MEMO: STATE OF THE RACE: Summer of Scandal Sinks Adam Putnam

To: Interested Parties

From: American Bridge 21st Century

Date: 7/18/18

Subject: MEMO: STATE OF THE RACESummer of Scandal Sinks Adam Putnam

In May, American Bridge predicted that Fox News Contributor Ron DeSantis “looks like the new-frontrunner in the Republican primary” for Florida Governor. Two months later, that prediction has rung true.

Whether you believe DeSantis’s internal polling showing him ahead of former frontrunner Adam Putnam by 19 points, or other polling that gives DeSantis a more modest 6 point lead, it is undeniable that Putnam’s once massive lead for the Republican nomination has eroded.

If you look at Putnam’s news coverage this summer, it isn’t hard to understand why this happened. While DeSantis has seen his support among likely Republican primary voters surge following President Trump’s “re-endorsement” of his primary campaign, Putnam’s own self-inflicted wounds have left him exposed. Putnam has spent years planning his campaign for Governor. But while he was plotting the next steps of his political career, he wasn’t focused on the job he had. It seems a week cannot go by without a new scandal calling into question Putnam’s basic competency to serve as Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture, let alone run the entire State of Florida.

Throughout the entire summerPutnam has garnered bad headline after bad headline over his office’s conduct.

  • On June 8th, the Tampa Bay Times reported Putnam’s office gave concealed carry permits to people who couldn’t pass FBI criminal background checks because his office couldn’t remember its login information to the background check database. While Putnam’s office tried to blame the entire scandal on one employee, records demonstrated that the scandal went far deeper. In fact, just this week, the Tampa Bay Times reported allegations that one of Putnam’s employees, after warning about the improper issuing of the permits, was told by her supervisors she “worked” for the NRA.
  • On June 14, a roller coaster in Daytona Beach derailed and sent 9 people to the hospital. Putnam’s office approved the roller coaster as safe only hours before the accident.
  • On June 27, Politico reported Putnam looked the other way and gave slaps on the wrists to numerous employees accused of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior. Despite the allegations, Putnam kept the employees on the job. Two are still employed by his office, and another left for unrelated reasons.

All of this came at a perilous time for Putnam as DeSantis began airing television ads featuring his endorsement from President Trump. While DeSantis’ incessant cheerleading for Trump is likely to sink his general election chances, there’s no doubt it has helped him erase Putnam’s early lead in the primary. Florida media has taken note of Putnam’s steep fall, saying “it’s time for Adam Putnam to start worrying,” and even comparing Putnam to Bill McCollum, the early frontrunner for the GOP Florida Governor nomination in 2010 before Rick Scott came out of nowhere to defeat him.

Last week, Putnam attempted to stop his campaign’s freefall by pivoting to veterans’ issues. But this is also dangerous territory for Putnam to enter. His record in Washington contradicts his rhetoric and shines a spotlight on his votes against Florida veterans.

In 2002, as a Congressman, Putnam voted to authorize military force in Iraq. But while Putnam had no problem sending American service members to war, he didn’t want to take care of them after they returned home. In the years after his vote for the Iraq War, Putnam repeatedly voted against key protections and support for Iraq war veterans.

  • In 2004 and 2005, Putnam voted twice against increasing bankruptcy protections for members of the military and their families. [House Vote 9, 1/28/04; Congressional Quarterly, 1/28/04; Congressional Record, 1/28/04; Congressional Quarterly, 12/4/04; Congressional Actions, S. 1920] [House Vote 107, 4/14/05; Congressional Quarterly, 4/14/05; Congressional Quarterly, 4/14/05; Congressional Actions, S. 256]
  • In 2003, Putnam voted against allowing veterans to obtain full retirement and disability benefits at the same time. [House Vote 616, 11/7/03; Congressional Quarterly, 11/7/03; Congressional Actions, H.R. 1588]
  • In 2005, Putnam voted against legislation that would provide increased job training for returning troops. [House Vote 76, 3/16/05; Congressional Quarterly, 3/16/05; Congressional Quarterly, 3/16/05; Congressional Actions, H.R. 1268]

In short: pivoting to veterans’ issues won’t save Adam Putnam. If anything, it could make things even worse for him.

As if things weren’t bad enough for Putnam, Politico reported this week that the Koch Brothers formed a new Florida committee “that will serve as the vehicle to funnel national donor cash” to DeSantis.

All of this may not have even happened had Putnam been minding the store and focused on doing his current job instead of running for his next one. If the current trajectory holds, and DeSantis does win the Republican primary, people will look back on Adam Putnam’s summer of scandal as the beginning of the end of his political career. He’ll have no one to blame but himself.