Editorials

Bradenton Herald recommends Adam Putnam, George Sheldon, Jeff Atwater for Florida Cabinet

Florida's Cabinet consists of the agriculture commissioner, attorney general and chief financial officer, all elected statewide. The governor also sits on the Cabinet. Serving as the board of directors of several state agencies, the Cabinet discusses agency business and makes policy decisions for the agencies during biweekly meetings.

Agriculture: Adam Putnam

Formally known as the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the office oversees a wide variety of programs. Those include food and nutrition, consumer resources and concealed weapons, forests and agriculture, and energy and water.

After two terms in the Florida House and 10 years in Congress, Putnam became agriculture commissioner in 2011. The Republican hails from a family-operated citrus growing business. With such a strong political and agricultural background, he has served Florida well over the past four years.

The state's signature crop -- big in Manatee County -- has been devastated by the deadly citrus greening disease, and Florida recently committed more than $50 million toward research to combat both greening and laurel wilt. The U.S. Farm Bill contains $125 million in citrus research funding over the next five years. Putnam played a pivotal role in passage of both unprecedented research measures.

He has made food access one of his priorities, focusing on locally grown products and cottage food industries. As such he launched a web-based tool called "Roadmap to Healthy Living. "The site uses census data to pinpoint communities most in need of food -- all in order to target resources and funding to improve the health and well-being of neighborhoods. This achievement allows communities to focus aid on the neediest residents.

Another Putnam priority is increasing economic opportunities and prosperity. During his term, exports of Florida agricultural products have grown by almost $1 billion, a 30 percent increase, with around 25,000 new jobs being created. By establishing 52 retail partnerships, Florida-grown products are now sold in more than 12,000 stores worldwide.

For his achievements and stewardship of the department, he has earned another term. The Herald recommends Adam Putnam for state agriculture commissioner.

Attorney General: George Sheldon

A former state legislator, assistant attorney general and secretary of the Department of Children and Family Services, George Sheldon's resume features deep and successful experience in public office.

He pledges to be the people's lawyer, eschewing the partisanship that the current attorney general, Pam Bondi, has pursued in several high-profile legal cases.

While Bondi continues to defend Florida's ban on gay marriage, Sheldon has embraced marriage equity for more than three decades. Plus, as DCF secretary, he presided over the triumphant resolution of a lawsuit that ended the legislative ban on gay adoption.

Sheldon is a staunch supporter of open government -- in contrast to the Scott administration's lip service to transparency.

He also backs the automatic restoration of civil rights, including voting, for most freed felons. Former Gov. Charlie Crist established automatic restoration, but Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet revoked that policy soon after entering office.

Sheldon vows to be an aggressive consumer advocate, most importantly by challenging utility company rate filings that come before the Public Service Commission. Bondi has done little as utilities rack up rate increase approvals from the PSC.

Sheldon would resume tough enforcement of laws against predatory lending, deceptive business practices and antitrust transgression -- which, he says, have declined since 2011.

The Herald recommends George Sheldon for Florida attorney general.

Chief Financial Officer: Jeff Atwater

During his first term as Florida's CFO, Jeff Atwater successfully pursued greater transparency in the state budget and state contracting. By launching a website that outlines thousands of those contracts, the former state Senate president allowed Floridians to hold legislators accountable since more than two-thirds of the state budget consists of contracts with private vendors.

This earned Florida an A-minus grade for transparency from a nationwide watchdog organization, PIRG, which cited the site's unprecedented quantity of public information. That mark is a major upgrade from the previous D.

In addition, Atwater created a training program for state contract managers so those documents contain clearer language for the protection of taxpayers.

The CFO's duties include oversight of state accounting, auditing and investments. Atwater created an investment committee to limit risk and grow interest income, earning a return of $1.2 billion since 2011.

He has tackled fraud, increasing arrests in staged accidents designed to gain money from the state's no-fault auto insurance law. He has also shut down bogus PIP clinics.

His vigilant pursuit of all manner of policies that protect consumers and ensure the wise use of taxpayer money has proven successful. Those achievements merit another term.

The Herald recommends Jeff Atwater for chief financial officer.

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