POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Florida Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putnam became the first Republican candidate to enter the race for governor on Thursday.
News Channel 8’s Paul Mueller caught up with Putnam as he kicked off his campaign, sharing his strategy to keep Republican control of the governor’s mansion.
Paul: You’ve held elected office since you were 22 years old, is that more than 20 years now, almost 20 years now? Some would say that has all the makings of a career politician, to which you would say.
Putnam: Well I was thrilled to kick off this campaign yesterday with two thousand people who gathered up in the big City of Bartow. People who had traveled from all over the state because they believe I am the most prepared candidate to be governor of the State of Florida. Whether it’s managing a crisis like hurricanes and wildfires, managing a large organization, Floridians want someone who has conservative business experience but can also solve problems.
Paul: You have the experience there’s no doubt about that. But would you consider yourself a career politician?
Putnam: I’m a farmer. I’m a citrus and cattleman. And I believe that’s the type of experience that has always infused my public service. I think that we are shaped by who we are and where we come from. And my roots are in agriculture, my roots are in land, my roots are in private property rights.
Paul: You talk about shaping who you are, your conservative Christian values. Do you believe that is going to resonate with the entire state…possibly not just rural areas?
Putnam: I believe Florida wants someone who knows the whole state, who knows the diversity of our state, who knows the nuance of our state. You can’t treat Hialeah and Hallandale the same way. You can’t treat the Pahokee and Pensacola the same way. We need a governor who knows all of our cities and counties, who’s traveled the state and knows our problems and knows how to solve our problems and knows how to treat people along the way.
Paul: The amendment to the Constitution on marijuana. The people have spoken. The lawmakers can’t get their act together. This is a never-ending saga. What would you do if elected governor?
Putnam: It’s frustrating that the legislature finished without solving that problem. The voters overwhelmingly adopted a medical marijuana amendment. It’s important it be faithfully implemented. It’s important I believe to be narrowly implemented so that it doesn’t turn into a recreational piece, that we don’t turn Florida into California or Colorado. And I hope the legislature will do their work. It’s an appropriate issue for the elected officials to take on, not the bureaucrats.
Paul: Healthcare. Very important here to Floridians. One of the big sticking points in Washington is pre-existing conditions which would allow the states to opt out. What would you do?
Putnam: Here’s the frustrating thing about healthcare in Florida today and frankly around the country. More than half of the counties only have one option. Obamacare has driven competition out of it. It has stepped between patients and their doctor, and it has decimated choices in people’s health care decisions. And so for Florida, where health care is over one-third of the state budget, so how we fund our state budget is largely, unfortunately, dictated by the games that are being played in Washington. It’s important that the solution that comes out of there guarantees that our patients, our Floridians will have access to the doctor of their choice and to a range of insurance options instead of just getting stuck with the last loaf of bread on the shelf like the Soviet Union.
Paul: President Trump won Florida by one percent, we’re talking about a purple state here. You’re not a big fan, you were not a big fan of the candidate, of candidate Trump. So my question is now that he is President will that change the way you run for governor in any way?
Putnam: Well I did support President Trump and what’s important in this race is where Floridians are. Floridians want someone who knows our state and knows how to solve problems. Floridians want Florida to be the launchpad for the American dream and I believe as we travel the state in preparation for the 2018 campaign it is going to be a matter of what’s the right decision at this moment for the future of the state of Florida.
Paul: As you know there hasn’t been a Democrat in the state house since 1999. We’re talking about 18 years. Some people, some people want a change so how would you go ahead and attract those non-Republican voters?
Putnam: Well, you know as a product of agriculture and the land, as a small town guy who grew up in Bartow. My kids are in public school. I am the product of public schools. The issues that people are focused on are on solving problems. There’s no Republican or Democratic way to improve our schools, to protect our second amendment rights, to create a free enterprise system that makes Florida the launchpad for the American dream that makes people move here to start their business, to launch their business, to raise their families, to live in a state that’s safe because we support our law enforcement. Those are issues that transcend the types of horse race politics that people associate with Washington. Floridians want a problem solver.
Paul: Florida First, has Florida not always been first? A campaign slogan that is supposed to attract people to you? What is it?
Putnam: Florida first means that Florida is the choice of people to launch their piece of the American Dream. Florida first means that we are going to be the best state to create jobs, to start your business, to innovate, to take advantage of new technologies. Florida first means we’re going to put our kids first, we’re going to invest in great education so they can compete with the world and win.
Paul: I believe your dad said when you were twelve, you would be running for governor. Am I correct in saying that?
Putnam: My father would never say that. My father is still trying to get over the shock and disappointment of someone who is in politics.
Paul: Because he wanted you to follow in his footsteps?
Putnam: Well I did! And I continue along with my brother and sister continue to be in the citrus and cattle business. But you know he’s a guy that is not a comfortable with the craziness of the political world.
Paul: The most important issue on the minds of Floridians, you think, is what?
Putnam: I think the most important thing on the minds of Floridians is not letting Florida go down the way of the New Yorks and the Californias and the Illinois where you have a bloated bureaucracy, high taxes and big government. People come to Florida and people stay in Florida because it is a state where you can find your piece of the American dream. People know that Florida is a low-tax state, a low-regulatory state. A state where you can have unfettered freedom to be part of the great American Exceptionalism…it’s the Florida exceptionalism.
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