Two NFL teams – the Seattle Seahawks and the Tennessee Titans – chose to protest by not even leaving their locker rooms while the national anthem was played in Nashville. The Pittsburgh Steelers did the same thing before their game in Chicago, with the exception of one player, offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva.

Latvala says he’s a fan of Villanueva.

“Thankfully we still have players like Alejandro Villanueva who stood up for our country on the battlefield and stood up for our flag today!” Latvala wrote.

The Clearwater Republican announced his candidacy for Florida governor last month, joining Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in the race.

Putnam tweeted Sunday that he also agreed with the president comments about NFL players who refuse to stand for the anthem.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who is strongly considering running for governor, tweeted a photo of Villanueva showing his support for standing for the anthem. “This is what a hero looks like,” Corcoran wrote.

After Latvala criticized Evans last year, the receiver backed down, saying that he would no longer sit during the anthem. Evans was criticized by fans not only for refusing to stand for the anthem in protest of Trump’s election but for also admitting that he didn’t actually vote in the presidential contest.

However, this time, the Bucs receiver sounds like he won’t back down.

“When the president has singled out athletes, or African-American athletes, myself and my other colleagues that took a knee just have different beliefs than him,” Evans told the Tampa Bay Times Sunday. “It was very childish on his part. It seems like he’s trying to divide us. I think this is an opportunity for me to do what I can. A lot of guys around the league did it and I understand why.”

“People are going to misconstrue and turn it to make it depict a different picture than it really is,” Evans continued. “I love the military. Like I said last year when I sat, it’s nothing against the military at all. The anthem is different for other people. People say it’s unpatriotic. But it’s unpatriotic for the president not to respect our rights.”

As was the case last year, Latvala is attracting plenty of comments on his Facebook page for his stance on the issue — pro and con.

“I don’t appreciate or support the Bucs’ stance on this issue,” wrote Cherie Anne Gaynor. “I’m finished with them and probably all NFL teams and will try not to buy any of their sponsors’ products.”

“I appreciate people who stand by their beliefs,” wrote Adam Miguel Harvey. “You’re not getting my vote but thank you for it being vocal about the argument.”

Florida Sugarcane Farmers ready to ‘grow again’ post-Irma

Florida farmers may have just experienced the biggest crop loss event in state history, but Florida Sugar Farmers is determined to bounce back.

Our rural farming communities will recover, replant and we will grow again after #HurricaneIrma,” the group said on Facebook Thursday.

Florida Sugar Farmers included a video with the post that intercut descriptions clips of USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, Ag Commissioner Adam Putnam and other public officials describing the record damage Irma brought to Florida’s agriculture industry.

“The devastation of this storm was probably greater and more catastrophic across this state than anything we’ve ever seen, and that’s what we want to come here to rectify,” Purdue said in the video. “We’ve flown over from Orlando down to see all the groves and the vegetables and the shade houses destroyed and roofs off dairy barns and things like that.”

Putnam, who is running for Florida governor, said the storm was a “widespread disaster that’s more than just what you’ll feel at the produce section of your grocery store.

Flanked by Putnam and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, the video also included a clip of Perdue saying his department will “expedite as much as possible” whatever help they can pull together while appealing to Congress for more Irma relief.

“These people are used to getting up after they’ve been knocked down,” Perdue said. “They’ll do it again, but we need to help ‘em and that’s what USDA is going to do.”

In the same post as the video, Florida Sugar Farmers praised Perdue, Putnam and Rubio, as well as U.S. Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Tom Rooney, state Sen. Denise Grimsley for being elected leaders who support Florida farmers.

Watch the video on Florida Sugar Farmers Facebook page.

Rick Scott, Adam Putnam, Richard Corcoran tour storm-ravaged St. Johns County

Team of rivals?

Florida Gov. Rick Scott toured storm damage, including wrecked houses and eroded beaches, along the St. Johns County coastline Thursday, and with him were two likely candidates to replace him as the 2018 GOP nominee.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Agriculture Secretary Adam Putnam were both along for the ride.

As three of the most powerful Republicans in the state, they presented a united front in letting St. Johns County know that the state recognized that the county needed help to rebuild after its second devastating storm in less than a year.

“We are all going to work together,” Scott said, “to bring our beaches back.”

Corcoran likewise spoke the language of unity: “Our message to the First Coast is we’re going to go around, see what needs to be done in the state, and we’re with you. We’re going to recover and rebuild, and we’ll be better off and safer the next time.”

Putnam, likewise, asserted that “events like this often bring out the best in Floridians … Florida’s strong, Florida’s resilient … the First Coast has been here for 500 years; it will be here for 500 more.”

However, with Corcoran and Putnam both vying to replace Scott in Tallahassee, it was perhaps inevitable that questions about 2018 — both the Legislative Session and the campaign — would be asked.

One such question went to Scott and Putnam both, about Speaker Corcoran’s assertion that over $600M in local “pork” projects should be reduced in favor of staunching the state’s hurricane readiness.

Scott said that he thinks it’s “very important” to make sure that taxpayer money is “spent the most important way.”

“I always welcome a review afterward,” Scott said. “I welcome what the Speaker is proposing and what the Legislature will be doing.”

Putnam likewise offered what could be framed as conceptual support.

“This storm resets the state’s priorities,” Putnam said. “From local government to state government and throughout, there’s no question that everybody is reorienting themselves in the aftermath of this storm.”

We then asked the two gubernatorial candidates if hurricanes would be a talking point in what will certainly be an expensive, heavily messaged campaign.

“I think what we’re doing today,” Corcoran said, “is beginning that process of what can we do to make our state safer … that’s the focus; all that other stuff will take care of itself.”

Corcoran added that every county in the state was impacted, and that “hurricane preparedness” will be “first and foremost” in the next Legislative Session, the “driving force over the next four months.”

Putnam noted that “the people who lost their roof, the people who are cleaning up this mess — they aren’t focused on 2018, they’re focused on today. And we are too.”

We gave the Governor an opportunity to endorse Putnam or Corcoran in front of both men and TV cameras from the Jacksonville market.

He chuckled, then pivoted to message about Florida being a tourism state.

Clearly, storm recovery will happen — it always does. But what was clear: both Putnam and Corcoran are keenly aware that the policy discussions of 2017 will have a great bearing on the politics that will follow next year.

Up and Adam: Putnam serves breakfast to Jacksonville kids

Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam was at Beauclerc Elementary in Jacksonville Thursday morning, serving breakfast to students.

The appearance at the Southside school underscored his office’s announcement this week that students in 48 Florida counties under FEMA’s major disaster declaration could eat free at school until October 20.

Putnam noted that this declaration allows 2.5M students at 3,000 schools in the counties to eat.

Beauclerc Elementary has been around for a few decades, but has changed along with the West Baymeadows neighborhood.

Beauclerc is now a dual-language school, the Principal told us, with a full third of the population receiving Spanish and English instruction.

During his visit, Putnam noted with delight that Chartwells — the food vendor — has increased its use of Florida grown produce 75 percent in the last two years.

However, that comes with caveats; as he served fruit cups to some of Beauclerc’s youngest students Thursday morning, the Ag Commissioner noted that much of this year’s citrus crop is “on the ground” — a consequence of Hurricane Irma.

Putnam asserted that serving breakfast was aligned with some larger parts of his mission as Agriculture Commissioner, noting that a healthy breakfast corresponds with “kids missing fewer days of school,” as well as being focused in the classroom.

This, along with other factors, has helped Beauclerc boost its test scores 15 points in the last year — no small feat.

The Jacksonville area has been a focus of political visits and efforts since Hurricane Irma’s epic storm surge, with both Florida Senators frequent fixtures in Jacksonville, and even a visit on Wednesday from U.S. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.

Putnam, who faces a competitive primary for the Republican nomination for Florida Governor in 2018, is uniquely positioned to capitalize on storm relief to garner earned media; opponents such as Sen. Jack Latvala and House Speaker Richard Corcoran will have no such analogous recourse.

We asked Putnam if the event could be constituted as earned media; he rejected the proposition.

“I’m just doing my job,” Putnam said.

If Putnam does not become Governor next year, he suggested that elementary school food service may be an option for a future gig.

“Always need a Plan B in this business,” Putnam quipped, as he sold kids on the singular wonders of Florida produce.

This is Putnam’s first school cafeteria visit in the state, but it won’t be the last, he said.

Expect him to incorporate such visits in other major media markets in the months ahead.

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