Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said Tuesday that he supports term limits on local school board members, telling the Tampa Bay Times that "if term limits are good enough for the governor and the legislature, they're good enough for school boards."
For Putnam, that's a significant departure from how the Republican gubernatorial candidate has talked about term limits in the past.
In Putnam's long career in public office he has repeatedly opposed placing term limits on politicians. In fact, he previously said he voted against the constitutional amendment in Florida that established the aforementioned term limits for cabinet members and lawmakers.
He also declined to sign a term limit pledge.
"I believe term limits are implemented every two years by the voting public for the House of Representatives," then-U.S. Rep. Putnam said in a 2001 appearance on CNN unearthed by Florida Democrats. "I voted against them when they were on the referendum in the state of Florida. And so therefore, I did not take the pledge."
In 2012, Putnam lamented that the eight-year cap on serving in each legislative body has hampered the effectiveness of state government.
"The eight-year (term limit) time frame virtually guarantees the likelihood of someone spending more than one term as a committee chair is almost nil because it suggests you are ineffective," Putnam told the Times.
But now Putnam is in a tightly contested Republican primary against an opponent, Rep. Ron DeSantis, who has proposed a constitutional amendment to institute congressional term limits. That's also a top priority of the man Putnam wants to succeed, Senate candidate and Gov. Rick Scott, and of President Donald Trump.
DeSantis recently penned an op-ed in support of a constitutional amendment before voters this fall that will decide whether to cap service on county school boards at eight years.
"No elected office, whether federal or local, is ever better off when run by career politicians," DeSantis, a three-term House member from Jacksonville, wrote in a piece for the U.S. Term Limits website.
Putnam agreed when asked about the amendment by the Times, but he didn't elaborate on whether his view extended to other offices.
State Democratic Party spokesman Kevin Donohoe said Putnam's about-face is evidence that he "will say or do anything to become governor — even if it means morphing into Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump."
Putnam is in a precarious spot as a long-serving public official running at a time when the leader of the state and national party are railing against career politicians. Trump campaigned on a promise to "drain the swamp" and Scott's opening salvo in his race against Sen. Bill Nelson was a call to retire career politicians.
At a recent campaign stop in Riverview, Putnam attempted to shrug off Scott's critique as a knock specific to Nelson, first elected to office in 1972.
"Gov. Scott legitimately is pointing out that his opponent has been in public office longer than I've been alive," said Putnam, who has served Florida in some capacity since 1996.
But he added that he was "proud of my public service" and reiterated what he has said many times in the past: Voters are the ultimate arbiter of when an elected official must call it quits.
Said Putnam: "It's up to the people to decide when your service begins and ends."