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Adam Putnam climbs back within one point of Ron DeSantis in new poll

Many argued U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis had a clear path to the Republican nomination due to a surge in his poll numbers after the endorsement of Donald Trump.

Now, a new poll from Florida Atlantic University’s Business & Economics Polling Initiative (FAU-BEPI) is putting a dent into that narrative.

Surprise: The poll shows Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam statistically neck-and-neck with DeSantis.

In the survey conducted Aug. 16-20, DeSantis leads Putnam by just one percentage point, earning 32 percent to Putnam’s 31 percent. Those results come from a sample of 222 likely Republican voters; the margin of error is 6.5 percentage points.

That’s a large margin of uncertainty, and the results are indeed an outlier when it comes to recent polling on this contest. The RealClearPolitics average has DeSantis up by more than nine points.

But that uncertainty could just as easily break Putnam’s way as it could benefit DeSantis.

And the slim lead for DeSantis is a shift from FAU-BEPI’s own previous results in this race. Their survey from late last month showed DeSantis with a nine-point lead. That lead has almost completely evaporated if these latest results are to be believed.

The FAU-BEPI survey also showed 22 percent of likely Republican primary voters remain undecided. That’s a big chunk of support that could be the difference if the race is truly this close.

“Adam Putnam appears to have regained some of his footing in the gubernatorial race,” said Kevin Wagner, professor of political science at FAU and a BEPI research fellow. “The difference may be which candidate is better able to turn out their supporters in the next week.”

Putnam appeared to be ahead in the polls before Trump’s endorsement of his opponent. Putnam has hammered home his “Florida First” message as the race nears its close in an attempt to claw back into the lead.

But again, this survey stands out in showing a race this close. And the poll included results showing Trump with an 80 percent approval rating among Republicans, meaning he’s still got a lot of sway among the base.

So Putnam’s apparent comeback here could remain an outlier among the other polls. Or this survey could be a sign the race truly has shifted.

The primary election on Aug. 28 will answer the question once and for all.

More local officials endorse Denise Grimsley for Agriculture Commissioner

Sebring Sen. Denise Grimsely piled on more than 30 endorsements from local officials Monday as she sprints toward the finish line in the four-way Republican primary to succeed Adam Putnam as Agriculture Commissioner.

Monday’s list included state Rep. Ben Albritton, Highlands County Tax Collector Eric Zwayer, Lawtey Chief of Police Shane Bennett, nine county school superintendents, two school board members, eight county clerks of the court, five county commissioners and another two former state lawmakers.

The new volley of local endorsements follows another bulk endorsement rolled out by Grimsley’s campaign a little over a week ago that saw her add three dozen local elected officials to her roster of backers. Her extensive list endorsements includes 36 current county sheriffs, the Fraternal Order of Police, the Florida Professional Firefighters, the Florida Realtors, the Florida Medical Association as well as Senate President Joe Negron and six of his predecessors.

“While on the campaign trail, we have traveled from the Panhandle to the Keys, hearing from many state and local elected officials along the way about what is affecting their communities. I am inspired by their dedication to public service and I am pleased that so many have chosen to give our campaign their support after hearing how as the next Commissioner of Agriculture I will assist them in overcoming obstacles,” Grimsley said in a press release.

“As the primary election quickly approaches, I look forward to continuing to meet with these leaders and sharing with them my vision for the future of the Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services.”

Grimsley faces Lehigh Acres Rep. Matt Caldwell, retired U.S. Army Col. Mike McCalister and former Winter Haven Rep. Baxter Troutman in the Aug. 28 primary race.

To date, Grimsley leads the GOP field in true fundraising with about $2.68 million raised between her campaign and political committees, Saving Florida’s Heartland and Let’s Grow Florida, since declaring for the race in February 2017. She had $850,000 banked as of Aug. 10.

Caldwell, meanwhile, has cleared well over $2 million himself and had more than $900,000 banked on Aug. 10. He’s also landed his fair share of endorsements throughout his time on the campaign trail.

Troutman has pumped $3.25 million into his campaign fund and raised about $500,000, though his high burn rate has left him with just $86,500 on hand heading into the final days of the campaign. McCalister, for his part, has yet to hit $25,000 raised for his effort, even with nearly $19,000 in candidate loans.

The eventual GOP nominee will go up against the winner of the three-way Democratic primary between Nikki FriedJeff Porter and David Walker in November.

The full list of Grimsley’s new endorsements is below:

—Jefferson County Superintendent of Schools Marianne Arbulu

—Lafayette County Superintendent of Schools Robby Edwards

—Bay County Superintendent of Schools Bill Husfelt

—Holmes County Superintendent of Schools Terry Mears

—Jackson County Superintendent of Schools Larry Moore

—Franklin County Superintendent of Schools Traci Moses

—Madison County Superintendent of Schools Karen Pickles

—Washington County Superintendent of Schools Joe Taylor

—Dixie County Superintendent of Schools Mike Thomas

—Highlands County Tax Collector Eric Zwayer

—Osceola County School Board Member Ricky Booth

—Taylor County School Board Member Jeannie Mathis

—Polk County Clerk of Court Stacy Butterfield

—Union County Clerk of Court Kellie Connell

—Charlotte County Clerk of Court Roger Eaton

—Marion County Clerk of Court David Ellspermann

—Highlands County Clerk of Court Bob Germaine

—Okeechobee County Clerk of Court Sharon Robertson

—Hardee County Clerk of Court Victoria Rogers

—Sarasota County Clerk of Court Karen Rushing

—Glades County Commissioner John Ahern

—Okeechobee County Commissioner Terry Burroughs

—Highlands County Commissioner Ron Handley

—Osceola County Commissioner Fred Hawkins

—Wakulla County Commissioner Ralph Thomas

—Lawtey Chief of Police Shane Bennett

—State Representative Ben Albritton

—Former State Senator J.D. Alexander

—Former State Representative Sharon Merchant

Bill Nelson, Adam Putnam top Orlando’s Political Salsa

Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam were the top choices at Orlando’s Political Salsa hobnob for races for Senate and Florida Governor.

With more than 400 votes, Nelson topped Republican Gov. Rick Scott 52 percent to 43 percent with Rocky De La Fuente taking the rest during the Hispanic-oriented but mostly mixed-ethnic event Thursday night.  Organizers released results over the weekend.

Putnam won a tight contest over Democratic Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in the 16-person straw poll for Governor, with Putnam grabbing 25 percent of the votes and Gillum 23. Republican U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis finished third with 15 percent; Democratic former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, 13 percent; Democratic former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, 11 percent; Winter Park entrepreneur Chris King took five percent; and four points for Palm Beach businessman Jeff Greene.

In a separate poll taken at Political Salsa held at Acacia, a community center for Central Florida’s Puerto Rican community,  77 percent of the participants said they support Puerto Rico statehood. Only 15 percent chose the option of independence, and 8 percent said none of the above.

Unlike many hobnob straw polls, the Political Salsa straw poll evenly divided favorites between Republicans and Democrats, offering a possible Democratic lean with several upsets.

The primary sponsors of the event were the Suarez Group of Companies and the Puerto Rican Bar Association of Florida.

Republican former Judge Ashley Moody was the pick for Attorney General, with 39 percent, compared to 27 percent for Democratic state Sen. Sean Shaw, 22 percent for Democrat Ryan Torrens, and 12 percent for Republican state Rep. Frank White.

In the race for Florida’s Chief Financial Officer, Democratic former state Sen. Jeremy Ring topped Republican Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis 51 to 49 percent.

Democrat Nikki Fried was the top choice for Agriculture Commissioner, taking 30 percent, compared with 19 for Republican state Rep. Matt Caldwell, 18 for Democrat Roy David Walker, and 17 for state Sen. Denise Grimsley, among the leaders.

In congressional races, three Democratic incumbents came out on top and one Democratic challenger took a surprise victory.

Democrat Sanjay Patel outpolled Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Posey 53 to 47 percent in Florida’s 8th Congressional District, which is Brevard County-centered with a piece of eastern Orange County.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy barely topped Republican state Rep. Mike Miller in Florida’s 7th Congressional District, covering Seminole and north and central Orange counties. Murphy polled 35, Miller 33. The other three candidates, two Republicans and a Democrat, drew totals in the low teens.

In Florida’s 9th Congressional District, Democratic U.S. Rep. Darren Soto not only came out on top but his Democratic primary rival, former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson finished a distant third. Soto got 51, Republican Wayne Liebnitzky 34, and Grayson 15 points in that district covering Osceola, south Orange and eastern Polk counties.

In Florida’s 10th Congressional District, which covers west Orange County, Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings has only an upstart Democratic challenger standing between her and re-election. And that was relatively close in this poll: Demings 61 percent, Wade Darius, 39 percent.

Several surprises came in Florida House races.

Democrat Lee Mangold topped Republican David Smith 53 to 47 percent in House District 28.

Republican state Rep. Scott Plakon came out on top in House District 29, taking 44 to 40 percent for Democrat Tracey Kagan; Democrat Darryl Block took 16 points.

Republican state Rep. Bob Cortes topped House District 30, taking 49 to 22 percent against Democrat Brendan Ramirez; 20 percent went to Clark Anderson and 9 points for Joy Goff-Marcil.

Democrat Debra Kaplan led Republican state Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, 58 to 42 percent in House District 31.

Democrat Ricky Shirah was the choice in House District 39, topping Republican Josie Tomkow 54-39 percent.

Democrat Barbara Cady topped Republican state Rep. Mike La Rosa 54 to 46 in House District 42.

Republican state Rep. Bobby Olszewski topped House District 44. He drew 38, to 33 for Democratic former state Sen. Geraldine Thompson and 29 for Melanie Gold.

Democrat Anna Eskamani edged out a Republican rival the House District 47 contest with 47 percent; 42 percent went for Republican Mikaela Nix and 11 percent for Republican Stockton Reeves.

Democrat Carlos Guillermo Smith got 56 percent to Republican Ben Griffin‘s 44 in House District 49.

Democrat Pam Dirschka led the House District 50 contest with 45 percent, while Republican state Rep. Rene Plasencia took 40 percent, and Republican George Collins, 15 points.

Republican Orange County Commissioner Pete Clarke led in the contest for Orange County Mayor. Clarke grabbed 41 percent, to 35 percent for Sheriff Jerry Demings and 24 percent for businessman Rob Panepinto.

Retired Florida Highway Patrol Chief Joe Lopez pulled off a shockingly easy upset in the contest for Orange County Sheriff, topping Orlando Police Chief John Mina 51 to 28, with Democrat Darryl Sheppard finishing third with 21.

In Orange County Commission races, Republican Christina Moore was the top choice in a four-person field for District 2, leading Republican Mark Byrd 35 to 28 percent; Democrat Eric Rollings was the pick in the five-person field for District 3, leading Pete Crotty 36 to 22 percent; Gina Perez-Calhoun and Maribel Gomez Cordero were the top choices in the five-person District 4 race.

For the Seminole County Commission, Katrina Shadix was the choice in District 2, and Amy Lockhart in District 4, with both polling more than 50 percent.

For the Osceola County Commission, Wanda Rentas got 44 percent in District 2, while incumbent Commissioner Viviana Janer took 25 and Janette Martinez 24. Adam Michelin led a tight race for District 4, taking 32 percent versus 26 percent for incumbent Commissioner Cheryl Grieb, Will Fonseca taking 24, and Will Gonzalez Jr., 18 points.

Adam Putnam banks on ‘Florida First’ in Governor’s race

Clad in jeans and a blue-checkered shirt with rolled-up sleeves, Adam Putnam easily blended into the rural North Florida residents attending the annual Wausau Possum Festival in early August.

“I’m a farmer, a business owner,” the boyish-looking, 44-year-old Republican candidate for Governor told the crowd in a brief speech. “The foundation of my campaign is that I know Florida best. This isn’t my first trip to Wausau just because I’m running for statewide office.”

Since launching his campaign in May 2017 on the steps of a century-old courthouse in Bartow, his Polk County hometown, Putnam has emphasized the “grassroots” nature of his campaign to succeed Gov. Rick Scott, who is running for the U.S. Senate.

Putnam, who has served two terms as Florida’s agriculture commissioner, has campaigned relentlessly across the state, while putting a particular focus on smaller, rural communities and their political and business leaders. It has resulted in the endorsement of his campaign by 49 of the 66 elected sheriffs in Florida.

“Working families are my people. They are my base. They are our grassroots energy,” Putnam said in an interview with The News Service of Florida. “They are the reason why we are going to win.”

In a nationally televised debate in late June with Congressman Ron DeSantis, his GOP primary rival, Putnam emphasized his “Florida First” campaign as opposed to DeSantis, who has talked more about national issues and has played up an endorsement from President Donald Trump.

“I care more about this county than I do about Washington, D.C. And I think that’s what the next Governor needs to be focused on,” Putnam said referring to Washington County, which has a population of about 25,000 residents, including the 380 who live in Wausau.

Putnam accused DeSantis of having “a fly-in, fly-out strategy with a D.C. entourage.”

“It’s not real Florida. It’s not Florida focused,” Putnam said.

Yet in the final weeks of the Aug. 28 primary campaign, Putnam faces the challenge of winning votes in deeply conservative regions of the state, like Washington County, where Trump is wildly popular. The president carried nearly eight of every 10 votes in the county in the 2016 general election.

Polls have shown DeSantis building a lead as he touts the Trump connection.

In the final debate of the primary campaign last week at Jacksonville University, Putnam said while he agreed with the president’s overall agenda, “I wish he hadn’t put his thumb on the scale of Florida’s campaigns.”

Trump’s involvement, which was underscored by a July 31 political rally in Tampa where the president personally endorsed DeSantis, is the “only card” DeSantis has, Putnam said, while acknowledging “it’s a big one.”

“But it still means you’re not playing with a full deck,” Putnam told DeSantis.

Putnam was born in Bartow on July 31, 1974, into a family steeped in Florida’s agricultural tradition. A fifth-generation Floridian, Putnam’s grandfather, Dudley Adelbert Putnam, is credited with creating the family’s successful citrus and cattle business.

Putnam was raised by his parents, Dudley and Sally Putnam, in Bartow along with two brothers and a sister. He went on to the University of Florida where he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1995. He was president of the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity and a member of Florida Blue Key, a campus organization that has claimed a number of future state leaders.

Putnam met his wife, Melissa, at UF and they later married and moved to Bartow, where they are raising three teenage daughters who are in high school and a son in middle school.

The Putnam family’s citrus and cattle business has provided a comfortable living for the candidate and his family, with Putnam’s latest state financial disclosure showing a net worth of a little more than $9 million.

Although his family was not particularly active in politics, Putnam’s interest was piqued in his final year in college when he served as an intern in the Washington, D.C., office of former U.S. Rep. Charles Canady, who is now chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court.

Putnam ran in 1996 for a state House seat in Polk County, winning his election as a 22-year-old, which was then the youngest member ever elected to the state House. Rep. Amber Mariano, a Hudson Republican, has since claimed that distinction, winning her election as a 21-year-old in 2016.

Putnam served two terms in the Legislature, where he rose to the chairmanship of the House Agriculture Committee.

When Canady prepared to leave Congress in 2000, Putnam ran for the seat. His victory, which made him the youngest serving member in the U.S. House, launched a 10-year career in Washington. Again demonstrating leadership ability, Putnam became chairman of the House Republican Conference, the third-ranking position among GOP members.

When the Cabinet seat for state agriculture commissioner opened in 2010, Putnam returned to Tallahassee, facing no primary opposition and easily beating a Democratic opponent in the general election. He cruised to re-election to his Cabinet seat in 2014.

Putnam’s experience as a state legislator, congressman and a Cabinet member gives him a wide range of experience.

But DeSantis has turned that against him, labeling him as a “career politician” who has spent his adulthood in a public office.

Susan MacManus, a longtime political-science professor at the University of South Florida, said experience may not be an asset in the eyes of many voters during these contentious political times.

In addition to Trump’s impact on elections, MacManus said “the other phenomenon we’re seeing in this election cycle is that in just about every race, where there is an incumbent or an incumbent-like candidate, is that longevity in office is turning out to be less of an asset than usual.”

Facing his first primary for a statewide office, Putnam has played up conservative policy positions, including promising to block any effort by local communities to provide “sanctuary” for undocumented immigrants. He has also promised to crack down on undocumented immigrants who commit crimes, saying they are driving up the cost of the criminal justice system.

Putnam, like DeSantis, has promised to appoint conservative judges and has reiterated his opposition to abortion. Both candidates have vowed to support a “heartbeat bill,” which would prohibit abortions if fetal heartbeats can be detected.

Although a staunch advocate for gun rights, Putnam has drawn criticism for a campaign tweet that described him as “a proud NRA sellout.” The controversy was amplified when guns became a major issue following the mass shooting at a Broward County high school in February and after reports described the mishandling of concealed-weapons license applications in Putnam’s office. Putnam said the problems with the licensing process have been corrected.

Putnam’s supporters say his conservative credentials, his experience and his knowledge of the challenges facing Florida, as the nation’s third-largest state, would make him a successful Governor.

“Adam reflects the values and interests of Northwest Florida and the rest of the state of Florida, more so than anybody else. He has spent his whole life dedicated to improving the quality of life in Florida,” said state Sen. George Gainer, a Panama City Republican who joined Putnam at the Wausau Possum Festival.

“What happens in the federal government is important, but he has been here taking care of business at home,” Gainer said.

New Adam Putnam ad says we don’t need a new — ahem — ‘Apprentice’ as governor

A new statewide ad from Republic gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam says voters shouldn’t pick a leader the way a certain reality show chooses its winner.

“Florida’s not picking an apprentice. We’re electing a Governor,” Putnam says in the ad, which started airing today.

It’s an obvious ping against Republican opponent Ron DeSantis, who soared into the lead in the Republican primary after nabbing the formal endorsement of President Donald Trump.

Of course, Trump’s greatest burst into the cultural zeitgeist before his successful 2016 presidential campaign came on The Apprentice, an NBC reality show in which the real estate developer would choose a new company executive based on their performance in weekly tasks and on his own personal whims.

But Putnam works hard in the ad not to criticize the president, who enjoys high popularity among Republican voters right now. A Florida Atlantic University poll in July found that while Trump had just a 41-percent approval rating among all Floridians, he holds an 80-percent approval rating among Republicans.

“I support President Trump’s agenda,” Putnam says. “Tax cuts to create jobs and cracking down on illegal immigration.”

That said, backhanded swipe at DeSantis closely mirrors a more frontal assault by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King, that DeSantis is “fighting to be Donald Trump’s next apprentice.”

Putnam, once the front-runner in the gubernatorial race, has worked over the last month to refocus the contest on Florida issues and not the president’s endorsement.

“I’ve dedicated my life to making our state a better place,” says Putnam, now Florida’s Agriculture Commissioner.

“As your Governor, we’ll make Florida the launchpad for the American Dream. Creating new opportunities for the next generation, keeping our promises to veterans, and protecting all the things that make Florida, Florida.”

Days after a Fox News debate and the presidential endorsement, DeSantis surged ahead in polls. The Real Clear Politics polling composite now has the Ponte Vedre congressman up an average 11 percent over Putnam.

That said, a new Survey USA poll for Spectrum News found Putnam had closed the gap and was back in a dead heat with DeSantis.

Democrats for Ag. Commissioner struggle to be heard

Florida’s Democratic primary for Agriculture Commissioner has been a struggle for attention, with the three-candidate contest seemingly lost amid the clamor of a high-profile gubernatorial race and more-contentious Cabinet battles.

With relatively little money compared to statewide candidates in other races, the Democrats running to replace term-limited Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam are a scientist, a South Florida mayor and a marijuana lobbyist. They agree on most issues but are having to scratch to raise Democratic voter awareness.

“Well … yes, it is a problem that the governor’s race is sucking all the oxygen and media attention from the other down-ballot races,” said Homestead Mayor Jeff Porter, who is on the ballot against environmental scientist Roy David Walker and attorney and lobbyist Nikki Fried. “The voters will be deciding on four Cabinet posts that are all executive level, and nine out of 10 voters we speak to have no idea about the position or the candidates.”

Walker, from Wilton Manors in Broward County, said the duties of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services should make the contest second in importance to the Governor’s race.

“With the current red tide killing our sea animals and toxic algae blooms threatening public health and our economy, the department is finally getting some coverage,” Walker said. “However, this is not enough.”

Political scientists across the state have also struggled when asked to assess the contestants bidding to replace Putnam, a Republican running for Governor.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if it was 50 percent undecided on the Republican side (in the agriculture commissioner race), and I’d be shocked if it wasn’t higher on the Democratic side,” said University of Central Florida political-science professor Aubrey Jewett. “It makes it very difficult (for voters) if it’s a low information race. It puts it right up there with a lot of the judicial races people have to vote on.”

The winner of the Democratic primary will take on the victor in a Republican primary involving state Rep. Matt Caldwell of North Fort Myers, Sen. Denise Grimsley of Sebring, former Rep. Baxter Troutman of Winter Haven and Mike McCalister, a tree farmer from Plant City.

Fried, 40, is a Miami native who received her bachelor’s, master’s and law degrees at the University of Florida, where she served as student-body president in 2002 and 2003. Before heading into private practice, she worked for the Alachua County public defender’s office.

As a lobbyist during the 2018 Legislative Session, she represented the Florida’s Children First social service advocacy agency; the Broward County School Board; and San Felasco Nurseries, which was one of the first medical-marijuana license holders in the state.

She said in a campaign biography that she is running for the statewide job because politicians failed Floridians in implementing medical marijuana “despite 72 percent of Floridians voting to approve a medical marijuana law.” She was referring to a 2016 constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical-marijuana in the state, though legal and regulatory battles continue about the way the amendment is being carried out.

Fried, who has a political committee Florida Consumers First, had raised more than $248,000 as of Aug. 3, with some of the money coming from sources in the medical-marijuana industry.

Porter, 58, is a Homestead native who grew up in Mississippi before returning to South Florida where he attended Miami Dade College. He opened World Wide Supply Solutions and has spent 15 years on the Homestead City Council, including three terms as mayor.

Through his campaign account and a political fund, Friends of Jeff Porter, he’d been able to raise just over $94,000 as of Aug. 3.

Walker, 33, is a Plant City native and president of the South Florida Audubon Society who says he’s a “true Democrat with Democratic values.” He has questioned past donations and canvassing efforts by Fried for Republicans.

Walker has worked for the United States Geological Survey, the National Park Service and the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, researching the impacts of climate change and invasive species in the Everglades.

As of Aug. 3, Walker had put about $160,000 of his own money into the race, on top of nearly $23,000 he’d drawn in contributions.

All three say they would try to reduce the impacts of toxic algae blooms now infesting South Florida waterways; push for more research to stop citrus greening, which has strangled the citrus industry; and advocate for fair deals for Florida farmers in the ongoing effort to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico.

But they don’t fully agree on every role of the agency, which has a wide range of duties such as consumer protection, overseeing gas stations and handling concealed-weapons licensing.

Walker would appoint a deputy commissioner to provide more oversight of the operations of the consumer services side of the department.

Also, while all three question Putnam’s handling of the conceal-weapons licensing program, Walker and Fried believe the state needs to consider moving the program to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

“Law enforcement officials are better equipped to perform a thorough background check,” Walker said. “It will also link the concealed weapon permit, which is under the commissioner of agriculture, with gun purchase, which is under Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Linking concealed weapon license with gun purchase will make it easier for law enforcement officials to see compliance with gun purchases.”

Porter supports keeping the application process within the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

“I would hire a team with a law-enforcement background to oversee this critical program to all Floridians,” Porter said.

Gubernatorial candidates blitz Florida. Where can you find them today?

With less than two weeks before a critical primary, candidates for governor travel Florida reaching out to as many voters as possible. Where might you bump into a gubernatorial hopeful?

Democratic candidate Philip Levine, former Miami Beach mayor, today will hit early voting stations campaigning. He starts at the Joseph Caleb Center in Liberty City at 9 a.m., where he will appear alingside activist and 2 Live Crew founder “Uncle Luke” Campbell, then head to the Hollywood library at 10 a.m., the Supervisor of Elections office in Lauderhill Mall at 11 a.m., the Miramar library at noon, the Sarasota Supervisor of Elections Terrace Building office at 2:30 p.m., and finally the Supervisor of Elections office at the County Building in St. Petersburg at 4 p.m.

Republican candidate Ron DeSantis, a Ponte Vedra Congressman, will travel the Panhandle today as part of a “Freedom Tour” alongside Freedom Caucus founder Rep. Jim Jordan and Pensacola Rep. Matt Gaetz. The team stops at The Fish House in Pensacola at 10 a.m., Hampton Inn and Suites in Navarre at 1 p.m., and the Cuvée Kitchen in Destin at 3 p.m.

Republican candidate Adam Putnam, Florida’s Agriculture commissioner, meanwhile will be in Jacksonville, where his Florida First Bus Tour will swing by the Mambos Cuban Café around noon. He will campaign with Rep. John Rutherford, former Rep. Ander Crenshaw and Jacksonville City Council President Aaron Bowman.

Democratic candidate Gwen Graham, a former Panhandle Congresswoman, will be in South Florida leading a Get Out The Vote tour with the Florida Education Association. Among those campaigning with her today will be FEA President Joanne McCall and her father, retired Sen. Bob Graham. She will be at the Palm Beach Supervisor of Elections at 10 a.m., the Miami Lakes Community Center at 1 p.m. and the Miramar Library at 3 p.m.

Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum, fresh off a rally with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, will be in St. Petersburg this afternoon with Gold Star father Khzir Khan. Team Gillum with host the national figure at the African American History Museum at a 2:30 p.m. event.

This story will be updated as campaigns release more information on public appearances.

Takeaways from Tallahassee — Hustlin’ 45

Rick Wilson, the Tallahassee-based Republican operative whose moonshot to the spotlight accompanied his unwithering criticism of President Donald Trump, came home this week.

His landing spot: The capital city’s Midtown Reader bookstore, to read from and discuss his new best-selling book, “Everything Trump Touches Dies.”

“This process started a little bit as catharsis,” Wilson told the large crowd. “I started out writing this book in a moment when I was frustrated with my own party for letting this creature take office and with the failures of leadership.”

Rick Wilson speaks to a packed house this week at Tallahassee’s Midtown Reader.

Initially, Wilson planned to take a “fairly academic” approach to write the book, but decided he’d rather “have some fun with it.” While there’s plenty of “Wilson-style humor,” his new work is balanced by “serious thought about the future of the country and the party,” he said.

He read a bit of prose aloud to the audience from a chapter that took umbrage with Trump’s campaign promise to “drain the swamp.” In the segment, Wilson points to a turnover problem and early failures of the administration exacerbated by what he views as the President’s inability to make employment decisions independent from his connections to the private sector.

“Trump’s administration provides all the things you expect: Banality, incompetence, a stunning lack of policy knowledge and a slurry of people dragged from Trump’s business world who couldn’t manage a Waffle House,” Wilson read.

Afterward, he fielded questions – both from Republicans and Democrats – and covered a wide-ranging list of concerns from the audience, giving humorous replies almost always, although they were rooted in truths about the state of American politics.

Prefacing his discussion was news from the previous night that the book would top The New York Times best-sellers list for Combined Print & E-Book Nonfiction.

While “blown away” by the reception, Wilson showed a sense of self-awareness of his media niche. A longtime GOP ad man and strategist, he’s staked claim to a unique pedestal from which to criticize a Republican President.

He’s captured an online following that on Twitter is edging toward the 400,000 mark, and noted the book’s success came without a network like “Fox News” promoting it day and night.

“If nothing else, I got hustle,” he confessed.

Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Danny McAuliffe, Drew Wilson, Jim Rosica, Michael Moline and Peter Schorsch.

But first, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:

Take 5

State presses Bill Nelson to back hacking claim – Secretary of State Ken Detzner penned a letter this week to Sen. Nelson asking the longtime Florida lawmaker to substantiate his public comments that Russians had “penetrated” some Florida voting systems ahead of the 2018 midterm election. Nelson told a Tampa Bay Times reporter two weeks ago, “The Russians are in Florida’s election records” but did not provide any more details. Since then, both Gov. Rick Scott and Detzner have publicly sought more information on the alleged hackings. Detzner wrote to U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr asking for additional information before writing personally to Nelson. Scott, who’s attempting to unseat Nelson this fall, said Friday in St. Augustine that Nelson “needs to come clean.” He added, “Did they release classified information? And how did he have access to it? He doesn’t have the right to it; he’s not on the Senate Intelligence Committee. Or did he just completely make it up?”

Former justice challenges six amendments – Six of the eight constitutional amendments placed on the ballot by the Constitution Revision Commission were challenged this week by retired state Supreme Court Justice Harry Lee Anstead. Anstead, who served on the Supreme Court 1994-2009, believes the contested amendments violate voters’ First Amendment rights since each one “bundles independent and unrelated proposals in a single ballot question.” The petition argues that the bundling “requires a voter to vote ‘yes’ for a proposal that the voter opposes in order to vote ‘yes’ for an independent and unrelated proposal the voter supports, and to vote ‘no’ for a proposal the voter supports in order to vote ‘no’ for an independent and unrelated proposal the voter opposes.” Amendments 6,7,8,9,10 and 11 are named in the petition. The lawsuit names Secretary of State Detzner as a defendant.

Unemployment lowest since 2007 – At a St. Augustine appearance on Friday, Gov. Scott said the state’s unemployment rate has dropped to 3.7 percent, the lowest recorded since April 2007. In a news release announcing the healthy economic indicator, Scott linked the employment level to the number of jobs — 1,595,000 — created since December 2010, one month before he took office. “Our soaring economy has allowed us to make investments in areas that matter to families, like education, transportation and protecting our environment,” Scott said. “That’s why Florida continues to outpace the nation in job growth and is the best state to find a job and raise a family.” According to state records, Florida created over 211,400 new private-sector jobs over the past year. The Sunshine State’s job growth rate has outpaced the nation’s for 75 of the last 76 months, with the outlier coinciding with Hurricane Irma.

State highlights debt reduction – Florida has eliminated more than $7 billion worth of debt, according to the state Division of Bond Finance. The decline, called a “sea change,” was spotlighted during a meeting of the Florida Cabinet this week in Tallahassee. Division of Bond Finance Director Ben Watkins credited Gov. Scott with pursuing an “unprecedented” policy of limited state borrowing, reports Lloyd Dunkelberger for the News Service of Florida. Watkins also highlighted how three major credit ratings groups had doled Florida a ‘triple-A’ rating. “The good news is it recognizes the strength of the state, the management of the state, the financial position and policies of the state, which translates into lower borrowing costs for the state,” Watkins told Scott. “It is, in effect, a validation from the rating agencies that we are doing the right thing.”

Revenue forecast remains steady – State lawmakers can expect to have a little more than $32 billion when they return to Tallahassee to craft the 2019-20 fiscal year budget, according to economists with the Revenue Estimating Conference. The panel met this week and reviewed details of revenue collected from state sales, documentary stamp, beverage, pari-mutuel, insurance premium, severance and corporate income taxes, along with other contributors to the General Revenue Fund. “It’s going to be a very stable picture for the Legislature, with no big changes,” said Amy Baker, coordinator for the Office of Economic and Demographic Research and the Legislature’s chief economist.

Scott recognizes entrepreneurs

During one of his last remaining Cabinet meetings, Gov. Scott took the time to acknowledge two promising small business ventures going on in the state.

Jason Kelloway, owner of Social Grounds Coffee Company in Jacksonville, received the Governor’s Business Ambassador Award. A formerly homeless veteran, Kelloway launched the business with the goal of helping veterans get back on their feet. Each purchase goes to helping employ and empower vets.

Rick Scott, Florida Cabinet give props to Jacksonville’s Social Grounds Coffee Company.

“Florida is the most veteran-friendly state in the nation, and it’s great to see veteran-owned companies succeed in Florida,” Scott said. In July, he poured coffee from the Jacksonville shop for troops in Kuwait.

Madison Setliff, a 23-year-old Tallahassee businesswoman, received the Governor’s Young Entrepreneur Award for her midtown clothing boutique, Sparkle by Madison.

“I am so honored to receive the Governor’s Young Entrepreneur Award,” Setliff said. “It’s wonderful to be able to not only own my business but also to be able to share my passion for fashion and style with young women in Tallahassee.”

Businesswoman Madison Setliff, 23, was recognized with the Governor’s Young Entrepreneur Award for her midtown clothing boutique, Sparkle by Madison.

Unclaimed treasure hunt

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis is marking the start of the school year by reminding Floridians that the state might be holding unclaimed property that they’re entitled to recover.

The state devotes any proceeds from abandoned bank accounts, jewelry, coins, or other valuables to public schools.

Jimmy Patronis helps auction off Florida’s unclaimed treasure.

However, there’s no time limit for claiming such property — the state is obliged to pay legitimate claims.

Patronis said the “Back to School” unclaimed property initiative includes more than 4,600 accounts — including one worth more than $135,000.

Patronis has returned $361 million in unclaimed property since taking office last year.

You can search for your own unclaimed property at

Facebook scam alert

Patronis issued a consumer alert against scam artists trying to take advantage of Facebook’s new financial services offerings.

The platform is allowing financial services companies to use its Messenger app to handle credit card transactions, checking accounts and more. Criminals are cloning Facebook accounts for people’s friends and family to steal this sort of personal information.

Jimmy Patronis warns to aware of the latest Facebook scam.

Here’s Patronis’ advice:

— Watch out for subtle anomalies in the names of people who try to contact you. A random space or capitalization might be a tipoff.

— If an account looks fake, don’t accept the message.

— Report and block fake accounts right away.

— Keep up with Facebook’s updates on its efforts to detect senders’ locations and identify fake accounts.

— Notify your financial institution if your account is compromised or you think it’s been.

“There are as many as 13 million active Facebook users in Florida, and anyone can fall victim to this latest scam,” Patronis said. “These are not your friends; they are criminals actively looking to steal your personal information and your identity.”

Instagram of the Week

The cake is not a lie.

A post shared by Rick Wilson (@therickwilson) on

The week in appointments

5th Circuit Court

James R. Baxley, a Lake County Judge, fills the vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Mark A. Nacke. A two-time graduate of the University of Florida, Baxley, 49, previously was a partner at Hatfield and Baxley P.A.

17th Circuit Court

Nickolas Hunter Davis, 37, of Fort Lauderdale, is an Assistant Statewide Prosecutor for the Office of the Attorney General and previously served as an Assistant State Attorney in the 17th Judicial Circuit. He received his bachelor’s degree from The University of South Carolina and his law degree from Washington and Lee University. Davis fills the vacancy created by the retirement of Circuit Judge Merrilee Ehrlich.

Peter Holden, 57, of Fort Lauderdale, has served as an Assistant State Attorney in the 17th Judicial Circuit since 1989. He received his bachelor’s degree from Nichols College and his law degree from Nova Law School. Holden fills the vacancy created by the retirement of Circuit Judge Lisa M. Porter.

Polk County Court

Hope Pattey, 47, is an Assistant State Attorney for the 10th Judicial Circuit and fills the vacancy created by the promotion of Judge Gerald P. Hill II. A graduate of the University of South Florida, Pattey went on to receive her law degree from Florida State University College of Law. She is 47 years old.

Sarasota County Court

Scott appointed Dana Moss, 47, of Lakewood Ranch. She is a felony division chief for the 12th Circuit Public Defender’s Office. Moss previously served as a police officer. She received her bachelor’s degree from Penn State University and her law degree from Florida Coastal Law School. Moss fills the vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Judy Goldman.

Tallahassee Community College District Board of Trustees

Gov. Rick Scott reappointed Eugene Lamb, Jr. The 71-year-old, of Midway, is retired from working in the Tallahassee area as a teacher for 30 years and also served on the Gadsden County Commission for eight years. Lamb’s new term ends May 31, 2022. The appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

Early Learning Coalition of Orange County

Scott appointed Linda Shaughnessy, 60, of Orlando, an accountant at St. James Cathedral School. She received her bachelor’s degree in accounting from Loyola University. Shaughnessy succeeds Linda Gonzalez for a term ending April 30, 2021.

Honoring a ‘Champion of Service’

Sam Rogers, a Tallahassee-based, longtime community volunteer, was presented this week with the Volunteer Florida Champion of Service Award during a Florida Cabinet meeting.

Bestowing Rogers with the honor were Gov. Scott and Volunteer Florida CEO David Mica, Jr. Volunteer Florida is the state’s service agency.

Tallahassee-based volunteer Sam Rogers is recognized with the Champion of Service Award.

Rogers has mentored two first-grade students every year for almost two decades, helping them hone their reading skills and introducing them to art and culture. He is credited with being instrumental in partnering Kate Sullivan Elementary School with Trinity Methodist Church.

“Sam is extremely deserving of the Champion of Service Award,” Mica said. “As a direct result of his mentorship, local students are succeeding in school, developing valuable life skills and becoming well-rounded individuals – ensuring a bright future for both Tallahassee and the State of Florida.”

Added Scott: “Sam’s longstanding commitment to his community inspires those around him and helps make our state the best place to live in the country.

Gator gigging time

Alligator hunting season is here again, through Nov. 1.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has issued more than 7,500 permits, including an additional 1,313 countywide permits, this year.

It’s Florida’s alligator hunting season once again.

The hunt is part of the commission’s program to control the population Florida’s official state reptile, now estimated at 1.3 million. The alligator was among the species on the endangered list when first issued in 1967. Its numbers had recovered to the point that Florida removed it from the list in 1987.

Last year’s hunt produced 6,261 carcasses averaging 8 feet, 3 inches in length.

The commission also operates a nuisance alligator program — you can call 866-FWC-GATOR (866-392-4286) to contact a state-sanctioned trapper to capture gators that pose risks to people or pets.

Good news for Doctors Lake

Sen. Rob Bradley and Rep. Travis Cummings, both of northeast Florida, this week announced money is ready to back essential water projects in Clay County.

On Wednesday, the two Republican lawmakers told residents that funding is on the way for a series of projects targeting water quality in Doctors Lake, a tributary of the nearby St. Johns River.

Funding is on the way for Doctors Lake, to help with water quality. (Image via News4Jax)

The money will be used to transition lakeside homeowners from septic to sewer systems, replace old septic tanks, and begin the Doctors Lake Enhanced Effluent Treatment Project, expected to eventually treat a minimum of 2 million gallons of water per day.

“We can work together to improve Doctors Lake, so Clay County residents may enjoy our precious natural resources for generations to come,” Cummings said.

Dr. Ann Shortelle, executive director of the St. Johns River Water Management District, added: “These proposed projects focus efforts on Doctors Lake, which has experienced water quality concerns for decades … As always, we look to the science to guide us in making sound decisions about project opportunities.”

Greenberg Traurig’s ‘Best Lawyers’

The 2019 edition of “Best Lawyers in America” is out, and Greenberg Traurig has a lot to celebrate.

The firm had 133 of its attorneys make the cut and was named the top firm in four Sunshine State markets: Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale, Miami and Tallahassee.

In addition to a “Best Lawyers” top pick for those seeking counsel in the capital, Greenberg Traurig was honored as a “Top Listed” firm in seven practice areas, including Government Relations — not only does the international firm routinely make the top-5 in Florida lobbying pay, but it’s among the top-quality outlets, too.

Greenberg Traurig was recognized for having several top-rated lawyers in Florida.

The good news didn’t stop there. Among the 133 Greenberg Traurig lawyers singled out by the publication for their quality work were a dozen who earned the top-flight “attorney of the year” distinction in their practice areas.

The honor roll: Cesar Alvarez, International Trade and Finance Law; Hilarie Bass, Litigation-Regulatory Enforcement (SEC, Telecom, Energy); Bridget Berry, Employment Law-Management; Mark Bideau, Litigation – Securities Litigation-Labor & Employment; Mark Bloom, Bankruptcy and Creditor Debtor Rights/Insolvency and Reorganization Law; Michael Cherniga, Health Care Law; Lucia Dougherty, Administrative/Regulatory Law; Glenn Goldstein, Litigation-Banking and Finance; Barbara Hall, Government Relations Practice; Gregory Herbert, Litigation-Intellectual Property; Richard McCrea Jr., Litigation-Labor and Employment; and David Peck, Health Care Law.

AOB abuse alert

A business coalition is continuing its public relations offensive against assignment-of-benefits abuse by launching an interactive guide warning consumers of these contracts’ pitfalls.

The Consumer Protection Coalition’s Tips to Avoid Contractor Fraud & Abuse website warns against “deceptive” tactics including high-pressure sales, contracts with blank spaces, and offers to rebate the deductible so the repairs are free.

Also, there are links detailing how to verify property damage and check contractor references and get a written contract, and warning against paying up front.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce helped to organize the coalition.

“Peak hurricane season is here – the time when most major storms hit and the threat of AOB abuse increases,” said coalition member Logan McFaddin, regional manager for the Property and Casualty Insurers Association of America. “To prevent this type of abuse from happening now and in the future, consumer awareness is critical.

LeadingAge Florida recognized

The American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) recognized LeadingAge Florida members for “heroic efforts to care for Florida seniors in the days following Hurricane Irma.”

LeadingAge received a Silver Power Award for “Project Lifeline: Caring for Seniors in the Aftermath of Irma.” The project chronicles nine LeadingAge Florida members that delivered food, water and other supplies to communities of seniors impacted by the hurricane.

Steve Bahmer, LeadingAge Florida president and CEO.

“Many times, during the past year, I have been asked how our members dealt with Hurricane Irma and its aftermath,” said Steve Bahmer, LeadingAge Florida president and CEO. “There are a number of ways to answer that question, but the word that always jumps to the front of my mind is ‘character.’”

“This award isn’t ours. It’s our members,” he added. “It’s a national testimonial to the values of our Association, and to the power and depth of our members’ mission to care for older adults.”

From providing food, water and ice, in some cases diverting their own resources to help others, to filling vans and buses with various supplies and delivering them to troubled communities, LeadingAge Florida members quickly helped in whatever way they could, regardless of the provider community in need or its location.

The Able Trust backs training

Easterseals Florida, which provides services for children and adults with disabilities and their families, received a $60,000 grant this week from The Able Trust, a nonprofit dedicated to helping Floridians with disabilities find employment.

The money will be used to support Easterseals’ STRIVE program, short for Skills Training Results in Vocational Employment.

The Able Trust cuts a big check for vocational training.

At the Igoe-Amar Center in West Palm Beach, STRIVE participants will receive curriculum over the course of 12 weeks, consisting of 30 hours split between the classroom and an on-site “hotel simulation room.”

“Supporting the Easterseals Florida and programs like the STRIVE in Hospitality Program are vital to helping people with disabilities find successful employment,” said Dr. Susanne Homant, president and CEO of The Able Trust. “They not only help those who use the program, but also the surrounding communities by providing area businesses with quality employees.”

“As Easterseals approaches 100 years of changing the lives of children and adults with disabilities, we look to the future and how we can continue to grow services for the community,” added Sue Ventura, president and CEO of Easterseals Florida.

FSU launches student resilience tool

In an effort to help students adjust to the university, improve mental health and lower stress, Florida State University will launch the Student Resilience Project.

“Florida State University recognizes that some incoming students have experienced significant family or community stress,” said Karen Oehme, director of the Institute for Family Violence Studies. “Unmanaged stress responses can interfere with student success in college and cause long-term negative consequences.”

FSU Provost Sally McRorie.

The soft launch for the online trauma resilience tool was Aug. 1, but by this fall, the Institute for Family Violence Studies at the FSU College of Social Work expects to fully launch the training.

The training uses animated instructions and videos reminiscent of TED Talks, according to the university. Each module teaches resilience and coping skills students may need for there time away from home. The university will welcome some 6,000 freshmen this fall.

“FSU recognizes the need to provide more tools to respond to the increasing mental health needs of our students,” said Sally McRorie, provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs. “The project is open and frank about mental health topics our students may face and is intended to destigmatize and encourage seeking help.”

Seminole Sensation Week is back

An annual tradition tailored to promote student involvement at Florida State University begins this Wednesday, as the institution welcomes students back to campus for fall semester.

Known as Seminole Sensation Week, the university will host a weeklong series of events that help introduce students to an array of organizations and opportunities available outside of the classroom.

Seminole Sensation Week returns!

“Seminole Sensation Week is a campus tradition that creates moments for students to make connections and get involved at FSU,” said Lori Vaughn, interim director for Student Activities. “Becoming part of our campus community helps students succeed in their classes and beyond.”

New Student Convocation, the marquee event, is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 26, at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center. There, widely respected nuclear physicist and FSU faculty member Mark Riley will deliver the convocation address.

As is tradition, the President’s Welcome, hosted each year by FSU President John Thrasher, will take place after the convocation. The seven-day schedule of events can be found here.

Island View Park completed

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Franklin County, and The Trust for Public Land this week announced the completion of Island View Park, providing “improved public access to the beautiful coastal resources of this region.”

Island View Park is a 7-acre tract in Franklin County, about 1 mile east of the city of Carrabelle, with almost 900 feet fronting St. George Sound. The park includes a boardwalk with viewing areas, extensive landscaping with native trees and plants, two long fishing piers, shoreline access for paddle craft, and a central plaza with an information kiosk.

Island View Park is now ready for visitors.

Funding for park amenities, along with 10 years of operation and maintenance funds for the county ($2.6 million), came from an agreement with British Petroleum to conduct restoration projects to address injuries resulting from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to enhance the public’s access to surrounding natural resources and increase recreational opportunities.

Additional funding for the Park was also provided by a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

This project will enhance and increase the public’s use and enjoyment of the natural resources that were severely impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that occurred April 20, 2010.

Capitol Directions

Adam Putnam launches new bus tour with faith in grassroots

An upbeat Adam Putnam started his latest tour of restaurants and backyard barbecues expressing confidence in Winter Park Friday that his 16 months of cultivating grassroots yet will pay off in the Aug. 28 Republican gubernorial primary against U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis.

“I’m pretty excited about a poll that came out right here in Orlando, a local TV station that essentially shows it a dead heat,” Putnam declared, referring to a poll done by Spectrum News 13 that shows. “The only poll that matters comes on election day, and as you can see from the grassroots energy all over the state, I feel very good.”

That poll had DeSantis up 40 to 38, with 16 percent still undecided. The gap was within the 5 point margin of error.

Putnam held one of his “Up & Adam” breakfast talks before a packed and enthusiastic house at the 4Rivers restaurant in Winter Park Friday morning. The event was not unlike countless he’s arranged and spoken at in Orlando and cities and small towns throughout Florida since launching his campaign in the spring of 2017. Yet this summer he watched DeSantis, who until June had campaigned largley through FOX News appearances, zoom past him in polls and start hosting large, raucious rallies after getting the endorsement of President Donald Trump.

Putnam, Florida’s agriculture commissioner, has tried hard to embrace Trump and work him into much of his own campaigning, but

For the past six weeks Putnam, Florida’s agriculture commissioner, has been playing catch-up against Trump’s candidate, DeSantis. Putnam has been trying hard to embrace Trump and work him into much of his own campaigning, while still characterizing the race as a “Washington-centric candidate” versus a “Florida-First candidate.”

That Florida First message, his campaign theme, mixed with Trump references throughout his 4Rivers stop. And he’s turning back to his grassroots appeal in the closing days, while staying on his basic points of pushing technical education, low taxes for small business growth, and intimate knoweldge of the state’s economy and local nuances.

“So we’re going to be bouncing all around Florida, up and down the I-4 corridor, up and down I-75 and I-95 and throughout the Panhandle. We’ll be making multiple stops a day, whether it’s at barbecue restaurants, coffee shops, businesses or people’s back yards,” he said.

“If you want to be governor of the third-largest state, if you want to manage a trillion-dollar economy, you better be willing to roll up your sleeves and be amongst the people,” he said. “Understand their concerns, listen to their challenges, and offer your own vision on how we’re going to make Florida a stronger, better place.”

‘The old he-coon walks’: Adam Putnam channels Lawton Chiles in Lake City

In the GOP campaign for Governor, it wasn’t too long ago that Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam was left for dead.

Putnam suffered what appeared to be a mortal wound when President Donald Trump came to Florida for U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis. And then there were polls showing DeSantis up by 20 points.

Some discussed the idea of Putnam getting out of the race. Previous Putnam donors moved over to DeSantis.

However, he doubled down, with a bravura performance in a Jacksonville debate and some new polling showing that the race could be in dead heat.

In a primary season full of ironies, perhaps the greatest would be if Putnam could overcome Trump endorsing his opponent — after a campaign season where the leading question was about how Trump would, in the words of Putnam, put his “thumb on the scale” in the campaign.

We caught Putnam’s speech off the beaten path: on the outskirts of Lake City, at a breakfast buffet with a raft of domestic pickups in the parking lot.

This is Putnam’s element: what once was “real” Florida, which is becoming demographically obscured by blotched suburban and exurban sprawl and homes for transplants from other places, who brought their values with them.

A lost cause? Perhaps. But you wouldn’t know that from Putnam’s speech or from the reception in Lake City, a place where Donald Trump Jr. isn’t likely to make a campaign stop with a candidate.

Putnam’s remarks were full of markers of cultural authenticity, of being a “real Floridian” (unlike his primary opponent). Many of these were familiar.

From trumpeting endorsements from nearly 50 sheriffs and Attorney General Pam Bondi to noting the next Governor needs to know where Union and Bradford Counties are “without a GPS,” — and most tellingly — lifting a famous line from Democrat (and fellow Polk County native) Lawton Chiles‘ 1994 defeat of Jeb Bush.

“The old he-coon walks just before the light of day,” Putnam said, before describing himself as a “fifth-generation Florida Cracker.”

Putnam noted the importance of “running up the numbers out here,” as spots on two-lane roads are not DeSantis Country, because the Ponte Vedra Congressman doesn’t make the appeal.

“They don’t bother to drive up your road and visit you at your business,” Putnam said.

Putnam also razzed DeSantis’ dependence on Trump, at one point lampooning him calling the White House and asking, “What are we going to do today, boss?”

After the remarks, we caught up with the candidate, who was laconic in his answers.

Asked about the improved poll numbers, Putnam described it as a “good way to start a Monday,” but the “only poll that matters” is, of course, Election Day.

“I like the feel on the ground, I love the sense that I’m getting from the crowds, the energy, the doorknocking. This is where I believe a year and a half’s work pays off of actually being in people’s communities, listening to them, hearing their concerns and sharing my vision for Florida … running on more than just an endorsement,” Putnam said.

Worth noting: his team has knocked on 300,000 doors, a stark contrast to what seems to be a phantom field operation on DeSantis’ side, an appeal to what the candidate calls “Trump/Putnam voters,” who support the President, but who also expect a “real plan for Florida” from the next Governor, rather than just being “totally dependent on the President’s coattails.”

Putnam’s appeal, he says, is targeted to “small towns and big cities alike,” citing workforce development as something that matters statewide.

“This is not a message that is narrow in scope,” Putnam said.

DeSantis has already leaked potential Lieutenant Governor picks. When asked about that, Putnam said, “he can run his campaign the way he wants to and I’ll run mine the way I want to.”

In a real sense, with candidates that fundamentally deviate little from the Florida Republican status quo, the difference in presentation, style and temperament will be dispositive in the end.

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