State Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam stood on the steps of the old Polk County Courthouse in Bartow Wednesday, and in front of a giant flag of Florida and cratefuls of oranges, announced he's running for governor.
In front of a cheering crowd of about 1,500 people, the Polk County native acknowledged his own public service which began at age 22 in the Florida House, and included five terms in Congress. But his ambitions to become governor have not been a secret.
"It has been an honor to serve my community, to serve my friends and neighbors, to serve my state, to serve my nation," he said. "But make no mistake, for me, it has always been Florida first."
Putnam cited the conservative principles on which he plans to run, including Second Amendment rights and secure borders. But he also focused on his goals for education.
"Giving parents the right to choose the right education for their child, and giving local communities, not Washington, not even Tallahassee, the power to control their own future," he said.
For his theme, he turned back to the space program.
"The state that put a man on the moon can develop the next generation of tools for the next giant leap for mankind," Putnam said. "Florida can be the launch pad for the American dream."
He said he was honored to serve the nation, but "For me, it has always been Florida first."
On Thursday, Putnam begins a 10-day, statewide bus tour. He'll kick it off in Dover at 8 a.m. at the Florida Strawberry Growers Association; at 2 p.m. in Clearwater at Bascom’s Chop House; and 6:45 p.m. in Sarasota at South Gate Community Center.
There are 15 other candidates including Democrats Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former Congresswoman Gwen Graham and Orlando developer Chris King.