Friday, June 22, 2018
Politics

Bousquet: A glimpse at the future of Florida politics — Adam Putnam

The future of Florida politics was on display in Tampa over the weekend, and it was fun to watch.

Republicans were enjoying breakfast at Saturday's quarterly meeting of the state party leadership at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay. Despite the constant clanging of dishware and the rushing around of servers, nobody had trouble hearing the words of Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

The fifth-generation Floridian from Bartow's citrus and cattle belt has a real feel for his state that can't be memorized as a talking point.

First, he was funny.

Upon discovering that the hotel parking garage was off-limits to extended cab trucks, he said, "I'm thinking, surely they don't mean me," as his truck's antenna scraped the garage roof.

"They're discriminating against two-thirds of the vehicles in Polk County," Putnam said.

He was partisan. The redheaded Putnam knows how to dish red meat, garnishing his one-liners with references to Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, Charlie Crist, John Morgan and, of course, President Barack Obama.

He was blunt.

Putnam reminded everyone how depressed Republicans felt after Obama carried the state a second time in 2012.

"I was shocked," Putnam said. "And folks, we can't let that happen this cycle. We've got to keep Rick Scott in the Governor's Mansion."

He confronted a seeming lack of enthusiasm about Scott by conjuring up images of Crist helping Hillary Clinton become the next president.

Ridiculing Crist's "cotton candy populism," Putnam said, "The helium in his inaugural balloons lasts longer than his attention span." The line brought a rousing ovation.

Putnam goes for the jugular, but with his boyish looks, he doesn't come off as mean.

"Raise your hand if you've attended a Lincoln Day dinner when Charlie Crist has claimed to be either a Ronald Reagan, Connie Mack or Jeb Bush Republican," Putnam said.

More laughter and applause.

Putnam's a big Republican asset because he can tell the Rick Scott story better than Scott can, as he cited the drop in the state's violent crime rate, a surge in tourism numbers and a strong credit rating.

"Florida, for many people, is a reward, a prize for a life well-lived somewhere else," he said, adding that it also has to be much more than that, too.

Putnam, 39, is in a good political place right now. He seems content to wait his turn to run for governor in 2018, which means he has the benefit of spending the next four years building a statewide political organization in case anyone else has notions of seeking the GOP nomination.

In all likelihood, the governorship in 2018 will either be open — because a term-limited Scott will be leaving office — or occupied by Crist. The latter would be a nightmare scenario for many Republicans, and they would be all the more determined to get a Republican back into the mansion.

As Putnam left the stage, people rushed up to grab his hand.

"Great speech!" shouted Pam Hinds, a Pinellas County Republican activist. "I loved the helium!"

Contact Steve Bousquet at [email protected] or (850) 224-7263.

Comments
Carlton: Could anything be more partisan than going nonpartisan?

Carlton: Could anything be more partisan than going nonpartisan?

So Hillsborough County commissioners — most of them, anyway — want voters to consider dropping political parties from certain elections, making those races nonpartisan instead.This would mean when you go to vote in those elections, you won’t know if ...
Published: 06/22/18
Hotel renovator approved by council to restore New Port Richey’s Hacienda Hotel

Hotel renovator approved by council to restore New Port Richey’s Hacienda Hotel

NEW PORT RICHEY — A seasoned historic hotel renovator and operator is going to take a crack at getting New Port Richey’s city-owned Hacienda Hotel back into action. New Port Richey City Council members, acting as the Community Redevelopment Agency, u...
Published: 06/20/18
Pope Francis criticizes Trump’s family-separation policy on migrants, says ‘populism is not the solution’

Pope Francis criticizes Trump’s family-separation policy on migrants, says ‘populism is not the solution’

VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis stepped into a growing controversy over President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, criticizing the separation of migrant families at the U.S.-Mexican border and saying that "populism" and "creating psychosis" are not t...
Published: 06/20/18
Raburn out in State House 57 race. Now who’s in?

Raburn out in State House 57 race. Now who’s in?

Well, that didn’t last long.U.S. Army veteran Michael Sean McCoy filed to run as the Republican candidate in the State House, District 57 race just hours after incumbent State Rep. Jake Raburn, R-Lithia, announced he was stepping down.McCoy, who live...
Published: 06/19/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Romano: A Tampa Bay ‘superstar’ caught in the crosshairs of Trump’s border policy

Romano: A Tampa Bay ‘superstar’ caught in the crosshairs of Trump’s border policy

At this moment, she is Tampa Bay’s most influential export. A smart, accomplished and powerful attorney making life-altering decisions on an international stage.But what of tomorrow? And the day after?When the story of President Donald Trump’s border...
Published: 06/19/18
‘Don’t leave me, Mom’: Detainee tells of separation from son

‘Don’t leave me, Mom’: Detainee tells of separation from son

SEATTLE — The call came at mealtime — an anonymous threat demanding $5,000 or her son’s life. So Blanca Orantes-Lopez, her 8-year-old boy and his father packed up and left the Pacific surfing town of Puerto La Libertad in El Salvador and headed for t...
Published: 06/19/18
Trump defiant as border crisis escalates, prepares to lobby House GOP on immigration bills

Trump defiant as border crisis escalates, prepares to lobby House GOP on immigration bills

WASHINGTON - As he prepared to visit Capitol Hill, President Donald Trump on Tuesday continued to insist that Congress produce comprehensive immigration legislation, while anxious Republicans explored a narrower fix to the administration policy of se...
Published: 06/19/18
Trump, GOP to huddle as outrage builds over border policy

Trump, GOP to huddle as outrage builds over border policy

WASHINGTON (AP) — Calls are mounting on Capitol Hill for the Trump administration to end the separation of families at the southern border ahead of a visit from President Donald Trump to discuss legislation.Trump’s meeting late Tuesday afternoon with...
Published: 06/19/18
Another detention center for immigrant children planned for Houston

Another detention center for immigrant children planned for Houston

Another facility intended for detaining undocumented children is reportedly in the works for Houston as the number of children separated from their parents at the border continues to swell.Southwest Key Programs, the same contractor that operates the...
Published: 06/19/18
Muralist working with huge St. Pete ‘canvas’ to create neighborhood eye-grabber

Muralist working with huge St. Pete ‘canvas’ to create neighborhood eye-grabber

ST. PETERSBURG — They appear to rise out of nowhere — two enormous, reclaimed-water tanks with an artist’s white clouds scudding across a blue background.A closer view reveals silhouettes of a lone coyote howling at the sky, mangrove islands, oak, cy...
Published: 06/19/18