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Democrat Scott Maddox to challenge Adam Putnam for Florida agriculture commissioner job

Much of Florida's political world has viewed U.S. Rep. Adam Putnam, R-Lakeland, as a virtual shoo-in to be the next commissioner of agriculture and consumer services. But now it looks like Democrats could wind up with a hard-charging contender to take on Putnam: former Tallahassee mayor and state Democratic chairman Scott Maddox.

Promising to be a strong advocate for Florida farmers and consumers, Maddox announced his candidacy for the Cabinet post and immediately made clear he intends to hang Putnam's former leadership role in the U.S. House GOP around his neck. "Tom DeLay's protege," Maddox called him.

Putnam, who is running against state Sen. Carey Baker for the Republican nomination, already has raised about $750,000, but Maddox is likely to be a strong fundraiser himself, thanks to networks built through the state party and as leader of the Florida League of Cities. He understands statewide campaigns, having narrowly lost a Democratic primary for attorney general in 2002 and making a brief run for governor in 2005.

Maddox must get through a Democratic primary that includes former state Rep. Rick Minton and Audubon of Florida lobbyist Eric Draper, who said he raised $36,000 in his first month of fundraising, including donations from former gubernatorial candidates Buddy MacKay and Jim Davis.

Maddox acknowledged he is sure to take hits for the state party under his leadership failing to pay payroll and Social Security taxes in 2003, though the problem was attributed to an accountant's mistake.

"I'll take responsibility for that," Maddox said. "And Adam Putnam should take responsibility for being on the finance committee of the Republican Congress and leading us into the worst recession since the Great Depression."

What CFO race?

Democrats have multiple candidates for agriculture commissioner and attorney general, but so far a credible candidate for chief financial officer eludes them. Quietly, many Democrats see Republican Senate President Jeff Atwater as tough to beat.

Miami businesswoman Annette Taddeo had been talking about running, but this week she announced she would take a pass.

There's still chatter about Miami Mayor Manny Diaz running.

Phone pals

In the weeks before announcing she was stepping down as Alaska governor, phone records obtained by ABC News show Sarah Palin chatted with Dick Cheney, Rudy Giuliani and another fellow who can relate to wanting to leave behind the Governor's Mansion: Charlie Crist.

"It was a courtesy call. They know each other, both being governors," Crist spokeswoman Erin Isaac told ABC.

Rubio's debt

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio often decries the growing debt and deficit facing America, and he's a guy who understands debt, according to newly filed disclosure forms. Rubio, 38, a father of four, reports a net worth of $8,351 and is more than $900,000 in debt.

He has two homes, one in Miami and one in Tallahassee. In 2008 he received $300,000 in salary from the law firm Broad & Cassel, $69,000 as a teacher at Florida International University and $45,000 as speaker. He still owes $115,000 in student loans.

Rubio also earned income in 2008 from Rubio Consulting, which he describes as a business and media consulting firm. The company's principal clients are Univision, a Spanish-language TV network, and Marin & Sons, a Miami consulting firm. Rubio added this to his financial disclosure form: "Marin & Sons retains Rubio Consulting to introduce their clients to potential business partners in the community. Rubio Consulting does not lobby before any governmental entity. Retainer began June 1 (2008), after last session in Florida House was concluded."

Tallahassee bureau chief Steve Bousquet contributed to this report. Adam C. Smith can be reached at asmith@sptimes.com.

Democrat Scott Maddox to challenge Adam Putnam for Florida agriculture commissioner job 07/08/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 8, 2009 10:51pm]
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