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Adam Putnam to proclaim: ‘Florida can be launch pad for American Dream’

Adam Putnam will detail his vision for Florida’s future, laying out a plan to make Florida a “launch pad for the American Dream” when he formally announces his 2018 gubernatorial bid today.

Putnam, the state’s agriculture commissioner, will launch his gubernatorial bid on the steps of the Old Polk County Courthouse in Bartow at 11 a.m. today. Afterward, he’s scheduled to attend a Florida Grown Hometown BBQ hosted by his political committee, Florida Grown, in downtown Bartow.

According to prepared remarks provided ahead of his speech, Putnam is expected to put a focus on how the Sunshine State “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.”

“Our state can be the launch pad for the American Dream. The state that is the fishing capital of the world can also be the state that builds the boats and trains the craftsmen,” he is expected to say. “The state that trained millions of soldiers and sailors and airmen can retrain our citizens with the skills that allow them to compete in a rapidly changing world – and win. The state that put a man on the moon can build the tools for the next giant leap for mankind.”

Putnam will point to examples of “American exceptionalism” in Florida, according to his speech.

“Look at the grocery clerk in Lakeland who revolutionized the supermarket industry,” he is expected to say. “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. 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,” he is expected to continue. “It’s why we have more work to do. It’s why we’ve got to keep fighting to put Florida first and make our state the launch pad for the American Dream.”

Putnam will be joined on the stage today by retired Army Sgt. Jordan Corbett, who served in the 555th Parachute Infantry, and Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd. Corbett will deliver the Pledge of Allegiance, while Judd is expected to introduce Putnam. The Bartow High School Marching Band will be on hand to play the National Anthem.

Matt Caldwell to kick-off Ag Commissioner campaign Monday in Fort Myers

Matt Caldwell is ready to kick is campaign for agriculture commissioner into high gear.

The North Fort Myers Republican will officially kick-off his campaign with an event at Sun Harvest Citrus, 14601 Six Mile Cypress Parkway in Fort Myers at 11:15 a.m., Monday.

Caldwell, who had been expected to throw his hat in the race to replace Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, filed to run for the seat earlier this month. Since January, Caldwell has raised $702,825 for his political committee Friends of Matt Caldwell.

State records show his February 2017 fundraising haul of $412,075 was the largest single month haul since August 2016, when the committee was started. The committee ended March with more than $650,000 cash on hand, according to state records.

The chairman of the Government Accountability Committee, Caldwell has spent much of his career in the Legislature focused on environmental and agricultural issues, a background that could serve him well in the position. During the 2017 Legislative Session, he pushed for legislation restructure the funding formula for Florida Forever and guarantee funding to the conservation program.

Caldwell can’t run for re-election in the House because of term limits.

He isn’t the only state legislator vying to replace Putnam, who is running for governor. Sen. Denise Grimsley filed to run for the seat earlier this year. A fifth generation Floridian, Grimsley was first elected to the Florida House in 2004, where she served until 2012, when she was elected to the Senate

Republican Paul Paulson and Democrats Michael Damian Christine and Daniel Sohn have also filed to run for the seat.

Andrew Gillum

Andrew Gillum calls for ‘strengthening’ Obamacare in Florida

A day after the end of the 2017 Legislative Session, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum on Monday called on state lawmakers to pass a bill “strengthening insurance protections for those with pre-existing conditions.”

Gillum, the sitting mayor of Tallahassee, appeared at the Florida Press Center with two local women who told of their family members’ troubles getting coverage and treatment: One has a son with a chromosomal disorder and the other’s sister lives with Crohn’s disease, an incurable digestive malady.

Gillum’s proposal, a priority if he’s elected in 2018, has three goals: Prohibit insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing medical conditions; charge them the same premiums as those without such conditions; and “end the discriminatory practice of charging women higher premiums than men.”

The first two already are part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as “Obamacare,” which President Donald Trump and GOP members of Congress have so far unsuccessfully tried to repeal. The federal law is the signature act of former President Barack Obama

Gillum’s proposal, light on specifics, may be more pipe dream than policy—at least for now—with a GOP-controlled Legislature and an insurance industry averse to change.

He said he had had “some behind-the-scenes conversations” with members of the industry, though he declined to say who, and couldn’t provide a financial impact of his proposal.

A request for comment was sent to Audrey S. Brown, the president and CEO of the Florida Association of Health Plans, which represents managed-care companies.

Gillum also dodged a question about whether he supported an “individual mandate,” insurance parlance for a legal requirement to buy health insurance. That’s also part of the ACA.

“We believe, and I certainly believe, that health care is a right,” he said. “We also know that it has a tremendous impact on this state’s economy. We unfortunately have a governor that did not allow the full benefits of the ACA to be felt. We would work toward a strengthening of the ACA.”

GOP Gov. Rick Scott, a former for-profit hospital chain executive who’s term-limited next year, has declined to expand Medicaid under the ACA to provide health coverage to more poor and working-poor Floridians. That decision was supported the Republican-controlled House.

Denise Wilson, a banking trainer, told of her young son’s struggle with Potocki-Shaffer syndrome, which affects bones and tissues. He’s needed surgery just to maintain his ability to move, she said.

She told of having “to go through hoops” to get him treatment: “And when you have a child with special needs, your life is hoops.”

And Avril Wood, a “state worker,” said her younger sister’s need for Crohn’s treatment has caused her family constant worries over paying for insurance and medications.

Crohn’s “causes inflammation of the lining of the digestive tract, which can lead to abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss and malnutrition,” according to the Mayo Clinic.

“My sister is loving and kind,” Wood said, verging on tears. “This has ravaged our family … My parents are wondering if they’re going to run out of money in their retirement. Given the choice between bankruptcy and keeping my sister alive, they will choose bankruptcy. And that thought is cruel.”

The 37-year-old Gillum was first elected to public office in 2003, when he became Tallahassee’s youngest city council member ever at 23. He was elected mayor in 2014.

He still faces an Leon County Sheriff’s Office investigation into whether he broke state ethics law by using a city-owned email program to send campaign-related and other political messages.

Other declared Democratic candidates for governor include former Tallahassee-area congresswoman Gwen Graham and Winter Park businessman Chris King. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is likely to be the the first Republican to declare; his announcement is expected Wednesday in Bartow.

Adam Putnam kicking off governor’s race campaign in Bartow, then bus tour

Republican gubernatorial candidate and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is kicking off his 2018 campaign with a rally in his hometown Bartow Wednesday, followed by a bus tour that will take him to 22 cities in 10 days.

Putnam, who entered the race May 1 – and is the only major Republican to file thus far – will be presenting his campaign kickoff speech in Bartow, outlining his vision for the future of Florida.

That speech will be at the Old Polk County Courthouse in downtown Bartow, at 11 a.m., followed by a campaign barbecue celebration, provided by his independent political committee, Florida Grown.

Democrats have three candidates thus far, former state Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee, Winter Park businessman Chris King, and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.

The following day Putnam hits the road, visiting Dover, Tampa, Clearwater and Sarasota on Thursday.

On Friday he’ll be in Naples and Fort Myers.

On Saturday the Putnam tour will hit Sebring and Okeechobee.

There will be no campaign events on Sunday. On Monday Putnam will visit Riviera Beach, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami.

On May 16 he will be in Vero Beach, Merritt Island, and Altamonte Springs.

On May 17 the Putnam tour will visit The Villages and Jacksonville Beach.

On May 18, he will be in Fernandina Beach and Panama City.

On May 19, he’ll be in Pensacola, Destin, and Graceville.

And Putnam will wrap up his bus tour May 20 in O’Brien.

Gwen Graham wants special session to enact medical marijuana amendment

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham is calling on the Florida Legislature to return to Tallahassee to do what it failed to do over the past two months – pass a bill enacting legislation for the medical marijuana amendment supported by more than 71 percent of Floridians.

“I watched my husband battle cancer and the sickening effects of chemotherapy. So many patients with cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis and other debilitating diseases could use medical marijuana as a way to treat their pain,” Graham said in a statement. “Floridians spent years begging the Legislature to take action before taking their case to the voters, but once again, the legislature is ignoring them. If the people of Florida give me the honor of serving as governor, their voices will be heard.”

Florida lawmakers announced Friday night that they had failed to pass a bill enacting legislation on legalizing medical marijuana.

Graham’s entry into the gubernatorial race was postponed for several months while her husband Steve Hurm dealt with being diagnosed with prostate cancer. She announce via Twitter a month ago that  he was in full remission, and announced her candidacy last week.

In her statement, the former congresswoman said that the Legislature’s failure to enact a bill to legalize medical marijuana is just the latest example of Republican lawmakers ignoring Florida voters.

“Go back to the lottery, or even more recently, Forever Florida, and all you see is the legislature playing shell games with voters. Sadly, no one should be shocked they’ve turned a blind eye to Floridians facing chronic diseases,” Graham said.

Graham also noted that for the third year in a row, the legislature is misappropriating funds for Florida Forever, a land and water conservation program supported by more than 74 percent of Florida voters in 2014.

“If my kids acted like the legislature when I told them to clean their rooms, they’d still be grounded,” Graham said. “As governor, I will force the Legislature to fulfill their responsibilities, including calling them into special session if needed, to enact medical marijuana legalization.”

Graham is running against Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Orlando businessman Chris King for the Democratic nomination.

Another potential Democratic candidate, John Morgan, announced in a series of tweets on Saturday that he also wants the Legislature to return in a special session to address the medical marijuana issue. Morgan was one of the leaders in getting Amendment Two passed last fall.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam announced his candidacy last week, and will officially hold an event making his announcement official this week in Bartow.

Florida Ag commissioner: ‘No end in sight’ for wildfires

Three schools canceled classes due to smoky conditions from a nearby wildfire as Florida’s agriculture commissioner said the state is in the “midst of its worst wildfire season in years – with no end in sight.”

Commissioner Adam Putnam said in a news release that nearly 125 active wildfires were burning Monday morning.

Officials in Pasco County near Tampa, on Florida’s Gulf Coast, called off classes Monday at an elementary, a middle and a high school near fire that burned some 2,300 acres (930.8 hectares) over the weekend.

The National Weather Service said dense smoke could quickly drop visibility near the wildfires. Fire officials say the fire was 70 percent contained on Sunday night.

Some residents north of the Jacksonville area also are on fire alert due to a wildfire in south Georgia.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Adam Putnam slates ‘meet and greet’ for Jax Beach

It’s an illustration of the old saying: if you’re hunting, you go where the ducks are.

When scooping up GOP votes in Duval County, there’s almost no better place to go than the Jacksonville Beaches, as one prominent Gubernatorial candidate shows.

On May 17, Adam Putnam will have a “meet and greet” event in Jacksonville Beach, at Angie’s Subs (1436 Beach Blvd.) — a restaurant owned by 2016 Congressional candidate Ed Malin, who ran a scrappy, spirited, populist campaign.

Putnam will “discuss his vision for Florida’s future and how he’ll always put Florida first” at the event, which has a 6:00 p.m. start time.

Putnam, the frontrunner by most reckonings for the GOP nomination in the 2018 Gubernatorial race, has a massive advantage over other potential candidates, in that he’s a known statewide quantity and appeals to a broad cross-section of the base.

As well, Putnam has formidable financial backingas his political committee already has well over $7M on hand.

Please don’t go there, Adam Putnam

“Nobody roots for Goliath.”

The immortal words of Wilt Chamberlin were on my mind Monday after Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam (at long last) announced that he is running for Florida governor.

Chamberlain, the All-World center and only NBA player to ever score 100 points in a game, was talking about the belief that he did not receive the respect and appreciation he deserved vis-à-vis his rival, Bill Russell. Fans had the impression Chamberlain’s size and physical gifts made the game come easier to him than to others.

The knock on Putnam — he is Jeb Bush 2.0.

In a more political environment, a comparison to the two-term former governor would be high praise indeed. But in the era of Donald Trump, when folks compare Putnam to Bush, they might as well say: “Please clap.”

As POLITICO Florida’s Marc Caputo wrote of the announcement, Putnam enters the race as Goliath of the field, just like Bush’s entry in the 2016 GOP presidential primary.

“With more than $4 million in his political committee account, statewide name ID among Republicans and longtime Florida roots,” Caputo said. “Putnam should become his party’s nominee in the eyes of Tallahassee insiders and Republican Party activists.”

And yet, there is a sort of weariness about Putnam’s candidacy, especially since many of his key supporters are the same people who witnessed Bush’s collapse.

I’d make the argument that Bush’s 2016 loss might the best thing that could have possibly happened to Putnam’s 2018 aspirations. Were I among Putnam’s chief consultants, pinned to the campaign office’s bulletin board would be every newspaper front page headlining Bush’s poor showing in the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary.

I’d make everyone look at pictures of Bush on stage after his last stand in South Carolina.

Let all that burn deep into their hearts and minds.

As for Putnam himself, he should wake up each day with a poster of Trump and Bush next to each other (this image may be best), serving as a reminder to never let what happened to Bush happen to him.

Perhaps Putnam already recognizes the danger of being Jeb 2.0. However, one minor way Putnam attempts to protect his right flank rings false.

On Friday, Putnam — or more likely his campaign/communications team — asked Twitter followers their thoughts on sanctuary cities in Florida. These are municipalities which limit cooperation with the national government effort to enforce immigration law. Cutting off funding to sanctuary cities is a top priority for many Republican primary voters.

That same day, the Florida House voted to outlaw sanctuary cities, imposing harsh penalties on any elected official or community seeking to thwart the ban.

Opponents of sanctuary cities argue the bill seeks to target undocumented immigrants and impose an unfunded mandate on local law enforcement agencies. The measure is offensive to immigrants and minority populations, they say.

Perhaps Putnam’s tweet was an honest attempt to gauge his followers. What I fear is that this was more likely an attempt, albeit a small one, by Putnam to burnish his right-wing credentials with GOP voters.

There’s nothing wrong with tacking to the right in advance of a bruising GOP primary. In fact, in doing so, Putnam proves he may not suffer the same fate as Bush (who was outflanked on the right).

But someone with Putnam’s agricultural background, it is hypocritical to cast doubt on sanctuary cities. Every farmer in Florida knows firsthand that the state’s bountiful crops wouldn’t be so bountiful were it not for the thousands of undocumented workers picking fruit and tending fields.

It may be an upsetting reality for Putnam (or not), but when researching his position on this particular issue, you wouldn’t know it. Although they would not be quoted on the record, the legislators who shepherded this bill say they heard very little — if at all — about the issue.

Furthermore, a cursory search of “Adam Putnam + sanctuary cities” turns up scant, if any, news articles.

While Putnam may not be my first choice for Florida governor, I would be satisfied seeing him in the Governor’s Mansion. But I don’t want to see him get there by leaning so far to the right that common-sense Republicanism gets lost in the shuffle.

We’re rooting for the best version of Adam Putnam, whether it be as a David or Goliath.

Andrew Gillum picks up Broward County endorsement

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum has picked up his first Broward County endorsement.

Gillum announced Wednesday that Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness has endorsed his 2018 gubernatorial bid. In a statement released by the Gillum campaign, Holness said Gillum has worked “tirelessly to lead Tallahassee in the right direction.”

“Andrew Gillum will work for increased prosperity for all Floridians by strengthening Florida’s economy, creating high-paying jobs and will build an advanced educational system by investing in early childhood and K-12 initiatives,” he said in a statement.” “Broward County and Florida deserve a champion in the next Governor and Andrew is the right choice at the right time. I am proud to endorse Mayor Andrew Gillum for Governor.”

Gillum, one of three Democrats currently running for governor, said he was proud to have Holness’ endorsement.

“We must address the persistent economic challenges that have plagued us for generations and gotten worse under Governor Rick Scott,” he said in a statement. “Dale has been at the forefront of the critical fight to create jobs, increase wages for working families, and provide access to affordable housing. As Governor, I look forward to bringing it home for Broward County.”

Democrats Gwen Graham and Chris King and Republican Adam Putnam are also running.

Joe Henderson: While Rick Scott goes on tour to plead his case, Richard Corcoran keeps piling up wins

While it’s clear what Gov. Rick Scott hopes to accomplish with his barnstorming tour of the state over the next few days, it almost certainly won’t make any difference.

He calls it the “Fighting For Florida’s Future” tour because he wants to fully fund Enterprise Florida so it can continue providing $85 million in taxpayer “incentives” for out-of-state businesses to bring jobs here.

Businesses will come to Florida if they believe they can make money. They don’t need what House Speaker Richard Corcoran has mocked as “corporate welfare” to do that.

Simultaneously, Scott wants to make sure VISIT Florida gets $100 million to promote tourism. Corcoran has offered about a quarter of that. While no one argues that tourists aren’t vital to the state’s economy, Scott would have a better argument for full funding if the agency was more judicious in its spending.

VISIT Florida spent $11.6 million to sponsor a cooking show hosted by celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse and $1 million so rapper Pitbull could look cool and hip to potential visitors in the cold frozen north.

Scott’s hope for his speaking tour is that people will get riled up enough to call their legislators and demand they approve his agenda.

Yeah. That’ll happen.

He also wants the Legislature to spend $200 million to help fix the Herbert Hoover Dike at Lake Okeechobee. That dam was considered a culprit in last summer’s polluted water runoff that led to the disastrous algae bloom.

Pushing for that money makes the governor look like he cares for the environment. A better time to show that might have been before that runoff and while his administration was gutting environmental laws left and right, but I digress.

The bigger picture is that Scott was essentially neutered during this Legislative Session by Corcoran. The governor is now the lamest of ducks, and that won’t help him as he casts a longing eye toward Bill Nelson’s U.S. Senate seat in 2018.

Corcoran outfoxed the governor at every budgetary turn this year and was very public about it. It goes to Corcoran’s core belief that Tallahassee spends too much money and needs to go on a fiscal diet.

It has been assumed the Speaker has considered running for Scott’s soon-to-be vacant governor’s chair, but what if there is something bigger afoot?

While Corcoran would have a tough time breaking through against fellow Republican Adam Putnam to win the Republican nomination for governor, he could draw a strong contrast between himself and Scott if he decided to go for the Senate seat instead.

Hummmmm.

In a lengthy profile on the Speaker, the Tampa Bay Times reported he has already met with the billionaire Koch brothers and appears to have their support for his economic agenda. I’m guessing that would help close the fundraising gap with Nelson and/or Scott if this hypothetical showdown ever happens.

Obviously, this is speculation — the mother’s milk of politics.

But while the governor embarks on what would be better described as a self-immolation tour for a doomed agenda, Corcoran keeps piling up the wins.

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