Rep. Adam Putnam (R)
Elected: 2000, 5th term.
Born: July 31, 1974, Bartow .
Education: U. of FL, B.S. 1995.
Family: Married (Melissa); 4 children.
Elected office: FL House of Reps., 1996-2000.
Professional Career: Rancher, Putnam Groves, Inc.
The congressman from the 12th District is Adam Putnam, a Republican first elected in 2000 at age 26. He grew up in Polk County, a fifth-generation member of a Bartow family that has been prominent in cattle ranching and citrus growing in the area. Interested in politics from childhood, Putnam graduated from the University of Florida, plotting his first political campaign while still in his senior year. In 1996, he was elected to the state House at age 22 and went on to become chairman of the Agriculture Committee. In 2000, when Republican Rep. Charles Canady kept his term-limit pledge, Putnam ran and was unopposed in the Republican primary. He supported most of the Republican agenda: He opposed abortion rights and gun control, he called for lowering the capital-gains tax, and he favored a missile defense system for the United States. In the general election, Putnam had a tough challenger in auto dealer and first-time candidate Michael Stedem, who said Putnam did not have enough life experience for the job. Stedem’s message gained some traction; Putnam was ridiculed in the press. “Putnam is 26 and looks as if he’s going on 13,” The Tampa Tribune wrote in October 2000, in a story headlined, “Opie runs for Congress.” But he won the seat 57%-43%.
|Adam Putnam (R)||185,698||(57%)||($2,054,571)|
|Doug Tudor (D)||137,465||(43%)||($121,851)|
|Adam Putnam (R)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (70%), 2004 (65%), 2002 (100%), 2000 (57%)
In the House, Putnam has been a star among the chamber’s Republicans. When the GOP was in the majority, he rose through the ranks quickly, from subcommittee chairman to the third-ranking post in the leadership. After the party lost its majorities in Congress, Putnam found his influence in the House diminished. In early 2009, Putnam announced he would vacate his House seat in 2010 to run for state agriculture commissioner. Success in that post could become a springboard for his ambition to become Florida’s governor.
Except for free-trade legislation, which usually finds him on the protectionist-prone side of the citrus industry, Putnam has been a reliably conservative vote in the House. He also earned a footnote in history on September 11, 2001, when he happened to be with President Bush during a visit to an elementary school in Sarasota. After word of the terrorist attacks reached the president’s entourage, Putnam was hustled aboard Air Force One and flown to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana. Bush discussed his options that morning with Putnam and then-Rep. Dan Miller from Florida’s 13th District. The two lawmakers then returned to Washington on another plane.
In 2003, Putnam became chairman of the Technology, Information Policy, Intergovernmental Relations, and Census Subcommittee of the Government Reform Committee, making him the youngest subcommittee chair in the post-World War II era. In early 2006, he defeated three other candidates to become chairman of the Republican Policy Committee. House Speaker Dennis Hastert tasked him to develop the GOP’s partisan approach on immigration policy, and he helped to broker the deal to permit limited oil drilling off the coast of Florida. Later that year, Putnam defeated three opponents to become chairman of the Republican Conference, the third-ranking leadership position in the minority. In that post, he formed a rapid-response team and assembled a new communications strategy that focused on small media markets. He said his party’s challenge was to get noticed against the backdrop of a Democratic majority, a presidential election cycle, and “the historical nature of a woman speaker.”
He also stayed in tune with matters of local importance. After hurricanes ravaged parts of Florida in 2004, Putnam worked to secure $500 million in federal disaster relief for the state’s agricultural industry. And he has maintained a strong interest in legislation affecting agriculture.
He often went his own way on issues. Putnam pushed for broad immigration reform, including tougher enforcement, and told the Lakeland Ledger that constituents had told him the nation was “losing our cultural identity.” He also supported Bush’s proposal to increase the number of guest workers, based partly on his own family’s hiring experiences. In 2007, he was among the early Republicans calling on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to step down, telling The Ledger that his credibility in running the Justice Department had been “severely damaged” after revelations that U.S. attorneys around the country may have been dismissed for political reasons. His outspoken support for the 2008 bailout of the financial markets angered some conservatives.
Putnam is planning to run for Florida agriculture commissioner. The early Democratic frontrunner for the seat was Polk County Elections Supervisor Lori Edwards. On the Republican side, former state lawmaker Dennis Ross also announced in early 2009 that he intends to run.