Clad in jeans and a blue-checkered shirt with rolled-up sleeves, Adam Putnam easily blended into the rural North Florida residents attending the annual Wausau Possum Festival in early August.

“I’m a farmer, a business owner,” the boyish-looking, 44-year-old Republican candidate for Governor told the crowd in a brief speech. “The foundation of my campaign is that I know Florida best. This isn’t my first trip to Wausau just because I’m running for statewide office.”

Since launching his campaign in May 2017 on the steps of a century-old courthouse in Bartow, his Polk County hometown, Putnam has emphasized the “grassroots” nature of his campaign to succeed Gov. Rick Scott, who is running for the U.S. Senate.

Putnam, who has served two terms as Florida’s agriculture commissioner, has campaigned relentlessly across the state, while putting a particular focus on smaller, rural communities and their political and business leaders. It has resulted in the endorsement of his campaign by 49 of the 66 elected sheriffs in Florida.

“Working families are my people. They are my base. They are our grassroots energy,” Putnam said in an interview with The News Service of Florida. “They are the reason why we

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