Adam Putnam Archives - Page 6 of 37 - Florida Politics

2,100 wildfires have burned in Florida since start of year

State officials say 170,000 acres in Florida have burned from wildfires since the start of the year.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said that more than 127 active fires were burning in Florida as of Monday.

Since the start of 2017, there have been more than 2,100 wildfires in Florida.

Putnam says drought conditions and high wildfire danger will continue for some time since May is traditionally one of the driest months of the year in Florida.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Ron DeSantis for Governor? Don’t rule it out

Adam Putnam may have some competition for the Republican nomination for Florida Governor after all.

Sources very familiar with the thinking of U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis note that he is looking at a run for the state’s top job, with a decision to be made late in the summer.

Were he to run, he would be a very serious candidate for the job — posing an existential threat to Putnam, as DeSantis could very quickly own the space to Putnam’s right.

DeSantis, who was far and away the strongest fundraiser in the GOP primary race for Senate in 2016 (ended when Marco Rubio decided to run for re-election), has some advantages that others lack.

Among them: name identification, as Team DeSantis asserts that the nationally-known Northeast Florida Congressman has better name id than either Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran or State Sen. Jack Latvala.

As well, DeSantis has $3M at his disposal already; were he to enter the race, that war chest would grow quickly.

However, no decision is imminent — yet. DeSantis is still working on the federal level, with a number of issues he wants to push forward ahead of the August recess.

DeSantis, unlike presumptive GOP Senate nominee Rick Scott, has not secured or even asked for the blessing of President Donald Trump. However, given DeSantis’ national profile, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which Trump does not support the nationally-known conservative.

Conversations DeSantis is having about the race are the kind of stakeholder talks one would expect in the pre-candidacy phase — “open” conversations with local, state, and national figures.

Those conversations reveal a “real hesitation about Putnam,” we are told.

Meanwhile, any support that Corcoran may be interested in securing from Americans for Prosperity may be blunted, effectively, by the vast majority of members of the board of directors having given to DeSantis for Senate already.

DeSantis is going to be worth watching in the next few months, as he has the biggest national profile of any potential gubernatorial candidate, with hits on Fox News Channel a few times a week.

While Attorney General may be another option, the reality is that for DeSantis, the time to make a move for the top job in the state is likely now.

For Northeast Florida conservatives, meanwhile, DeSantis may be the best shot in decades to take the governor’s office.

Matt Caldwell announces run for Agriculture Commissioner

Updated 12 noon — State Rep. Matt Caldwell formally announced his candidacy for Agriculture Commissioner on Monday morning, in an event that was livestreamed on his Facebook page.

“I’m thrilled to kick off my campaign with all of you in my hometown,” he told the crowd at Sun Harvest Citrus in Fort Myers. “Growing up, I never made grand plans to run for office … But I decided early on I could sit and shake my fist at the television screen or I could get out there.”

Caldwell burnished his conservative bona fides, which he said “puts a bull’s eye on your back every single day,” mentioning his support of term limits, tax cuts, but also “the needs of our environment and our farmers.”

He also talked about the importance of gun rights and Cabinet duties: The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services oversees the issuance of concealed weapon licenses, and the commissioner sits on the Florida Cabinet with the state’s governor, attorney general and CFO.

“With your help, and God’s blessing, we will come out ahead next year,” Caldwell said.

He was introduced by his friend, House Republican Leader Ray Rodrigues, who said there was “no one more prepared to go to Tallahassee and be the next commissioner.”

“It’s not unusual for someone to go to Tallahassee and change, become a different person,” added Rodrigues, an Estero Republican who said he had known Caldwell “half his life.”

“What is rare is when someone is the same person at the end of their seventh year as they were when they got there,” he said. “But the Matt Caldwell you see here today … has not changed when you get to the root of his character.”

An earlier version of this story is below:

For the past seven years, Rep. Matt Caldwell has traveled back-and-forth to Tallahassee from his Lee County home, often choosing highways taking him through the state’s small towns instead of the interstate.

Those countless two-lane journeys over the years will likely come in handy as the North Fort Myers Republican embarks on his next campaign. Unable to run for re-election because of term limits, Caldwell threw his hat in the race to replace Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in 2018. He is set to formally launch his campaign at 11:15 a.m. at Sun Harvest Citrus, a citrus retail store in Fort Myers.

“Here’s an opportunity, from my perspective, to keep pursuing the issues that I think are important, the ones I’ve had a chance to focus on and shape the policy outcomes,” he said in a recent interview. “That’s what I’m always going to be looking to do, to be effective.”

First elected in 2010, Caldwell has spent much of his career in the Legislature focused on environmental and agricultural issues.

As chairman of the Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee in 2013, he backed a plan to help pay for Everglades restoration. The bill (HB 7065), which was signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott, called on the state to spend $32 million a year for 10 years to reduce the amount of phosphorous that enters the Everglades. As chairman of the State Affairs Committee, he carried legislation (HB 1075), which the governor also signed into law, in 2016 that addressed how state lands are used.

This year, Caldwell, now the chairman of the Government Accountability Committee, proposed legislation that would have restructured Florida Forever’s funding formula and guaranteed funding for the next 20 years. Filed late in the 2017 Session, the bill (HB 7119) passed the House, but did not get a hearing in the Senate.

“You look at the things I’ve been able to work on over the last … seven years in the process, and I think it demonstrates the ability to work on challenging issues, to work with a bipartisan coalition of folks, to work with folks across the aisle, to come together on some pretty tough things,” he said.

Caldwell said he plans to focus on issues that are front-and-center to the agriculture community. The state’s continued growth creates challenges for farmers, but is also a challenge for the state as it looks preserve critically important water resources and conservation areas.

Caldwell understands that growth first hand. A seventh-generation Floridian, Caldwell’s parents met while college, despite both living in Fort Myers. They got married after undergrad, and moved back to Fort Myers a few years later with one-year-old Matt in tow.

The 35-year-old said Fort Myers was a “fantastic place” for a kid to live.

“I grew up fishing all the back mangroves, windsurfing on the Sanibel Causeway,” he said. “For a kid growing up, there was always something to do. It was a great way to grow up.”

His commitment to public service, he said, comes from his parents. His mom is an educator; his father was in the ministry. He would go with them to vote every election, getting a map of the United States during presidential election years and color in the states and election results as returns came in.

He was recruited by Republicans in 2008 to run for the cross-state Senate seat held by then-Sen. Dave Aronberg. The seat included parts of Lee and Palm Beach counties, and was a near 50-50 seat, with a slight Democratic registration advantage. Caldwell lost, 40 percent to Aronberg’s 60 percent, but said he learned valuable lessons along the way.

“It had urbanized downtowns, it had cattle ranches and citrus groves, it covered part of Lake Okeechobee, it had the ocean on each side. It was quite literally a snapshot of every kind of venue you’ll encounter in the state of Florida,” he said. “You had to learn to campaign in the different environments. You always want to remain true to who you are and what your values are and what your goals are, but you do have to make sure you communicate and people where they’re at, and with such a diverse district, it was one of those educational lessons for sure.”

Two years later, he ran for the seat being vacated by Rep. Nick Thompson, and this time won. But Caldwell said said he was “definitely not the favorite to win that race” either.

Caldwell is once again gearing up for another tough run. With about 15 months until the August 2018 primary, three Republicans — Caldwell, Sen. Denise Grimsley, and Paul Paulson — have already announced they are running for Agriculture Commissioner.

Caldwell has raised $752,594 for his political committee, Friends of Matt Caldwell, since Aug. 2016. According to state records, he raised $702,825 of that since January. The committee ended April with $630,914 cash on hand.

While Caldwell will face the same challenge— getting his name and message out to millions of potential voters — that any statewide candidate will face, the most difficult part of the campaign is much more personal: Being away from his family. Caldwell said he plans to be on the road campaigning five days a week, which means more days and nights away from his wife, Yvonne, and daughter, Ava.

“What I can commit to and offer is that I have a deep-rooted investment in the state of Florida. This is not about a title or to put something on my resume,” he said. “I honestly don’t care if my gravestone says anything more than ‘husband and father,’ that’s the only real job that I worry about being successful in my legacy. But this is really, to me, a chance to serve.”

Tallahassee correspondent Jim Rosica contributed to this post. 

Joe Henderson: Richard Corcoran in the Governor’s race? Adam Putnam would be hard to catch

Well, I guess that is settled.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran has emphatically ruled out running for the U.S. Senate, and I admit I’m a little disappointed. The thought of a bare-knuckle campaign between him and Gov. Rick Scott for the Republican nomination would have been immensely entertaining.

Not gonna happen.

“Those are the only two choices — (run for) governor or not run for office,” Corcoran told the Tampa Bay Times.

Well, that could work. The knuckles would still be bare between Corcoran and Adam Putnam for the GOP nomination to succeed Scott as governor if the Speaker decides to jump in that race. It would get even more interesting if state Sen. Jack Latvala decides to go for it.

Thinking about that potential matchup raises an important question Corcoran could force Putnam to answer.

While everyone has known for a long time about Putnam’s ambition to be governor, he will have to offer a clear explanation of why it’s so important to him — I mean, beyond the usual talking points of jobs, Florida’s future, yadda yadda yadda.

Corcoran is on a mission to change the way business is done in Tallahassee. He made that clear as soon as he became Speaker, even if it meant taking on a sitting governor in his own party. He would be able to clearly demonstrate how life would be different for the state with him in charge.

It will be Putnam’s challenge to do the same.

Putnam has been stashing away a considerable campaign war chest — more than $8 million in the bank. His Florida Grown PAC has raised about $2.5 million just since the end of March, but Corcoran has the blessing of the Koch Brothers if he runs raising money probably wouldn’t be a problem.

The thought of a fight wouldn’t scare off Corcoran or Latvala, though, and if that happens, Putnam probably would be forced to the right during the primary fight. Put it this way: Putnam is conservative, but compared to Corcoran he looks like a moderate. That could be a factor in the primary, where it’s important to appeal to the almighty base.

Things could get really interesting if there is a primary debate between the three. Corcoran is a lawyer and knows how to frame an argument, but I haven’t seen a potential Republican candidate who is better on stage and the stump than Putnam.

That’s getting ahead of things, though. Corcoran and Latvala have decisions to make, while Putnam is already off and running. Even with all the variables in play, I think he’s going to be hard to catch.

Adam Putnam: Lawmakers ‘shortchanged’ state colleges in budget

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said he thinks legislators “shortchanged” state colleges and workforce development in the 2017-18 budget, a move that could put a damper on the state’s ability to keep some of the best and brightest in Florida.

Putnam officially launched his 2018 gubernatorial campaign Wednesday, and has been traveling the state as part of 10-day, 22-city bus tour. During his announcement speech earlier in the week and at stops along the way, Putnam has said state leaders need to make sure Florida “isn’t only the place where people come after a life well-lived somewhere else; it’s where they come to launch their own American dream.”

“We can grow an innovation economy; we can be the launch pad for American dream, in addition to being the tourist capital and the retirement haven,” he said in an interview Friday. “We can be the state that keeps our brightest and best here, and attracts the brightest and best from the rest of the country, so that they start their businesses here, so they launch and grow their businesses here, they raise their families here.”

Putnam, who has talked about the need for workforce development and an education system that prepares students for traditional universities as well as trades, said he was disappointed with the Legislature’s decision to cut funding for state colleges.

“They shortchanged our state colleges and they shortchanged workforce development,” he said. “Every month, Gov.  (Rick) Scott puts on our desk the job vacancies in Florida, and every month for seven years, nursing is No. 1. The men and women who are going to get those nursing degrees aren’t going to go to Tallahassee or Gainesville or Tampa or Orlando, they’re going to go to their local state college.”

The legislature reduced permanent funding for the Florida College System by about $30 million. The average cut, according to the Association of Florida Colleges, is $1.1 million.

Michael Brewer, the CEO of the Association of Florida Colleges, said in a statement last week that colleges have indicated the reductions could mean they are less able to respond to regional workforce needs, may have to reduce programs, or limit admissions to workforce programs, like nursing.

Putnam said he didn’t know why lawmakers would cut funding to state colleges, but called their decision “short-sighted.”

“It’s undercutting our ability to serve more than half our high school graduates that are not going to get a four-year university degree,” he said. “Investing in state colleges is the best ticket to rebuilding our main streets and communities, rebuilding the middle class in Florida, as well as diversifying the economy.”

Governor’s race candidates drawing big checks

Three Democrats and one Republican running so far for the 2018 Florida governor’s race are starting out with war chests built with big checks, from such sources as August A. Busch, George Soros, David King and Wayne Hogan, mainly cut to their independent political committees that have no limits.

Republican Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam leads the pack — by far — but had an enormous head start on the others. Putnam’s Florida Grown PC opened in March 0f 2015, followed by Democratic Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum‘s Florida Forward PC in March of 2016, and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham‘s Our Florida PC, and Winter Park businessman Chris King‘s Rise and Lead, Florida PC, earlier this year.

Still, with just 2017 figures tallied, Putnam’s Florida Grown has pulled in 120 checks of $10,000 or more; while Gillum’s Forward Florida has 21; Graham’s Our Florida, 19; and King’s Rise and Lead, five.

All the numbers reported here are through the end of April, posted Thursday on the Florida Division of Elections’ website.

King, who built wealth through a company developing affordable housing, has the biggest check so far, $1 million to his official campaign committee, from himself. Only he and Gillum have been officially in the race long enough to report official campaign committee donations, which normally are limited to $3,000 checks, except from the candidate. Gillum’s biggest official campaign committee check is just that, $3,000.

King raised $1.38 million in his official campaign committee, including another check from himself for $62,000, and $422,000 in his Rise and Lead independent committee. His father, attorney David King, also has contributed $166,000, and Winter Park accountant Thomas Beck, $47,000, to Rise and Lead.

But the independent committees are where the bulk of the candidates’ early money sits.

Putnam, who officially filed to run last week, had raised $11.4 million in his Florida Grown committee over the past 26 months, with $9.8 million of that coming in checks of at least $10,000. This year that committee has raised $3,96 million on checks of at least $10,000 to Florida Grown, which has raised a grand total of $4.58 million, on a total of 1,118 individual contributions this year.

The 2017 checks to Florida Grown are topped by FP&L’s $250,000 in January, and the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s political action committee Florida Jobs PAC’s $150,000 in February. The Florida Chamber of Commerce PAC also cut two $100,000 checks, in February and April.

Another 15 individuals, companies and PACs have donated $100,000 apiece, including Disney Worldwide Services, the Associated Industries of Florida’s AIF PAC, Anheuser-Busch Breweries heir August A. Busch of St. Louis, and several agriculture interests including U.S. Sugar Corp. of Clewiston, Vero Beach citrus magnate William Becker, Myakka City industrial farmer John Falkner, and Peace River Citrus Products of Arcadia.

Gillum, who entered the race in early March, has the most-active official campaign fund, with more than 5,439 donations totaling $413,000, and consequently the greatest number of small donations. So far, he’s received 4,609 donations of less than $100 in that fund, compared with 233 for King, and 1,354 in Putnam’s Florida Grown PC.

Gillum’s Florida Forward PC, which he opened a year before, has taken only seven checks under $100. That committee has received 21 checks of at least $10,000, totaling $495,000 of the $665,000 Florida Forward has raised.

Tops among Gillum’s big donors are New York billionaire liberal-cause rainmaker George Soros, who donated $100,000 at the end of March; his son Alex Soros of New York, who donated $50,000 the same day; and Hollywood TV and movie producer Norman Lear, who donated $50,000, also on March 31.

Graham, who also officially filed last week, had raised $679,000 since early February in her Our Florida PC. Nineteen checks of at least $10,000 accounted for much of that, $645,000.

Those checks are topped by $250,000 she transferred into that committee from her congressional campaign committee in February. After that, airport construction magnate James Finch of Lynn Haven, health care software entrepreneur Michael Singer of Alachua, and attorney Wayne Hogan of Jacksonville, a former congressional candidate, each contributed $50,000.

As for the states of origin for the money, Gillum has shown the most ability to raise money outside of Florida, particularly in California and New York. His official campaign has drawn 282 checks from California totaling $39,000, and 213 from New York, also totaling about $39,000. He also has 104 checks from Georgia, totaling about $10,000.

Gillum has 3,815 checks from Floridians, good for $268,000.

His Florida Forward committee shows a similar pattern, though dominated by those big Soros and Lear checks. Four checks from New York brought in $165,000, and seven checks from California brought in $121,000. From Florida, Forward Florida has received 46 checks for about $287,000. The committee also has gotten $41,000 out of Massachusetts, and $37,000 out of Georgia.

Relative to what he’s drawn from the Sunshine State, Putnam has done very little out of state fundraising, with at least 3,055 checks from Floridians, totaling more than $10,800,000, in his Florida Grown PC. He has gotten $157,000 out of Missouri, including that big Busch donation, on eight checks; and more than $50,000 from Georgia, Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey, on a handful of checks.

Likewise, King and Graham have drawn relatively little from out-of-state.

Graham’s Our Florida PC has gotten 27 of 32 checks from Florida, tallying $623,000 of her $679,000. Another check came in from Washington D.C. for $20,000; two came in from Rhode Island totaling $20,000, and one from Utah for $10,000.

King’s official campaign committee has received 403 of its 480 checks from Floridians, worth $1.31 million of that committee’s $1.38 million total. He’s gotten seven checks each from Colorado and North Carolina, totaling $18,000 and $11,000 respectively. His Rise and Lead PC has received no out-of-state checks.

Adam Putnam fundraising panel notches over $800,000 for April

The political committee of Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam posted more than $800,000 in contributions for the month of April, the state’s campaign finance website shows.

Florida Grown reported $809,156 in fundraising and $276,479 in expenditures for the month.

That brings the committee’s total take since its February 2015 formation to $11.3 million in contributions. It also spent nearly $3.1 million, records show, for a cash-on-hand amount of about $8.2 million.

Putnam, the sitting Agriculture Commissioner, announced his candidacy Wednesday in his home of Polk County.

August A. Busch of Anheuser-Busch fame gave $100,000 in April, as did the Florida Chamber of Commerce‘s political arm.

Gwen Graham talks about making a difference in first campaign video

Gwen Graham is out with her first campaign video, highlighting recent Workdays and her 2018 gubernatorial launch.

“My love for Florida runs deep, but my patience, my patience for inaction in the state I love has run out,” Graham says in the video over scenes of her announcement speech and Workdays across Florida teaching, installing solar panels and restoring wetlands.

Graham, the former congresswoman from Tallahassee, formally announced her 2018 run on May 2. Since then, she’s been traveling the state participating in Workdays and meeting with Floridians.

“I really could care less about the title of governor. I would prefer always to be just Gwen,” she says in the video. “But what I do care about is being in a position where I can make a difference for Floridians and the state that I love so much. But I still just want everyone to call me Gwen.”

Graham, who is the daughter of former senator and Gov. Bob Graham, faces Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Orlando businessman Chris King in the Democratic primary. Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and Orlando attorney John Morgan are both believed to be considering a run.

On the Republican side, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam officially launched his campaign Wednesday. Sen. Jack Latvala and House Speaker Richard Corcoran are also believed to be considering a run.

Gwen Graham surges to front in Dems’ gubernatorial money race

Former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham has quickly surged to the front of the pack in campaign fundraising in her drive for the Florida governor’s office in 2018.

Graham, who officially entered the race on May 2, raised more than $429,000 in April for her independent political committee, Our Florida, her official campaign announced. That’s almost as much as her two primary opponents, Chris King and Andrew Gillum raised combined in April.

Graham, of Tallahassee, also has transferred $1.2 million from her former congressional campaign. With expenses, that brings the committee’s bankroll to $1.629 million, her official campaign reported Wednesday.

“I’m not just running for governor to win back our state — I’m running to renew the Florida we all love. Thank you to everyone who believes in this movement and has contributed to help us succeed.” Graham stated in a news release. “We will have the resources to communicate our message in every corner of this state and take on any Republican candidate.”

Her two primary opponents thus far also reported strong April fundraising efforts, but not as strong as Graham’s.

Winter Park affordable housing developer King reported raising $300,000 in April and finished the month with about $1.5 million in hand. His contributions thus far including money he has given his own campaign, $1 million to start, and, according to Politico, another $100,000 or so in April.

Tallahassee Mayor Gillum reported raising just over $200,000 in April, bringing his total fundraising to about $1.1 million. He reported having $743,000 of that in the bank at the end of April.

Graham’s April haul included several big checks. Airport construction magnate James Finch of Lynn Haven, health care software entrepreneur Michael Singer of Alachua, and attorney Wayne Hogan of Jacksonville each contributed $50,000. Fifteen other individuals, companies or committees, including EMILY’s List, contributed at least $10,000.

Still, the challenge ahead for any of Democrats is that of Republican Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who filed for the governor’s race last week and officially kicked off his campaign Wednesday in his hometown of Bartow. His Florida Grown Political Committee ended March with $7.7 million in the bank.

None of the candidates’ April official campaign committee numbers, nor Putnam’s Florida Grown numbers, had been posted yet Wednesday by the Florida Division of Elections.

Adam Putnam touts Florida exceptionalism as he starts his campaign for governor

With a setting out of a Norman Rockwell painting, Florida Agriculture Commissioner and fifth generation Floridian Adam Putnam formally announced his candidacy for governor on Wednesday morning before hundreds of adoring friends and supporters in his home town of Bartow in Polk County.

Harkening back to an earlier era, Putnam said “some people say that this doesn’t happen anymore – flags flying, high school bands playing, prayer on the court house steps, World War II veterans and children shoulder to shoulder, generations coming together in common cause, people from all backgrounds in every corner of this place, united behind this movement.”

“The American Dream is alive and well and happening right here this morning,” he exclaimed. “I can’t imagine a better place to announce that I am running for governor of the state of Florida!”

Based on his extensive public service in Tallahassee and Washington D.C. at the still young age of 42, Putnam has been considered by the Florida Political Establishment for years as the likely next man to succeed Rick Scott in the governor’s mansion.

“He certainly is the front runner, and part of the reason is that he is  very well known in the local areas and by local county party people,” says USF political science professor Susan McManus. “One thing we’ve learned from the last couple of elections is that support from the grassroots party organizations can be critical to winning a primary, and he’s well known in those circles.”

After serving for a decade in the House of Representative representing Polk County, Putnam quit Washington D.C. (even while he had moved up in party leadership) in 2010 and returned back home to run and ultimately win the Agriculture Commissioner’s race at the age of 36. Immediately afterwards, he was immediately placed on the short list of viable 2018 gubernatorial nominees, and so far everything is playing to script in a so-called “Purple State” that hasn’t elected a Democrat governor in more than two decades.

For years, Putnam has described his home state as a “reward for a life well lived,” a reference to the number of seniors and others from the Northeast, Midwest and other places around the country who end up making Florida their home.  But that phrase is far too passive for a candidate who is hoping to inspire Floridians about the future, resulting in a variant of that expression on Wednesday, where he repeatedly said that the state can be be “the launch pad for the American dream.”

“A state that is the fishing capitol of the world, can also be the state that builds the moats and trains the craftsmen, the state that has trained millions of soldiers and sailors and airmen can retrain our own citizens,with the skills they need to compete in a rapidly changing world and win,” he said. “The state that put a man on the moon can develop the next generation of tools for the next giant leap of mankind. Florida can be the launch pad for the american dream.”

Putnam invoked that signature phrase no less than five times in his sixteen minute address.

While Putnam’s speeches have always had a ring of “Florida exceptionalism,” he literally used that statement on Wednesday as well, saying it’s very real, and said it described “the grocery clerk in Lakeland who revolutionized the supermarket industry, or the cashier on I-Drive who now owns the souvenir shop… It’s the truck driver hauling fruit who saved up to buy an orange grove, and then another… It’s the hotel maid who now runs her own bed and breakfast.”

“Hard-working folks like these have been able to achieve their American Dream right here in Florida,” he said. “I want every single Floridian to be able to tell a similar story. I want people around the country to know this is where it happens.”

Having served in politics for nearly half of his still young life, some critics have said that could be a negative going into the next election cycle, but those in attendance to observe his speech dismissed such thoughts.

“Individual candidates are what makes up an election,” said Hillsborough County resident Nyla Thompson. “It’s not a trend, its whether you have experience or don’t have experience, I think it’s the individual who is the candidate, they are the ones who tell their message or don’t.”

Jim Elliott, a City Commissioner in Wildwood (based in the Villages), made the trek to Bartow to observe Putnam’s speech. He says that while the tag of “career politician” could be a drag on some candidates, he doesn’t think it will stick to Putnam.

“I think  he’s got excellent knowledge of the state of Florida and what their needs are, and I think he’s smart enough to figure out what the solution is and I know that he can work with the people necessary to get the job done,” Elliott enthused.

Sarasota County State Committeeman Christian Ziegler says it’s too early to predict who the 2018 GOP nominee will be, but says that Putnam’s announcement last year that local residents can apply for or renew state concealed weapon licenses at their local tax collector offices was a bit hit with Second Amendment enthusiasts, and will help him in a Republican primary.

“I had to drive an hour and a half south, and now it makes it a little bit more accessible,” said Ziegler.

Putnam is the first major Republican to get out of the gate and announce his candidacy. House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Clearwater state Senator Jack Latvala are also considering their own runs for office.

One Florida Republican not impressed with Putnam is Latvala’s son, Chris, a state representative in Pinellas County. After Putnam’s speech, Latvala tweeted, “The guy who wants to build the American Dream in FL is the same guy who oversaw the largest decline in agriculture in FL history.”

Putnam will immediately hit the campaign trail, with a 22-city, 10 day tour scheduled to begin on Thursday.

Photo credit Kim DeFalco.

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