Cindy Graves has been one of the highest profile Republican activists in northeast Florida, a conservative radio host, county chairwoman, leader of the Florida Federation of Republican Women. Here is a letter she sent out Friday about President Trump's support of Ron DeSantis over Adam Putnam, followed by a rebuttal from another prominent and influential northeast Florida activist and fundraiser, Nancy McGowan:
Have we traded one swamp for another?
In 2016, I supported and worked tirelessly to elect the Republican Presidential nominee, Donald Trump. As a state grassroots leader of two decades and the 2016 chairman of the Duval Republican Party, we developed a terrific leadership team, raised money, hosted 119 Northeast Florida events, organized an army of supporters, and battled friends who were among the most influential "Never Trumpers" in Florida.
Sadly, today I am very disappointed and disillusioned in President Trump, as a Floridian. His unwelcome and uninformed meddling in our Florida gubernatorial primary is dangerous and self-serving. President Trump is certainly entitled to his endorsements in state primary elections for Congress and U.S. Senate for candidates who will support his successful federal agenda and shatter Congressional deadlock. Our governor's race requires a different set of qualifications.
The Fox News nationally televised GOP gubernatorial debate proved the lack of state focus as most subjects oddly dealt with loyalty to President Trump and federal issues that have nothing to do with the challenges facing Florida.
Florida avoided certain economic disaster in the post-Charlie Crist era thanks to the unwavering leadership of Governor Rick Scott and his cabinet, most especially from the leadership of Adam Putnam as Florida Agriculture Commissioner.
Many don't understand that the Agriculture Commissioner job in Florida is more like a Secretary of Commerce, focused on the economy. This position is charged with regulating and managing everything from our precious natural resources, tourism, and fishing to gas pumps and even our local fitness centers. Commissioner Putnam succeeded beyond any Agriculture Commissioner in Florida history, bringing the office online and into the modern era as well as championing the difficult challenges of the BP oil disaster in 2010, thus saving Florida tourism and fishing. Combined with his service to Florida on the state and national level, Adam Putnam is well-qualified to lead our state as CEO and will make an excellent challenger for any Democrat primary winner.
President Trump should understand it is not in the best interests of Floridians to elect a governor based upon a candidate's support of Donald Trump's federal legal challenges. While I admire Congressman DeSantis, his military service, his work in Washington, and his unfailing support of the President on FOX News and while I think his legal expertise would certainly qualify the Congressman to run for Florida Attorney General, I know the Governor's position requires the candidate to be a CEO – one who knows and understands Florida industry.
President Trump is busy enough with federal and international crises. Of all people, he should know that GOP gubernatorial primaries cannot be used by him to pay back favors. We drained our own swamp in Florida beginning in 2010 with an unprecedented turnaround many thought impossible. I hope Trump supporters and all GOP primary voters will make the governor's race about Florida issues and explore each candidate's qualifications.
Past President Florida Federation of Republican Women
Duval Republican State Committeewoman 2008-2016
2016 Chairman Duval Republican Party
While I respect Cindy Graves as a statewide Republican leader and in Duval County as well, I do not agree with her about the President's "meddling," in the FL gubernatorial primary.
President Trump lives in Florida, and has a right to his opinion as the most influential Floridian in state politics, as does Sean Hannity, and Mark Levin, all of whom live here and have endorsed Ron DeSantis for Governor in the primary.
I'm pretty sure President George 'W" Bush was "all in" endorsing his brother Jeb! (though he was a sitting governor.)
For too long Republican politicians and consultants have rushed to nominate those whose "turn" they it was only to be rebuffed by the voters. Look back at McCain (backed by establishment) V. Mitt Romney supported by the grassroots in 2008, the establishment prevailed with McCain and gave America 8 years of Barak Obama. The voters said never again.
Marco Rubio was supported at the grassroots for U.S. Senate V. Gov. Charlie Crist who was supported by every major donor, lobbyist and in the Tallahassee Republican leadership in FL. And this battle continues today.
Ron DeSantis was born in Jacksonville, FL and grew up in Dunedin, and was stationed at Mayport in Jacksonville.
The narrative that somehow Congressman DeSantis is in D.C. and only cares about national issues is incorrect. In fact, many critical issues such as illegal immigration and eradicating the academic disaster of Common Core (renamed the "Florida Standards" by the "Establishment Swamp" in Tallahassee) are both top issues at the national level as well as statewide for Republican primary voters.
Putting "Florida First," means putting Florida citizen's liberties and sovereignty over cheap labor for donors. It means making sure illegal aliens and convicted felons in Florida do not acquire concealed weapons permits under your watch as AG Comissioner. Putting Floridians first means K-12 students are allowed an opportunity for academic superiority in education not mediocrity. Florida students are the future of Florida and what they learn matters.
Putnam is on record fully supporting Common Core dumbing down "standards," which no longer teach rote mathematics, phonics in reading, accurate American History nor geography, or mastery of cursive handwriting. Common Core also forces students onto electronic testing for "assessments" so special interests can data mine personal, private test scores and other information. The Wall Street Journal recently noted that electronics is causing a surge in A.D.H.D. and comprehension and retention of subject matter.
First and foremost, this primary is about leadership. DeSantis is a proven, principled leader with a backbone. He will not kiss the (financial) ring of special interests like U.S. Sugar, responsible for pollution or algae blooms in the Everglades, Lake Okeechobee, Fort Myers, Sanibel, and the St. Lucie River. Boaters and fisherman are closing their small businesses and homeowners are rightly worried about their property values. DeSantis will stand with Floridians. Commissioner Putnam's biggest donors are responsible for this pollution and green slime.
The governor's race is about the future of Florida, and also represents Main Street voters in Florida V. the Republican (Grass top) Establishment and their lobbyists.
Republican Primary voters in Florida are happy with Trump's 4.1 economy, with his tax cuts, with his appointment of Justice Gorsuch and the current nomination of Judge Kavanaugh.
Voters in Florida know the President's record and that Ron DeSantis stand with him and them on the issues of American Exceptionalism and upholding the Constitution; and they don't care whether DeSantis expresses that on Fox News or any of his statewide rallies; he will fight for them and with them. And when Ron DeSantis becomes Florida's next governor, he will have the full attention and response of the President of the United States to do what is best for Florida.