The Florida Commissioner of Agriculture hit the trail for governor in May, with one of his first stops in Dover.
Once the bus drove up the driveway of the Florida Strawberry Growers Association, the crowd began chanting:
Adam! Adam! Adam!
Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam took his time entering the building off of Lewis Gallagher Road in Dover, stopping to talk to 4-H and FFA students who had signed in guests at the event.
“A lot of us in this room have been waiting for this day for years,” Rep. Jake Raburn (R-Lithia), who represents District 57 in the Florida House including Valrico and Brandon, said.
The ‘Up and Adam’ breakfast at FSGA drew dozens of supporters for Putnam Thursday, May 11.
Putnam filed papers to run for the gubernatorial seat in 2018 Monday, May 1. He was of the first Republicans to enter the race.
“Finally,” Rep. Dan Raulerson (R-Plant City), who represents District 58 in the Florida House, including Plant City, Dover and Thonotosassa, said. “Finally, Adam Putnam is running for governor.”
Prior to the FSGA breakfast, Putnam delivered his first speech as a candidate Wednesday, May 10, in his hometown of Bartow.
Putnam has served as the Florida Commissioner of Agriculture since 2011, and was re-elected in 2014.
After graduating from the University of Florida, Putnam was elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 1996, at age 22. He represented District 63, serving areas including Lutz and Lake Magdalene, until 2000. He then served in the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Florida’s 12th district of Pasco and parts of Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, until 2011.
At the FSGA breakfast, Putnam found like-minded supporters. A fifth-generation Floridian, according to his website, Putnam grew up on his family’s cattle ranch and citrus groves in Bartow.
Raulerson was tasked with introducing Putnam at the breakfast.
“How do you introduce someone that everyone already knows?” Raulerson said. “We’ve watched him grow up politically, and we’ve watched him grow in to the statesman that he is today.”
Raulerson mentioned Fresh From Florida, an initiative started by Putnam that supports Florida agriculture and its farmers, as a highlight of Putnam’s political leadership thus far.
“That’s the kind of of leadership and innovation that we need in the governor’s mansion,” Raulerson said. “I do not like career politicians. I look at Adam as a statesman. Career politicians aspire to be someone. I don’t think he’s done this out of aspiration, I think he did it out of obligation.”
Cheered on by constituents, when Putnam took the microphone he said that there was “so much more to be done.”
“Not only are we Americans, but we get to call Florida home,” Putnam said. “I think we can build a stronger, better Florida, even more than we have right now.”
As of press time, Putnam’s only declared Republican opponent is Dr. Usha Jain, a Lake Butler-based physician. Declared Democrats include Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum, former U.S. Rep Gwen Graham and Winter Park businessman Chris King.
Putnam’s action plan is outlined on his website and follows many of his conservative principles, including supporting law enforcement officers and giving parents a voice in education.
“I’ve got four kids in the public school system right now,” Putnam said. “We need to put parents in charge (of education) and give them choices.”
Improving education, he said, goes beyond the classroom.
“We need to provide job training and marketable skills for students when they graduate high school,” Putnam said. “We can build a Florida … where, when students graduate from Plant City or Bartow … they don’t have to leave town to find a job. We can reverse that flow, and become the magnet for talent. That’s what Florida can be.”
At least one Florida teacher in the audience supported him. Buddy Coleman, 45, grew up in Dover and is an ag teacher at Turkey Creek Middle School. He plans on voting for Putnam.
“I’ve traveled on the ag leadership team for ag teachers last year,” Coleman said. “He seems like he’s always tried to make a difference.”
“Our diversity is our strength,” Putnam said. “No one’s going to outwork us, no one’s going to outwork me. We can prove to the nation and to the world that Florida is the launchpad for the American Dream.”
Contact Emily Topper at email@example.com.