There are actually three big-name candidates taking center stage in Florida’s Republican primary for governor: Adam Putnam and Ron DeSantis — and President Trump.
Trump gave DeSantis, a lawmaker in the U.S. House since 2012, his golden endorsement in December. Since then, this campaign has been about nothing but Trump — who will support him to the ends of the Earth; who can bellow the loudest “Make America Great Again” to enthusiastic crowds.
Unfortunately, policy debates and candidates’ agendas for the state have been hijacked by the occupant of the Oval Office.
Despite Agricultural Commissioner Putnam’s career-long quest for the Governor’s Mansion and that he is well-versed in the issues that challenge Florida most, his missteps while in office, his fealty to the NRA and an opponent tapped by a president who is wildly popular in parts of the state, have stalled his momentum.
DeSantis is a graduate of Yale University and holds a law degree from Harvard. He was a naval officer in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps and served in Iraq and Guantanamo.
As seen in other races around the country, Trump’s public backing doesn’t always translate into a win for the candidate so favored. But, so far, DeSantis appears to hold the Florida Republicans who delivered this state to the president in the 2016 in the palm of his hand — though he has presented few ideas as to how he will address the state’s most pressing issues: education, healthcare, immigration, transportation, jobs. Supporting the border wall won’t be enough. It’s telling, however, that he has received ratings of 100 percent from National Right to Life Committee and the American Conservative Union, among others.
Putnam is steeped in Florida: born in Bartow into a farming family, a University of Florida grad, a Central Florida representative in the U.S. House for 10 years. He’s been commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services since 2011.
He’s been dogged, however, by the political left and the right for his stances on the issues. Publix Supermarkets felt the wrath of gun-reform customers when it was disclosed that the company was donating to his campaign. Putnam had called himself a “proud #NRASellout in 2017, though, after the horror of the Parkland massacre in February, he said he would reconsider how he phrased his support for gun rights and the NRA. He stands behind Trump’s inflammatory anti-immigrant comments and while in Congress, voted to weaken the Voting Rights Act, which protects minorities’ access to the polls. It was disclosed in June that the Department of Agriculture failed to conduct national background checks on tens of thousands of applicants seeking concealed-weapons permits.
And even DeSantis supports Everglades restoration, earning the endorsement of the Everglades Trust. He wants to eliminate sugar-industry subsidies and helped push through funding for the desperately needed reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee. Meanwhile, Putnam has taken more than $800,000 in contributions, being blamed for toxic algae blooms.
Though he has touted his Trump connections in cheeky TV ads and in front of friendly crowds, DeSantis will have to be much more forthright about who he is and where he stands on the issues if he is to have any hope of winning in this purple state.
Trump’s endorsement of DeSantis clearly has resonated with Republican voters. They can vote with confidence that he will represent their interests. Should he make it to the general election, he will have to fill in his blanks — Floridians across the political spectrum will demand it — and, as with any candidate, determine how well he will represent Florida’s interests. The Miami Herald recommends RON DeSANTIS in the Republican primary for governor.