Two Enter Florida Governor’s Race

By John Celock

A Florida Democrat and Republican, viewed as frontrunners for their party nods for governor have both kicked off their campaigns for the job.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam (R), who has been viewed as a 2018 gubernatorial candidate for years, filed paperwork to enter the governor’s race on Monday, with a formal announcement planned for May 10. Former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham (D), the daughter of former Gov. Bob Graham (D), announced her campaign on her website Tuesday morning with a kickoff rally planned for later in the day in Miami.

Putnam and Graham have been viewed as frontrunners on their respective sides of the aisle to succeed term-limited Gov. Rick Scott (R). Putnam has successfully cleared the field of most of his major Republican rivals, while Graham will face a competitive primary for the Democratic nomination.

Putnam, who served 10 years in Congress prior to his 2010 election as agriculture commissioner, has been considered a likely gubernatorial candidate since he made the run for his current job. Several other potential Republican gubernatorial candidates have bowed out of the race with Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera considering a race for Congress in Miami, state Attorney General Pam Bondi considering a post in the Trump Administration and state Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater leaving politics for a job in higher education this month.

On the Democratic side, Graham joins Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in the race, while Miami Beach Mayor Phil Levine and marijuana legalization activist John Morgan are considering entering the field.

Graham, who served one term in Congress after her 2014 election, is playing up her background in education as part of her campaign, noting her service as a PTA president in her children’s schools. Graham, who did not seek reelection in 2016, also notes her work on military, veterans, environmental and agriculture issues during her service in Congress.

Graham’s father spent close to three decades as one of the most popular statewide officials in Florida, starting with his election to the governorship in 1978. Bob Graham went on to serve 18 years in the U.S. Senate following eight years in the governor’s mansion. Gwen Graham is playing up her father’s legacy noting that she has followed his example is holding workdays in various jobs during her time in Congress. The workdays were started by her father, where he’d work with residents in their day jobs to experience various jobs around the state.

If elected, the Grahams would be the second father/daughter pair of U.S. state governors and the first in the same state. Former Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D) and her father, former Ohio Gov. John Gilligan (D), were the first father and daughter to serve as governors in the nation’s history.