Adam Putnam enters the governor's race

By Rick Elmhorst, Reporter
Last Updated: Wednesday, May 10, 2017, 4:14 PM EDT

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam has made it official: He is running for governor. 

Putnam was introduced by Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd before making the official announcement in front of the historic courthouse.

"Ladies and gentlemen, the American dream is alive and well and here this morning," he said.

Making Florida a launching pad for the American dream is a theme of Putnam’s campaign. But people who have known Putnam for decades say he's dreamed of being governor since he was a teenager.

"And he's prepared himself from teenage years, to college years to professional years," Judd said of Putnam, a 42-year-old Republican.

Bay News 9 was there in 2000 when fans at the same courthouse cheered after Putnam was first elected to congress. He was only in his mid-20s at the time.

He became agriculture commissioner in 2010 and again celebrated at the courthouse.

Bartow newspaper man S.L. Frisbie has been there for it all and has literally known Putnam since he was a baby. He said Putman might not stop at the governor's mansion.

"And quite frankly, I think he has as good a shot as anybody at being president someday," Frisbie said.

Putnam was asked if he had any special words for Democratic opponents Gwen Graham or John Morgan.

"Well, it's a free country. But today is about an expression of extraordinary grass root support for my campaign for governor," he said.

Putnam will hit the campaign road Thursday in Hillsborough County.

Putnam is the first Republican to declare his candidacy for the election that's 18 months away — although Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran is considering a run and said he will decide whether to run for the Republican nomination after the 2018 Legislative session ends. Graham, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Winter Park businessman Chris King have all announced to run for the Democratic nomination.

Putnam is a married father of four. As agriculture commissioner, he has overseen everything from credit-card skimmers to wildfires to a deadly insect that's crippled Florida's citrus industry.

In terms of his positions on issues, he's squarely conservative: pro-death penalty, anti-abortion and pro-gun. He's been especially passionate about school lunch programs. During his time as agriculture commissioner, he's encouraged school districts to align their menus to local harvests.

He begins his campaign with about $7 million in the bank; his political action committee, Florida Grown, received $250,000 from Big Sugar — one of the state's most lucrative crops — alone.

"The state that put a man on the moon can develop the next generation of tools for the next giant leap for mankind," Putnam said Wednesday. "Florida can be the launch pad for the American dream."

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.