PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - A gubernatorial candidate was in Panama City Wednesday morning speaking to an intimate group of voters that included war veterans and local politicians.
Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam spoke on second amendment rights, education and maintaining Florida's title of "The Most Veteran-Friendly State." Putnam is one of nine Republicans who have formally kicked off campaigns. He says it's the grassroots effort that wins elections.
"When I announced I had 2,100 people in my hometown, we have crowds like this everywhere we go," he said. "Also in small towns and in big cities. The energy behind grassroots is the kind of energy that people are hungry for and leading our state and leading our nation."
Putnam was challenged recently by Gwen Graham, a Democratic candidate for Governor, on the issue of off-shore drilling in the Gulf.
The topic is back in the news after President Trump's Executive Order pushing for an expansion of offshore drilling. The order aims to expand offshore drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans. Administration officials, however, said that the order does not require leasing in the eastern Gulf. As it stands, the Order cites the Western and Central Gulf of Mexico only.
Graham has publicly denounced offshore drilling in Florida, along with the U.S. Air Force, which conducts its testing and training missions in the Gulf.
In 2008, Putnam supported then-presidential candidate John McCain's proposal for offshore drilling, calling it "A step in the right direction." In June 2006, Putnam led congressional Republicans in an effort to expand drilling as close as 50 miles from Florida's beaches. Before that in May of the same year, he called attempts to end the ban on drilling "A grievous assault on Florida and other (coastal) states."
At the campaign event in Panama City, Putnam is happy he and Graham are on the same page.
"I wrote that moratorium when I was in Congress," Putnam said. "[I and other congressmen] worked with the Pentagon and our military leaders to protect the military mission and to protect our coastline. I am proud of that work and I'm proud that she is willing to publicly support the work that I did while I was later in the Florida congressional delegation. I have consistently worked to protect our coastline, and protect that military mission line. And we're going to continue to protect Florida's beaches."
In May, two Florida lawmakers - Republican Vern Buchanan and Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz - introduced a bill to extend that ban in the eastern Gulf of Mexico through 2027.
Their bill, similar to one Florida Democratic Senator Bill Nelson introduced in January, would keep in place a moratorium barring oil and natural gas drilling generally within 125 miles of Florida's Gulf Coast. The ban, in place since 2006, is set to expire June 30, 2022.
In addition, Florida Panhandle Freshman Congressmen Neal Dunn (FL-2) and Matt Gaetz (FL-1) wrote to Defense Secretary James Mattis in April, warning him that lifting the ban would imperil supersonic air exercises conducted by installations in the Florida panhandle they represent.