Adam Putnam Archives - Florida Politics

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

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

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

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

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

Then he dropped this into the conversation.

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

Well, well!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vague cannabis comments from Adam Putnam highlight news-free Q&A

In a Facebook Q&A Thursday, Adam Putnam came closest to making news in discussing medical marijuana, albeit briefly and with no traceable scent of policy position.

In his last Q&A, Putnam noted, he called for a Special Session on the subject. And it came to pass.

With the Special Session wrapped, Putnam is “glad the elected officials” rather than “unelected bureaucrats” set up rules.

“I want to make sure Florida doesn’t turn into California or Colorado,” Putnam added regarding the future of cannabis, the vague red meat belying any hint that he has spent his entire life in one policy-making position or another.

Putnam didn’t address the controversy about “smokable” marijuana not being included in the new rules, and contentions from such as John Morgan that the pending law flies in the face of Amendment 2.

On or off the subject of cannabis, Putnam truncated any specific policy detail, in favor of the kind of big-picture blandishments road-tested in his campaign appearances elsewhere.

In a political climate that privileges the outsider pitch, Putnam — as has been the case during this campaign — hewed closely to the accomplishments and mindset of the Rick Scott era, and Scott-esque rhetoric suffused by an almost incantatory blandness.

Putnam asserted that Florida should be the most “veteran … military … and senior” friendly state, a position that no one really could disagree with.

Regarding schools, teachers should get the “honor” they deserve and “great principals” to work with.

Putnam also asserted that he’s a “true conservative” on issues such as the 2nd Amendment; limited government, said Putnam, would make Florida the “launchpad for the American dream.”

A surprising amount of questions for a midday Q&A focused on policy minitua about being Commissioner of Agriculture, allowing for such as epic digressions into the role of the Florida Forest Service.

Matt Caldwell releases video highlighting #2LaneTravels Work Days Tour

Rep. Matt Caldwell spent Friday afternoon elbow deep in shark carcasses.

The North Fort Myers Republican heaved the sharks onto a scale, weighed them and packed them back in ice, preparing them to be shipped. It was a dirty job in an industry that he will oversee if elected Agriculture Commissioner in 2018.

Caldwell kicked off his #2LaneTravels Work Days at Key Largo Fisheries in Key Largo on Friday. The statewide tour is a chance for Caldwell to showcase the industries that the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services oversees.

“The Commissioner of Agriculture oversees all the blue collar jobs in Florida. If I’m going to be in charge of overseeing and regulating these jobs, I need to understand what goes into it,” said Caldwell. “The people who end up at top are the ones who started in the mail room. For me, the same thing is true here, if I can do the best job I can … if I’m blessed to come out on top, I have to understand (the jobs).”

Work days are a political tradition in the Sunshine State. Bob Graham, the state’s former Democratic governor and senator, made them a staple of his political career.

“Everyone knows Gov. Graham and his work days,” said Caldwell. “(It showed he) wasn’t afraid of doing hard work and was committed to understanding Florida top to bottom.”

Gov. Rick Scott held several work days during his first term in office, including selling doughnuts in Jacksonville and working as a park ranger at Hillsborough River State Park. Gwen Graham, a former U.S. and Democratic candidate for governor, is following in her father’s footsteps and doing her own workdays, including installing rooftop solar panels.

For Caldwell, the work days serve a dual purpose. While it helps it him better understand Florida, he’s also hopeful it will help Floridians better understand what the Agriculture Commissioner does.

“When you go around and try to explain to people who aren’t farmers, I remind them of the show ‘Dirty Jobs,’” he said. “Pretty much everything he does is what the Commissioner’s Office oversees.”

Caldwell said he expects future work days to include working on cattle ranches, with timber crews, and in tire shops.

Caldwell is one of four Republicans vying for their party’s nomination to replace Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in 2018. Sen. Denise Grimsley, former state Rep. Baxter Troutman, and Paul Paulson have also filed to run.

Putnam, who can’t run for re-election in 2018 because of term limits, is running for governor.

Chris King brings home his ‘progressive entrepreneur’ campaign message

Democratic gubernatorial candidate and affordable housing developer Chris King pitches this scenario to Democratic crowds hungry for a rare statewide victory, and a blue governor’s office for the first time in 20 years:

“If you can imagine the gubernatorial debate of 2018, late October, we have a Republican, and we have a Democrat. And the time always comes where the Republican looks at the Democrat and says to the state of Florida, ‘You can’t trust this Democrat.’ Right? ‘This is a tax-and-spend liberal. They can’t create jobs. They can’t build businesses. They will ride this economy dead!’ It happens every time!” King, of Winter Park, said before a gathering of about 200 Democrats at the Orange County party’s monthly executive committee meeting Monday night.

“If I’m your nominee, I will be able to say in that moment, with the whole state watching, ‘On the contrary: not this Democrat! This Democrat created successful businesses, created jobs, delivered profit to investors, served customers. And this Democrat did all of that while honoring his progressive values,'” King continued.

“And then I’ll be able to look at the Republican in that moment, and say, ‘Mr. [Adam] Putnam, or Mr. [Richard] Corcoran, or Mr. [Jack] Latvala,’ or whoever comes out on top, ‘It was your party that rode this economy down, that created an affordable housing crisis. It was your party that said no to Medicaid expansion. It was your party that steered this party to the back of the pack,'” King continued. “And I will ask for the wheel back, and I will take it back, in 2018.”

And with that presentation, King, who built a fortune with development companies he insists he and his brother built from scratch, sought to distance himself from both his Democratic challengers, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee, as well as the Republicans.

It’s a continuation of the “progressive entrepreneur” theme King initiated when he kicked off his campaign in Orlando two months ago. King criticizes Florida Republicans for overseeing a drop in inflation-adjusted wages and benefits, or doing nothing about it, and for, he said, leading Florida to place at the bottom of the nation’s 10 most populous states in per-capita income, productivity, gross domestic product, and mental health care services.

He pledges an economic program that would focus on minimum wage increases; steering capital to “home-grown” small businesses, rather than offering financial incentives to, as he said, set up low-wage satellite offices in Florida; creating workforce training institutes in community colleges; and using the state’s affordable housing trust fund for affordable housing.

King also ran through his commitments to all the rest of the state Democrats’ principal platform planks, including re-instilling respect and support for public schools and teachers; seeking health care for all, including accepting Medicaid expansion money; pushing adoption of the Florida Comprehensive Workforce Act, banning discrimination against the LGBTQ community; and staunchly supporting environmental protections and the development of solar and other alternative energies, including his pledge to take no campaign money from the sugar industry.

Yet while the environmental pledges may have drawn the loudest ovation, King’s “progressive entrepreneur” was the centerpiece of his campaign, and of his speech Monday night. He said it is based on his own business practices and philosophy, which he said provides living wages, full health care paid for by the company, and bonuses, for every employee, while the companies are “heavily philanthropic.”

“You can be a progressive, and believe in equality, and opportunity, and fairness, and justice, and care for the neediest among us. You can also marry that to entrepreneurship, to integrity, and hard work, and discipline, and stewartship. When those things are brought together, I’ve found in business it was a magical formula,” King said. “In government, it can be a game-changer for the Democratic Party.”

Baxter Troutman opens iGrow PC to fund Agriculture Commissioner bid

Baxter Troutman has opened a political committee, allowing him to raise unlimited dollars toward his bid to replace Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in 2018.

State records show Troutman launched iGrow PC, a state political committee. He filed a statement of solicitation with the Division of Elections on June 14, two days after he filed to run for the statewide seat. POLITICO Florida first reported the creation of Troutman’s political committee.

Troutman filed the necessary paperwork to run for Agriculture Commissioner on June 12, and opened his campaign account with a personal contribution of $2.5 million. He is the grandson of late citrus baron and one-time gubernatorial candidate Ben Hill Griffin Jr.

The 50-year-old served in the Florida House 2002 to 2010. Troutman, who proposed to his wife Rebecca on the floor of the House while it was in session, campaigned for her last year in her unsuccessful run for Polk County School Board. She will serve as the co-chair of his campaign, and Troutman said he looks forward to “spending the months ahead traveling the state to talk with Floridians about our future.”

“Every corner of this great state feels the practical and economic impact of agriculture, and we simply cannot afford someone in this important leadership position who doesn’t understand how to make it work for taxpayers,” he said. “For these reasons, I have spent the past few weeks talking to friends, neighbors and my family. The strong encouragement to move forward with this campaign has been humbling. Winning the faith and support of so many is truly a blessing.”

Republicans Denise Grimsley, Matt Caldwell, and Paul Paulson have already filed to run for the seat. Putnam can’t run for re-election again in 2018 because of term limits.

In Tampa, Richard Corcoran faces hostile crowd angry about school bill

It was a tough room for House Speaker Richard Corcoran.  

Speaking before an unfriendly crowd of public school supporters in Tampa, Corcoran doubled down on his support of an education bill that creates a new system of charter schools to replace underperforming public schools.

On Thursday, Corcoran stood beside Rick Scott in Orlando as the Governor signed the controversial HB 7069.

To its critics, the most provocative part of the omnibus education bill was Corcoran’s ‘schools of hope’ plan, which includes a $140 million incentive plan to attract high-performing, specialized charter schools to in effect compete with struggling neighborhood schools.

“The only way you can draw down that money if you’re a charter school was if a situation existed in Florida where we were taking children and forcing them into ‘failure factories’ where they were getting an inferior education,” Corcoran said Friday morning to a packed house at the Oxford Exchange in Tampa’s North Hyde Park district.

The Land O’Lakes Republican was the featured guest at the weekly Tampa Con Cafe lecture series.

It was the term “failure factories” that drew particular ire during the extended Q&A portion of the morning, during which Corcoran was criticized by Kenny Blankenship from Pasco County.

Afterward, Corcoran explained it was the same language used by the Tampa Bay Times in their award-winning 2015 series about failing schools in South St. Petersburg.

“Only in those situations where you’ve had the local attempts — they’re called turnarounds — they’re given one year, two years, three years, to turn around those schools and have been incapable of doing so,” Corcoran said. “Only in those situations, would we allow a not for profit charter with an absolute proven record of success … in low-income areas.”

He said the “proven record” of success for those schools is that they had to have an 80 percent graduation rate, 80 percent go on to a college, and they had a higher than the average county and state testing scores.

But critics say the bill will devastate already cash-strapped traditional public schools. They’re concerned about changes in the allocation of Title I funding, the federal money used for low-income schools. That could affect districtwide programs such as summer school.

There’s also concerns about a part of the bill making it possible for universities, churches and several other types of institutions to provide space for charter schools without zoning exceptions, overriding local control over zoning decisions, according to the Miami Herald.

House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz calls the bill “an assault on public schools.”

Democratic state Sen. Linda Stewart of Orlando says it “an unwise experiment in education policy opposed by our state’s teachers, parents, professional administrators and superintendents.”

And Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham declared it to be a “massive step toward turning Florida’s public-school system into a public-school industry designed to benefit corporations and powerful interests.”

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum said Scott “would rather his for-profit charter school friends make a quick buck instead of providing our kids with the world-class education they deserve.”

Even some who support the bill, such as Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, have blasted the lack of transparency in how it was assembled.

But Corcoran continues to defend how it all went down.

“The parts of that bill were defended in committee: one committee, two committees, on the floor, sent over to the Senate, and the parts of that bill that they said we’re done in secret, the total votes for the parts in the bill between the two chambers was 1,600 plus votes, to 200 no votes,” he said.

What was done at the end of the legislative process on the education bill was taking completely vetted and debated bills and put together, Corcoran added. He did acknowledge that he would like to “work” on limiting the “number of mergers in the last week of Session.”

Public school supporters in Florida have blasted the Legislature’s support for charter schools for years, saying they are not held to the same standards of accountability. Corcoran pushed back on that argument Friday.

“There are public charter schools, and there are public traditional schools. Both of them are under the same accountability provisions,” the Speaker said, eliciting disapproval from the audience.

When he said charter schools came with the same certification requirements, the growls grew louder.

“Yes, they do!” he replied. “I’ll be glad to sit down with you and go through the statutes. They don’t have to be unionized. That’s the biggest difference between the two — ”

“No!” responded at least a dozen members of the public.

Among those public educators who were shouting at Corcoran was Naze Sahebzamani, a Hillsborough County public school teacher who accused the House Speaker of speaking in “half-truths.”

“I just think if he wants to make education a priority in the state and we want us to become leaders in this country in education, then he has to fund public education and he has to hold the charter schools to the same standards, and the same accountability as the rest of us, which they’re currently not doing,” she said.

There were also several questions highly critical of what city and county government officials said this year has been an unprecedented attack on the issue of home rule.

Tampa City Councilman Harry Cohen asked Corcoran how he could justify the Legislature’s decision to place a measure on the 2018 ballot to expand the homestead exemption. If passed, the proposal will reduce property taxes in every local jurisdiction in the state (Tampa’s estimated loss would be $6 million annually; Hillsborough County’s $30 million).

“First, I’d say, I care more about the people of this state than I do the governments of this state,” Corcoran replied, a line he repeated later during the hour.

Discussing how the Legislature has been able to find loads of waste in a variety of state agencies (like VISIT Florida), the Speaker would have none of it.

“The concept that you can give somebody a $25,000 homestead exemption and put in on the ballot, and the result is this: that local governments have only two choices — they have to raise taxes, or cut essential services that really benefit their local community, is absolutely crap.”

Corcoran defended his opposition to the Florida Competitive Workforce Act, which would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992.

He said, “suspect classes” like blacks or women deserve protection, but for others, “there are laws on the books that allow for the protection for being dismissed for any kind of egregious behavior.”

Corcoran added that government should be getting out of such “hyper-regulations.”

Later in the discussion, a man who identified himself as a lifelong Republican said he took offense to Corcoran’s comment.

“I’m a Jew,” the man said, “and you can’t tell that unless I tell you.”

Corcoran is reported to be strongly considering a run for Governor in 2018, but he said Friday that any such announcement will not be forthcoming anytime soon. He won’t make any such decision until he finishes his reign as Speaker after the Florida Legislative Session ends next March, a time that seems extremely late, especially as candidates like Putnam are already raising millions of dollars early in the process.

Then again, Corcoran is right now actively raising money in his PAC, which he says would go to other issues he cares about — if he chooses not to run for higher office. Those issues include a six-year ban on legislators lobbying and/or judicial term limits.

Despite the intense vibe in the room, Corcoran never lost his cool.

Talking about how he stays in touch with his legislative district, because he has to run every two years, Corcoran said he often attends community forums like this, “even though you guys aren’t in my district. And it sounds like that might be a good thing.”

With that, the crowd erupted in laughter.

(In the interest of full disclosure, it is important to note that Richard Corcoran’s political committees, like many other candidates, advertise on several Extensive Enterprises Media platforms.)

Report: Top Ron DeSantis supporter contributes $500K to state political committee

A top supporter of Rep. Ron DeSantis has contributed $500,000 to a state-level political committee that could be used to help fund a gubernatorial bid.

POLITICO Florida reported that Frederick Sontag contributed $500,000 to Fund for Florida’s Future, a state-level political committee, on May 5. The committee, which was required to report all contributions it received in May by Monday, received $535,000 in contributions last month.

Sontag is the founder of Spring Bay Companies, a Ponte Vedra Beach private equity firm focused on technology investments, and has a history of supporting DeSantis. POLITICO Florida reported that in 2016 Spring Bay Capital, a company owned by Sontag and affiliated with Spring Bay Companies, gave $500,000 to the Fighting for Florida Fund, a super PAC backing DeSantis.

DeSantis is believed to be mulling a 2018 gubernatorial bid. If he runs, he’ll need a massive war chest. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam has $10 million in the bank. Sen. Jack Latvala and House Speaker Richard Corcoran are also considering a run.

Did Republican state and national leaders mail in their Pulse appearances?

In one of the more biting moments in the 1997 film “Good Will Hunting,” mathematician Gerald Lambeau, played by Stellan Skarsgård, apologizes to his old friend, psychologist Sean Maguire, played by Robin Williams, for having missed the funeral of Sean’s wife.

“I got your card,” Sean snapped, not at all disguising his anger.

Did we just see state and national Republicans mail in [or tweet in] their condolences and best wishes for Orlando’s one-year observation of the Pulse mass-murder that killed 49 and tore out the heart of a community?

Orlando is increasingly becoming a Democratic stronghold, but plenty of Republicans still thrive in Central Florida, and plenty get elected, and the area is worth fighting for. The local GOP contingent was well represented, by Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, several county and city commissioners, several state lawmakers and others. But, except for Democrats U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, and U.S. Reps. Stephanie Murphy, Val Demings and Darren Soto, who all spoke at one event or another event, none of the state and national political leaders made much of an appearance at Orlando’s Pulse activities.

There’s a real chance state and national Republican leaders weren’t asked to come, discouraged to come, or just knew that their appearances would be, at best, awkward. There has been widespread criticism that too many of them just never fully acknowledged the pain in Orlando was both about a terrorist attack and about the biggest hate crime against gays in American history.

And Monday’s commemorations all were intimate, mostly involving only those public figures who had been there with Orlando throughout.

Some Republicans tried to do something.

Gov. Rick Scott was the lone state or national leader who came to Orlando, but it was a stealth appearance, not announced in advance, and apparently without any remarks. He stopped for a private breakfast at the Orlando Police Department headquarters, and then for an unannounced brief visit to the Pulse nightclub Monday morning, essentially a photo-op. He did not attend any of the major events, and he did not let anyone know he was stopping by Pulse, not even Pulse owner Barbara Poma.

Marco Rubio took to the floor of the Senate Monday evening and made an emotional Pulse speech, full of very personal observations, and acknowledgment that, whatever else the tragedy was, it also was an attack on Orlando’s gay community.

“Obviously the attack was personal for the 49 families with stories of their own and of course the countless others who were injured. I know it was personal to the LGBT community in Central Florida,” Rubio said on the Senate floor. “As I said Pulse was a well-known cornerstone of the community, particularly for younger people. And as I said earlier This was deeply personal for Floridians and the people of central Florida, and I’ll get to that in a moment because I’m extraordinarily proud of that community.”

And he and Nelson introduced a resolution Monday in the Senate to commemorate Pulse.

Murphy, Demings, and Soto also introduced a Pulse remembrance resolution in the House of Representatives, and also spoke on the floor Monday. And all three found time to speak in Orlando, to Orlandoans, first.

Unlike Nelson, Murphy, Soto or Demings, Rubio was nowhere to be seen in Orlando during the observations that began at 1 a.m. and ended at midnight Monday.

Others in state and national GOP mailed or tweeted it in, and continued to miss the point that Orlando sees the tragedy both as a terrorist attack AND a hate crime against gays.

President Donald Trump did not come, nor did he send any White House or Cabinet delegates or surrogates to Orlando. He did not make any proclamations, though he did tweet, including a picture montage of the 49 murder victims.

“We will NEVER FORGET the victims who lost their lives one year ago today in the horrific #PulseNightClub shooting. #OrlandoUnitedDay.” Trump announced on Twitter Monday.

Rubio also sent his tweets — three of them.

“One year later, we honor 49 of our fellow Americans of @pulseorlando and continue to pray for their families.” Rubio tweeted, and “The #PulseNightClub tragedy was rooted in a hateful ideology that has no place in our world. #OrlandoStrong,” and The #PulseShooting was an attack on the LGBT community, Florida, America, and our very way of life. #OrlandoUnitedDay”

U.S. Reps. Ron DeSantis, Bill Posey and Daniel Webster, who each have districts that are not quite Orlando but close enough to include Orlando suburbs and many who were deeply affected by Pulse, did not make any Orlando appearances.

DeSantis put out a statement, and Webster mentioned Pulse in a Facebook post. Both focused on terrorism, a true angle to the tragedy, but one that continues to divide along partisan lines, as neither made any mention of the attack being on Orlando gays.

“The massacre at the Pulse nightclub represented the face of evil in the modern world. Fueled by a putrid ideology, the terrorist indiscriminately killed dozens of innocent people, forever devastating their families and loved ones. Orlando rallied in response to the attack in a remarkable fashion. It is incumbent on our society to root out radical Islamic terrorism from within our midst,” DeSantis wrote.

“Today, we remember the 49 innocent lives tragically lost due to a horrific act of terror in Orlando one year ago. Our prayers continue to be with the surviving victims, loved ones and all those affected,” Webster wrote on Facebook.

Scott also signed a proclamation on Friday, declaring Monday as Pulse Remembrance Day, surprising some in Orlando with his clear acknowledgment — lacking in some previous statements — that Orlando’s LGBTQ community had suffered mightily and needed acceptance.

Other Republicans followed the same pattern of DeSantis and Webster, ignoring the LGBTQ hate crime angle.

Attorney General Pam Bondi tweeted, but did not come to Orlando.

“Today we honor those lost in the #Pulse attack & the citizens & first responders who ran toward danger to save lives.” Bondi tweeted.

Agricultural Commissioner and gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam both put out a statement, and tweeted, but did not come to Orlando.

“On the anniversary of the Pulse attack, we pause to remember the 49 victims who were suddenly and senselessly taken, their loved ones who continue to mourn and heal, and the first responders who put themselves in harm’s way for their fellow Floridians without hesitation,” Putnam wrote. “We also remember how Orlando, the Central Florida community and the entire state came together amidst such tragedy. People stood in lines for hours to donate blood, generously gave their time and money to total strangers and worked together to meet the needs of all those impacted. This anniversary is not just a solemn milestone to remember those we tragically lost, but it’s also a reminder of the strength, courage and compassion of the people of Florida.

“My prayers to all family, friends & loved ones of the 49 victims who were suddenly and senselessly taken one year ago today,” Putnam tweeted. And then, “And to the 1st responders in Orlando who put their own lives in danger to help others in need, TY for your strength, courage & compassion.”

Baxter Troutman files to run for Agriculture Commissioner

Baxter Troutman has made it official.

The Winter Haven Republican filed to run for Agriculture Commissioner on Monday, joining an already crowded field vying to replace Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in 2018. Troutman filed the necessary paperwork Monday, and opened his campaign account with a personal contribution of $2.5 million, according to his campaign.

“For two decades, I’ve been building a business and continuing my work in Florida agriculture. Real experience and success in the private sector is what we need more than ever,” said Troutman in a statement. “Working side by side with folks who send their hard earned money to Tallahassee, I know why it is so important to keep taxes low, balance our budgets and grow Florida’s economy.”

Troutman is the grandson of late citrus baron and one-time gubernatorial candidate Ben Hill Griffin Jr.

The 50-year-old served in the Florida House 2002 to 2010. His disagreements with his cousin, former state Sen. J.D. Alexander, both in the Legislature and in the family’s agri-businesses are legendary, but both men have said they have since settled their differences.

Troutman, who proposed to his wife Rebecca on the floor of the House while it was in session, campaigned for her last year in her unsuccessful run for Polk County School Board. She will serve as the co-chair of his campaign, and Troutman said he looks forward to “spending the months ahead traveling the state to talk with Floridians about our future.”

“Every corner of this great state feels the practical and economic impact of agriculture, and we simply cannot afford someone in this important leadership position who doesn’t understand how to make it work for taxpayers,” he said. “For these reasons, I have spent the past few weeks talking to friends, neighbors and my family. The strong encouragement to move forward with this campaign has been humbling. Winning the faith and support of so many is truly a blessing.”

Republicans Denise Grimsley, Matt Caldwell, and Paul Paulson have already filed to run for the seat.

Jack Latvala raises more than $47K in May

Sen. Jack Latvala raised more than $47,800 in about 20 days in May.

Florida Leadership Committee, the Clearwater Republican’s political committee, raised at least $47,891 between May 10 and May 31, according to contribution data posted to the committee’s website.

The Division of Elections’ deadline for reporting May numbers is Monday. Florida Leadership Committee hadn’t posted its information with the state as of Monday morning, but has posted contribution data on its website.

Top contributors during the three-weeks included AT&T Services, Third Amendment Media Production, and real estate executive Edward Pantzer.

Latvala, the chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, is believed to be mulling a 2018 gubernatorial bid. In May, Latvala said he planned to announce his decision in August.

He appears to be boosting his coffers ahead of an eventual decision. State records show the political committee has raised more than $1.4 million between January and April of this year. It ended April with more than $3.1 million cash on hand.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam already launched his 2018 gubernatorial campaign. His political committee, Florida Grown, raised more than $1.01 million in May, according to contribution data posted to the political committee’s website.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran is also believed to be considering a 2018 gubernatorial bid. His new political committee, Watchdog PAC, did not report raising any money in May.

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