Ag Commissioner Adam Putnam stops in Clearwater for a take-no-chances campaign push

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Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam is touring the state on a bus to ensure he is re-elected. That’s despite the fact that his opponent, Thaddeus Hamilton, has raised pennies on the dollar compared to Putnam and is polling far behind.

“Anyone running under the major party label in Florida is going to get 45% of the vote,” Putnam said. “You can’t take any race lightly and we don’t.”

Putnam stopped with a bus full of some of Pinellas County’s most prominent Republicans at Sunset Grille in Clearwater. The bunch gathered to hob nob with constituents, eat gold medal-winning Key Lime Pie, and talk about why voters need to help them make sure Democrats get pummeled next week.

Putnam spoke little of his own accomplishments in the crowded dining room filled with conservative voters, local GOP lawmakers, as well as Congressman David Jolly and Pinellas County Commission candidate Ed Hooper. Instead he focused on overall conservative issues.

“It scares me to death to think of what John Morgan’s trying to do to our community,” Putnam said referring to the medical marijuana issue on the ballot. Conservatives in office widely reject Amendment 2.

Putnam, who is rumored to have his eye on a 2018 bid for the governor’s mansion, also turned his attention to the race between current Governor Rick Scott and former Governor Charlie Crist. Scott’s campaign has been pushing heavily the jobs issue as the state continues to bound back from the recession. Scott repeatedly accuses Crist of losing more than 80,000 jobs during his administration from 2006-2010. Crist fires back that he can’t be blamed for a recession that hit everywhere, not just Florida.

“Regardless of what caused the global economic meltdown, you can measure how individual states responded to that meltdown and Florida stands alone in going from worst to first under this governor, this cabinet and this legislature. That’s a behavior that’s worth rewarding,” Putnam said.

Both Putnam and Chief Financial Atwater have raised millions in their re-election campaigns – Atwater $2.5 million and Putnam $3 million – despite being challenged by seemingly unthreatening opponents. Though it may smack of partisanship, their efforts to campaign as though their races are close could do them some good in the long run.

“We’ve been able to accomplish many of the signature goals in the first time because of that. The Governor and the cabinet and the legislature share our passion of rprotecting private property rights, for creating jobs, for promoting Florida’s $100 million agriculture industry and I think we need to keep that team on the field,” Putam said.

While Putnam and Atwater are expected to sail to an easy victory next week, the race is still close between Scott and Crist.

“This is the place where ex-gubernatorial candidates go to meet their political demise. We’re going to need for you to do that again in a week,” Putnam said looking at Congressman Jolly who defeated Scott’s 2010 challenger Alex Sink for the CD 13 seat.

“We can send Charlie Crist in his backyard, home a loser and that’s what we should all do,” Sprowls added after being introduced by Putnam.

Both Sprowls and Chris Latvala are facing close races as they challenge two incumbents. Unseating a sitting member of the House or Senate is always a tough task, regardless of party backing.

“You have to reach out to your email lists, to your neighbors … you’ve got to reach out to your sphere of influence and let them know how important it is to vote and how important it is to vote for the men and women in this room who desperately need their support,” Putnam urged.

Republicans need just five seats in the legislature to have a super-majority. Sprowls and Latvala would close that gap to three.

“Each one of us knows somebody in our neighborhood who might not ordinarily turnout in an off-year election like this. We can win this election,” Sprowls said.

Putnam has been jumping around the Tampa Bay area for a few days now. Yesterday he hit a bakery and a barber shop in Tampa. Over the weekend he joined outgoing House Speaker Will Weatherford in Wesley Chapel for a 5k cancer benefit.

More Republicans have voted early so far this election than Democrats, but the latest early vote figures so Democrats surging at the polls.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.