Instead of running for re-election, Florida Congressman Adam Putnam will retire from the House of Representatives to run for…state agriculture commissioner.
Putnam was first elected in 2000 at the age of 26, making him the youngest member of the House. Six years later, Putnam was elected to the Republican Leadership, becoming third in command before the end of 2006.
But Putnam paid a price for his party’s failure–he dropped out of the leadership after the 2008 elections and will be dropping out of the House entirely after the 2010 elections. While he very well might become agriculture commissioner–which he hopes will lead to the Governorship–this still represents a decline for a once-rising star. It would be like–had the Democrats lost the 2006 elections–Barack Obama resigning from the Senate to run for Illinois Attorney General. You can’t deny it’s a step down.
But it makes sense for Putnam–the national Republican Party doesn’t have a future, but he could certainly carve out a large niche for himself in Florida. He has a very real chance to succeed Charlie Crist as Governor, which would definitely be a bigger role than remaining as one out of 435 Congressmen. But his departure shows just how weak the national Republican Party has become, with one of it’s best and brightest stepping down to run for a mid-level state office.
Can Democrats win Putnam’s district? Honestly, I don’t know. If you crunch the numbers you see that, in 2004, the district voted for Bush over Kerry 58%-42%, yet voted for McCain over Obama by only 51%-48%; while two points does not a trend make, it’s certainly a step in the right direction. Florida’s 12th is not inhospitable ground for Democrats, it’s just a matter of finding the right person for the job. The question is, who is that person?