By John Celock
Florida’s agriculture commissioner officially kicked off his 2018 gubernatorial bid Wednesday, a move anticipated for years.
Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam (R), the presumed frontrunner for the Republican nomination, officially entered the race during a rally in his hometown of Bartow. Putnam, 42, at one time the youngest member of Congress, painted a picture of Florida as a site of innovation under his leadership. Gov. Rick Scott (R) is term-limited.
“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,” Putnam said. “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, who has been in Florida politics for two decades, has been expected to kickoff a run for governor since he left Congress in 2010 to run for agriculture commissioner. Putnam was first elected the state House of Representatives in 1996 at the age of 22, at the time the youngest person ever elected to the state House. Putnam served four years in the state House, including a two year stint as House Agriculture Committee chairman.
Putnam was elected to Congress in 2000, serving in Washington for 10 years. While in Congress, Putnam served in the House Republican leadership as policy committee chairman and GOP conference chairman. During his tenure, Putnam was a member of the House Financial Services Committee.
Putnam left Congress in 2010 to gain a statewide foothold in Florida with his election to the first of two terms as agriculture commissioner, a post he is term-limited from in 2018. Putnam’s position as commissioner has given him a seat on the Florida cabinet, a body of statewide elected officials that oversee various state programs and agencies.
Putnam has been positioning himself as the GOP frontrunner for the 2018 gubernatorial nomination for years. Other potential Republican gubernatorial candidates – including Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, Attorney General Pam Bondi and outgoing Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater – have decided not to challenger Putnam for the nomination.
On the Democratic side, a primary is shaping up between former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and likely candidates Miami Beach Mayor Phillip Levine and attorney John Morgan.
Putnam could be the nation’s youngest governor if elected. New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R), who is several months younger than Putnam and currently holds the title, is expected to face a competitive race for reelection next year.
Former U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello (D), a gubernatorial candidate in Virginia, is older than Sununu but younger than Putnam. Gillum, Connecticut Democratic gubernatorial candidate Dan Drew, Iowa Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nate Moulton, and Oklahoma Democratic gubernatorial candidate Scott Inman are all younger than Putnam. Potential New York Republican gubernatorial candidate Marc Molinaro and potential Maine Republican gubernatorial candidate Garrett Mason are both younger than Putnam.