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Putnam Stumps in Pensacola

Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam brought his run for governor to Pensacola on Friday.

Putnam met with supporters at a packed Scenic 90 Cafe,  repeating his “Florida First” mantra and reminding everyone of the differences between him and his challenger for the Republican nomination, Cong. Ron DeSantis – who’s a frequent guest on Fox News Channel.

“This is a race for the governor of Florida; and the governor of Florida deals with a lot of issues that don’t get you put on [Sean] Hannity,” said Putnam. “You can’t be governor if you’re trying to dial in a campaign from a ZIP code that doesn’t even exist in our state, [or] from an out-of-state television studio. This is not a national campaign; this is a Florida campaign.”

One of Putnam’s main issues is for Florida to become even more pro-business than it already is; a step further to cement its reputation as the nation’s “pro-small business” state.

“Small real estate agencies, small homebuilding, a small subcontractor; a small insurance office on Main Street,” Putnam said. “A small citrus grower in Bartow; a family business,” referring to his farm. “If you take care of small businesses, big business is going to be fine. Because I’ve never met a big business that was born big.”

There has to be a culture in Florida that is pro-small business, he says, that involves keeping taxes low and regulations light. 

If business is number one on Putnam’s agenda, then education is number 1-A. Control of public schools, he contends, should have the parents and the local school boards in the driver’s seat -- and not Washington or Tallahassee.

Credit Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media
A sizable crowd squeezes into Scenic 90 Cafe to hear Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam.

“Think about this,” Putnam told the crowd. “Hillsborough County – Tampa – 8th largest school district in America. Hamilton County has two schools in the whole county. Now, do you think that a cookie-cutter approach to education is as good for the kids in Jasper as it is for the kids in Hillsborough? Of course not.”

If elected, Putnam says he would reverse a decision by who he calls “academic snobs” from about a generation ago, that removed workforce training from public schools.

“They said ‘We don’t need that; we’re too good for that, we’re too advanced for that,’” said Putnam. “I will put back into our middle schools and high schools vocational and career and technical training. And we’re going to stop treating our state colleges – what we used to call our community colleges – like a red-headed stepchild.”

Citing it as a “quality of life” issue, Putnam’s also calling for the state to keep up with needed changes in transportation and water infrastructure which Putnam calls key -- especially the latter.

“Water is our golden goose,” said Putnam. “I say that as a farmer; you know it from a tourism standpoint, you know it from a growth standpoint. It’s what makes Florida, Florida. And we’ve got to protect those resources.”

In winding up his speech, Ag Commissioner Adam Putnam reminded the gathering that the time to vote in the primary is fast approaching.

“August 28th is the end of voting, not the beginning,” implored Putnam. “Put a sign in your yard; tell all of your friends on social media to vote for me. But more importantly, look people in the eye. What you say to them is far more powerful than any TV commercial, or any mail piece that’s ever been designed.”

According to a recent average of polls calculated by Real Clear Politics, Adam Putnam trails Ron DeSantis 39-28 percent in the GOP primary race. In head-to-head matchups with Democratic candidates, Putnam leads Gwen Graham by one percentage point, 40-39, and leads Philip Levine by five points, 43-38 percent.

Dave came to WUWF in September, 2002, after 14 years as News Director at the Alabama Radio Network in Montgomery, Mobile and Birmingham and a total of 27 years in commercial radio. He's also served as Alabama Bureau Chief for United Press International, and a stringer for the Birmingham Post-Herald.