Because of the Superfund site that has been Jacksonville’s City Hall of late, we haven’t had occasion to visit statewide campaigns in this space.
That changes this week, with the biggest story in the race for Florida governor dropping just days before its central figure makes his way to Northeast Florida.
That story is, of course: Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services (FDA&CS) Commissioner and self-proclaimed “NRA Sellout” Adam Putnam, who’s been made to look like an incompetent on the national stage because of his office’s botched handling of one of its functions (for whatever reason): to complete gun background checks on 365 applications over the course of the year. That function falls under the FDA&CS Division of Licensing.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one—the entry-level person Team Putnam tasked with the review process forgot her system login. And it took other state agencies months to notice.
Putnam, as one might expect, deflected responsibility, calling the now-fired worker “deceitful.” But the reality is this: A state government that positions itself as a stalwart protector of public safety failed at that mission.
The Tampa Bay Times broke the story, getting ahead of the rest of the state, and the state government. When Gov. Rick Scott read the newspaper, he immediately distanced himself from any primary knowledge of what went down, as every Democrat of note in the state called for Putnam to resign from the ag commission spot and end his campaign.
Quiet (relatively) on the matter was Rep. Ron DeSantis, who is Putnam’s only real opposition for the Republican nomination.
DeSantis didn’t call for Putnam to get out of the race. But you know that in late July and early August, the narrative will be that Putnam is not only a career politician, he’s an inept career politician.
The story isn’t over. Each person who got a gun permit and shouldn’t have has a story. While Democrats have set the tone for high dudgeon in this matter, Republicans are the ones who will see this as part of their primary narrative. DeSantis’ campaign guy, Brad Herold, sees this as one of a group of scandals that can be used to dog out Putnam.
For Herold, this is just another data point in the narrative of “Amnesty Adam,” a pro-immigration congressman who was part of the House Speaker Dennis Hastert clique. Whether this material gets pushed through the official campaign (unlikely) or through third-party groups and online articles (more likely), it’s clear that despite Putnam’s claims of “knowing Florida best,” the counterargument is that he has a record full of things that can be whipped up to ignite indignation among primary voters.
This is interesting timing for Putnam, as he opens up a campaign headquarters in Jacksonville this weekend, and appears with Rick Scott at the Clay GOP’s Flag Day event.
How likely is it that activists show up and do a “die in” at Putnam’s HQ grand opening? My protest days are over (turns out I couldn’t stop the Spanish-American War), but if I were in that side of the business, I would stage an event wherever Putnam bivouacs—a Beach Boulevard strip mall, for instance—any place like-minded lemmings gather.
The script writes itself.
Recently, the gubernatorial campaign has gotten zippier, and the candidates on either side are conventionally interesting politicians.
I’ve been surprised by Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine getting traction, but he’s got a baby-shit slick TV presence, money to buy ads, and (per polls) a good draw in South Florida. He came out in favor of cannabis legalization, a smart move, since he takes an issue from Andrew Gillum and Chris King, and marginalizes Gwen Graham (who’s still playing to Blue Dogs and advocating just decriminalization, which is still a far-sight better than the civil liberties-ignorant Democratic elected officials in this godforsaken backwater).
For Dems, Putnam—should he survive this weapons permit debacle—is probably the scarier of the two Republicans. He’s a great retail politician. Maybe too great; he was in such a rush to sell out to the NRA, he didn’t consider limits and restrictions on the warranty.
Months back, on paper the election looked like a Putnam/Graham general. With Putnam looking to be buried by his paper trail, and Graham outflanked to the left by the entire field, the outcome is far from certain at this point.
And, yeah, there’s two months to go. But the establishment candidates appear to have been punked by outsiders, in ways that could’ve been predicted, but no one did.