By all appearances, House Speaker Richard Corcoran was a candidate ready to jump into the fray of the Republican primary for governor. The only thing missing was his official announcement declaring his candidacy.
That announcement won’t come in 2018.
“I was raised by great parents who say you give your word, you stick to it,” Corcoran said at a news conference Wednesday morning in Tallahassee. “I constantly said for the last year that I was going to run for governor or go home. And, I’m proud to say that decision is, clearly, we’re going home.”
Corcoran didn’t seem ready at the beginning of the year “to go home” to Land O’ Lakes so early. His political committee, Watchdog PAC, ran a controversial television ad dealing with immigration, he debated the issue of sanctuary cities with Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, a Democrat running for governor, and traveled the state with Gov. Rick Scott to promote their legislative accomplishments. It had all the makings of a gubernatorial campaign.
But Corcoran said in the end it came down to money.
“We went out there, we built up a network, traveled the state, raised as much money as we possibly could,” said Corcoran. “And, I think when you look at it, Florida is an expensive state. It costs a lot of money to run … and I don’t think we had the resources to move forward.”
Corcoran’s political committee had raised about $7 million and still has about $2 million dollars on hand. Corcoran says that money would be used to help Putnam and Republicans running in legislative races.
The “big announcement” he tweeted about last week came Wednesday morning in the form of an endorsement of Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.
“Once I made the decision that I wasn’t going to run, I’m definitely not someone who sits on the sidelines, and it took all of 2.2 seconds to utter the name of Adam Putnam in my mind and say I’m going to get out and will support Adam,” said Corcoran.
“I can’t tell you how proud I am to be standing here with my friend Richard Corcoran,” Putnam said in accepting the endorsement of the House speaker. “(He) is a tenacious, fearless, passionate leader.”
Following the end of the 2018 legislative session, Corcoran said he would take a few weeks to think about his political future. During those weeks, Corcoran’s expected campaign for governor never gained traction. His fund-raising slowed and polls showed him a distant third in single digits, well behind Putnam and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis.
The DeSantis campaign was quick to portray both men as Tallahassee insiders who are making deals to benefit their own political careers.
“Insiders only know how to play one game, and that’s making deals to save their own skin,” said David Vasquez, the DeSantis campaign’s press secretary. “After a year of campaigning and millions of dollars of special interest money spent, career insider Adam Putnam’s campaign has flatlined. So, he’s turning to deal making in the Tallahassee swamp. Today he’ll stand in the shadow of the state capital in the middle of the Tallahassee swamp and receive the endorsement of a fellow career insider, one that will only matter to his fellow swamp dwellers.”
Both Corcoran and Putnam brushed off DeSantis’ attack.
“Richard and I love Florida. We have been through every corner of this state,” Putnam said in response to DeSantis. “To have the support of someone who knows Florida so well and is so passionate about Florida’s future and is such a principled conservative, means everything in the world to me.”
The most recent poll released Tuesday afternoon by Florida Atlantic University shows DeSantis holding a slim lead with 16 percent of those surveyed and Putnam at 15 percent. Forty-three of the voters are undecided.
Corcoran says there were no deals struck with Putnam. Asked if he would consider being Putnam’s running mate in the gubernatorial contest, he said he was “going home.”