While Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is not on the ballot in 2012, he remains politically active this election cycle backing candidates in competitive Republican primaries.
While he turns 38 next month, Putnam is already a political veteran. First elected to the Florida House in 1996, Putnam ran for Congress in 2000 and, at the age of 26, became the youngest member at that time in the U.S House. Putnam moved up the congressional ladder fairly quickly, becoming chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee and eventually the House Republican Conference chairman -- making him the third highest GOP leader in Congress. In 2010, Putnams focus turned back to Tallahassee when he ran for his current post and defeated Democratic nominee former Tallahassee Mayor Scott Maddox.
Having left a safe congressional seat to run for statewide office and considering his young age, Putnam has garnered considered buzz in political circles as a gubernatorial or U.S. Senate candidate down the road. In the meantime, Putnam is starting his efforts to shape races across Florida, offering his endorsement to candidates in competitive Republican primaries.
On Thursday, Putnam announced he was backing Ron DeSantis, an attorney and veteran, who is running in the Republican primary for a new congressional seat stretching from the outskirts of Jacksonville to Volusia County. DeSantis faces a crowded Republican primary field.
"Ron DeSantis is a true conservative we can trust to reform Washington, D.C., Putnam said in his endorsement. I'm happy to endorse Ron because I know that he understands we need to get our economy going again by reducing the reach of government and lowering the burden it places on our job creators and innovators."
Putnam mentioned his own service in Congress as a reason why he was backing DeSantis.
"Trying to reform Congress is a job I'm all too familiar with and we need dedicated conservatives like Ron to stand up for our values now more than ever, Putnam said.
"Commissioner Adam Putnam was highly respected as a member of Congress and is now fighting the good fight against overbearing federal agencies such as the EPA as Florida's commissioner of agriculture and I am very grateful for his support," said DeSantis. "Commissioner Putnam is a leader for Florida and is committed to creating an environment in which the economy can thrive."
Backing DeSantis fits in line with Putnams activities this year. Earlier in the month, Putnam backed Florida House Speaker Pro Tempore John Legg, R-Port Richey, over two other candidates in a Republican primary battle for a state Senate seat. At the end of May, Putnam backed former Rep. Aaron Bean over Rep. Mike Weinstein, R-Jacksonville, in the Republican primary for a state Senate seat representing parts of the First Coast.
Putnam has also been active in the Republican battle to see who will challenge Democrat incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in November. Putnam first backed Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, to challenge Nelson. After Haridopolos withdrew last year, Putnam remained on the sidelines until earlier this month when he threw his support behind GOP Senate hopeful U.S. Rep. Connie Mack.
Putnam is also behind U.S. Rep. Tom Rooneys bid for another term and has endorsed Florida House hopeful Travis Hutson. It is expected that Putnam will offer additional endorsements during the 2012 election cycle.
On the national level, Putnam had been active in the battle for the Republican presidential nomination and he does hold a leadership position in former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romneys presidential campaign. Back in October, Putnam threw his support behind Romney who impressively won the Florida presidential primary at the end of January on his way to the nomination.
Romney did not forget Putnam, as was seen back in March when the presidential candidateunveiled his Agriculture Advisory Committee -- and Putnam and U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., were named as co-chairmen. Before his time in the Senate, Johanns served as governor of Nebraska and as U.S. agriculture secretary under then-President George W. Bush.
While Putnam will not be facing the voters in 2012, hes not staying on the sidelines. How his political activities this election cycle help Putnam in the future remains to be seen.
Reach Kevin Derby at email@example.com or at (850) 727-0859.