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RPOF Lines Up Early Behind Re-election of Cabinet

May 10, 2013 - 6:00pm

While Jeff Atwater, Pam Bondi and Adam Putnam have not drawn major Democratic opponents yet, these Florida Cabinet officials are getting a boost from the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF).

The RPOF released a statement this week praising the three Republican officials for their records in Tallahassee during the recently concluded legislative session.

Smarter government and protecting Floridians: thats what our elected Republican Cabinet has followed through with in the 2013 legislative session, said Lenny Curry, the chairman of the RPOF. I congratulate Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam on a job well done fighting for Florida families.

Curry pointed to Atwaters championing of the Automated Unclaimed Property Claims to reform electric and automated claims processes as proof of the state CFOs commitment to helping Floridians. Curry also praised Atwater for fighting for cancer patients and Holocaust survivors.

Bondi received praise from Curry and the RPOF for fighting for the False Claims Act, which will allow the attorney generals office more tools to tackle government fraud. Curry also singled Bondi out for praise for working against retail theft and protecting military families and her role in the mortgage settlement.

Despite Putnams strong criticism of Gov. Rick Scotts call to accept federal funds for the expansion of Medicaid mandated by President Barack Obamas health care law, Curry also praised the agriculture commissioner. Putnam received applause for managing state lands, reforming Floridas water management districts and improving the states Do Not Call program.

All three candidates beat their Democratic opponents by comfortable margins in 2010 but have been slow in readying for 2014. While Atwater filed his paperwork to run again in the summer of 2011, Putnam only launched his re-election organization last month and Bondi has yet to file for 2014. None of them is expected to face a major primary challenger but, as Currys statement shows, the RPOF is clearly behind the incumbents.

Still, for the moment, the Democrats are also on the sidelines. Rep. Jim Waldman, D-Coconut Creek, created some enthusiasm as a possible opponent for Atwater but his eyes appear more focused on 2016 when he plans to run for state Senate. House Democratic Leader Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, has been rumored to challenge Bondi, but he has also filed to run for the state Senate in 2016. Former state Sen. Dan Gelber, who lost in the general election to Bondi in 2010, is also a possible candidate in the attorney general race.

Unlike Atwater and Bondi, Putnam has already drawn a Democratic opponent -- Thad Hamilton, who served on the Broward Soil and Water Conservation District board of supervisors. Hamilton, a retired lieutenant colonel in the Army, has an impressive background, having grown up on a farm and studied agriculture at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. He worked for the Natural Resources Conservation Service in the U.S. Department of Agriculture for 36 years, including stints in New Mexico, and Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

But while he has a solid resume, Hamilton had little luck in 2010 when he sought the Democratic agricultural nomination, not even making the ballot to oppose Scott Maddox, who went on to lose to Putnam in November. Nor is Hamilton making much progress so far in the 2014 election cycle. Since entering the race in late February, he's raised nothing, loaned his campaign $170 and spent $70 of that.

Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this story exclusively for Sunshine State News.

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