Jeff Porter, who has served as mayor of Homestead since 2013, has announced his candidacy for Florida agriculture commissioner.
Porter, 58, resigned his mayoral seat Thursday, effective on the same day, complying with Florida's newly amended "resign-to-run" law. He will challenge South Florida environmentalist David Walker in the Aug. 28 Democratic primary.
He is seeking the seat held by agriculture commissioner Adam Putman, a Republican, who is engaged in a tightly contested Republican gubernatorial primary against Rep. Ron DeSantis, a three-term House member from Jacksonville.
Porter told The Miami Herald, "The agriculture industry has just been decimated. Over the last 20 or 30 years, farmers have gone out of business and I just don’t understand,” he said. “This area of the country, inside our borders, is the only place where we can grow produce in the winter to feed the nation, yet we’ve become totally reliant on food that comes from foreign countries. It’s almost like a national security issue.”
In May, talking about damage after Hurricane Irma, Porter said he wants the state to establish a separate emergency relief fund for farmers and ranchers, separate from one typically opened for all businesses affected by natural disasters.
Porter is a Homestead native who grew up in Mississippi, returned to attend Miami Dade College and has lived in the city ever since. In 2013 he followed Steve Bateman, one of the three mayors arrested in August of that year on corruption charges.
Besides serving as a $6,000-a-year part-time mayor, he was a city councilman from 1997 to 2007.
This has not been an entirely smooth year for Porter. On Feb. 1 the Greater Miami Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida filed a lawsuit against Porter and the City of Homestead on behalf of middle school teacher and community activist Kim Hill.
Hill was removed from a Homestead City Council meeting on Aug. 26, 2016 and barred from attending future meetings for engaging in what the ACLU claim is constitutionally protected speech. He was calling for police to wear body cameras.
By Saturday morning, comments about Porter on the "True Homestead" Facebook page were less than complimentary.
Larry Seal: "Well, I can't vote against him for Mayor in Homestead, but I certainly can vote against him for Ag Commish in Navarre! Thanks for sharing!"
Edward Powell: "no state office, no farm experience, no business sense, makes sense to me!"
Victor Zepeda: "He's probably running so he can try to stop medical marijuana growers"
Rachel Sievers: "Letting Porter loose on Central Florida's ranchlands and orange groves can mean only mean one thing as evidenced by his actions in Homestead."
Ted Moscynski: "Porter is going to stand up to Mexico over NAFTA? He wouldn't even stand up to the two-bit lobbyists from the racetrack leasers."
Meanwhile, with Porter out of city office, Homestead Vice Mayor Stephen Shelley will move into the mayor’s position in January. Shelly then will recommend someone to fill the vacant council seat, the council will vote on that selection, and if approved, the new council member will serve until the next city election in November 2019.
The three Republican candidates in the agriculture commissioner's race are state Rep. Matt Caldwell of North Fort Myers, state Sen. Denise Grimsley of Lake Placid and former state Rep. Baxter Troutman of Winter Haven.
The qualifying period for the office begins June 18.
Reach Nancy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith