These are good days for Adam Putnam as he keeps one eye on 2014 and the other down the road.
So far, he is cruising in his bid for a second term. In the two and a half months since he filed for re-election, Putnam has raised $591,011. For the moment, his right flank seems pretty secure. By jabbing Gov. Rick Scott for agreeing to the Medicaid expansion mandated by Obamacare, Putnam won points with conservatives. There was even talk about him challenging Scott in the primary come 2014 and a draft Putnam website was launched by conservative backers.
Putnams left seems fairly secure for the moment as well. Theres buzz that Dan Gelber or Perry Thurston will challenge Attorney General Pam Bondi in 2014. CFO Jeff Atwater could be targeted by Jim Waldman. But no major Democrats name is yet being floated to take on Putnam next year. Eventually some Democrat or another will step up to the plate and take one for the team. Putnam should win handily like he did against Scott Maddox last time out.
Certainly Putnam has nothing to fear from the one Democrat actually in the race. Thad Hamilton was on the Broward Soil and Water Conservation District board of supervisors and he tried for the Democratic nomination in 2010 but didnt make the ballot. Despite his credentials, Hamilton is having no better luck this time out. Since entering the race in February, hes raised $760 in cash and loaned his campaign $757. Not exactly what it takes to run a statewide campaign.
Since he should have an easy time staying in office in 2014, Putnam has the chance to use the campaign to build for the future. Putnams name has been floated as a future gubernatorial candidate. There certainly could be some competition in Tallahassee from the likes of Atwater and House Speaker Will Weatherford but Putnam should have the luxury of using 2014 to set himself up for a gubernatorial bid in 2018 or some other chance for higher office.
Putnam turns 39 at the end of the month. Its easy to forget how young he is since, despite his relatively young age, he has been in Florida politics for more than a decade and a half. Putnam won a seat in the Florida House in 1996 when he was only 22.
Winning a congressional seat in 2000, Putnam was, at 26, the youngest member of Congress when he took office. From there, he moved up the Republican ranks, taking over the Republican Policy Committee, the fifth highest position in the GOP House hierarchy, in early 2006. Later that year, Putnam became Republican Conference chairman, the third highest ranking position in the congressional GOP caucus. In 2010, Putnam returned to Tallahassee, beating Maddox by a comfortable margin.
Putnam wont be in the headlines in 2014. More attention will be focused on what should be a high-profile gubernatorial race and some close fights for congressional seats. But Putnam will be building for the future. By the end of next year, he should have won two statewide contests as well as served in Congress for a decade and been part of the leadership.
Its an impressive background, especially as he will only be 40 at the end of 2014. Based on his career so far, Florida is set to see a lot of Adam Putnam over the next few decades.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis exclusively for Sunshine State News.