Pensacola, Florida
Tuesday August 14th 2018

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Putnam Stumps in Pensacola

By Jeremy Morrison

If you’ve ever heard of Adam Putnam, it may be because, as Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture, his name is on every gas pump in the state. Or maybe you’ve heard that Putnam is running for governor. If not, he’d be happy to shake your hand, flash a boyish grin beneath a shock of red hair and tell you all about it.

That’s what Putnam did during his visit to Pensacola, where he addressed the Panhandle Tiger Bay Club at New World Landing. The Republican gubernatorial candidate started out over by the entrance, working the door as people walked into the hall. After pausing to pose for some photos, he methodically made his way around the room, stopping along his route to shake hands, slap backs and crack jokes.

When it came time for Putnam to address Tiger Bay Club members over lunch, he opened by lobbing a softball-grenade at the media in attendance-”Our reporters are back there guarding the bread pudding”-then shot straight into overdrive with a riff sure to conjure up kickass campaign trail imagery.

“I was Python hunting with some wounded veterans,” Putnam smiled, before plowing into a story about a day out with Operation Outdoor Freedom.

Operation Outdoor Freedom is a Department of Agriculture program launched under Putnam’s watch through which wounded veterans are afforded the opportunity to enjoy outdoor pursuits such as python hunts “or gator hunts and quail hunts and turkey shoots.” Putnam chuckled as he recalled how the hunters had to “practice on a 14-footer” before heading out to look for more sizable pythons.

“I hate snakes,” the candidate laughed.

Guns, Money and Vocational Training
Putnam’s python hunting tale was a nice opening. It warmed up the crowd and also managed to touch on two of the candidate’s main campaign issues: veterans and guns, with the third plank of his platform being “the economy.” These are the topics the candidate hammered during his visit to Pensacola, as well as issues such as infrastructure, immigration and education.

Putnam spoke particularly passionately about education. He stressed the importance of increasing vocational and trade-oriented educational opportunities while questioning the value of a more traditional college education.

“The system today is forcing students into student loan debt for a degree they may not want and may not even be able to use in this economy,” Putnam said, later adding a conservative jab at higher education: “[Students are] coming home more broke and more liberal than when they started.”

The candidate said students should be introduced to vocational fields, where jobs are more plentiful and salaries sometimes higher. He stressed the need for people to enter technical fields.

“This is not 1950s shop,” he said. “This is coding, this is robotics.”

Putnam also said community colleges and state colleges should be able to offer a broader selection of degrees to correspond with the needs of the job market, such as a bachelors degree in the nursing field, where positions await qualified graduates.

“That’s crazy,” Putnam said of community college’s inability to offer such degrees. “It’s the number one job vacancy in the state.”

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