Putnam enters Florida governor’s race; Graham likely to join Tuesday

5:00 p.m Monday, May 1, 2017 Politics
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam talks about fraud protection during a consumer fair at the Palm Beach County Agricultural Extension Service in West Palm Beach on September 22, 2015. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam’s long-anticipated campaign for governor became official when he filed paperwork Monday afternoon in Tallahassee to open a 2018 campaign.

Republican Putnam will likely be joined on the campaign trail by Democrat Gwen Graham, who has scheduled a “major announcement” for Tuesday morning in Miami Lakes. Graham is a former congresswoman whose father, Bob Graham, was a Democratic senator and governor.

Putnam, a former U.S. House member who was twice elected agriculture commissioner, faces term limits in his current job. The governor’s mansion will be open because Republican Gov. Rick Scott faces term limits and is expected to run for the seat of Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in 2018.

Said Putnam: “I consider myself one of the luckiest people in the world because I get to call Florida home. It’s our responsibility as Floridians to keep our economy at work, to increase access to high quality education, to fiercely protect our personal freedoms, to keep our state safe, and to welcome our veterans home with open arms.”

Putnam plans to “share my vision for Florida’s future” next week in his hometown of Bartow in Polk County.

Announcing so far for Putnam’s agriculture commissioner seat are two Republican state representatives, Denise Grimsley of Sebring and Matt Caldwell of North Fort Myers.

While Putnam’s gubernatorial campaign officially launched Monday, his Florida Grown political committee had more than $8 million in the bank at the beginning of April.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land-o’-Lakes, could join Putnam in seeking the GOP nomination.

Graham is expected to enter a Democratic race that already includes Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Orlando-area businessman Chris King. Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and trial lawyer John Morgan are also potential Democratic candidates for governor.

Although Florida is a perennial swing state in presidential elections, Republicans have won the last five governor’s races. The last Democrat to win a gubernatorial election was the late Lawton Chiles in 1994.