Last Wednesday, Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran took aim at Florida’s public financing for political candidates.
Corcoran, who is rumored to planning a gubernatorial run next year, said:
“[Public campaign financing] a gross waste of taxpayer money and is nothing more than welfare for politicians. All it does is protect the insider political class. You really have to be clueless or just plain selfish to accept money from our state coffers that could go to our schoolchildren, first responders or be put back in the pockets of our taxpayers.”
He then called for the Constitutional Revision Commission to put a ballot question before Florida voters to repeal taxpayer funded statewide campaigns.
This move targets Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, the front-runner for the Republican nomination for governor. Putnam, a self-proclaimed conservative, claimed nearly $460,000 in taxpayer funded public financing money during his 2014 reelection campaign.
“You really have to be clueless or just plain selfish to accept money from our state coffers that could go to our schoolchildren, first responders, or be put back in the pockets of our taxpayers. This proposal is simply about doing the right thing,” Corcoran said, invoking Putnam in all but name.
The language coming out of Putnam’s campaign suggests that they will once again seek public financing.
The program was initially created to give smaller campaigns a chance to compete against self-funders running for statewide office. In exchange for limiting overall spending, campaigns receive matching funds from the state for every $250 they receive in contributions.
Corcoran’s statements also target another candidate, State Sen. Jack Latvala. Latvala, the Senate Appropriations Chairman, is also likely banking on state campaign funding to even the playing field. Both he and Putnam have already raised millions, with Putnam leading the field at $13 million.
Corcoran has been seen as a conservative firebrand in recent months. After a successful 2017 legislative session – his first as Speaker – the Republican from Land O’ Lakes solidified his reputation as a no-nonsense, principle-driven doer. At times, he even stood against members of his own party. In the end, the party came together to deliver a state budget.
Corcoran’s hardline approach to conservatism could win him support to Putnam’s right. However, a message of “outsider conservatism” as Speaker of the Florida House will be a tough sell. Of course, it’s hard to get anymore establishment than big-sugar-lobby-supported Putnam.
Putnam’s conservative messaging matches what most GOP candidates do in Florida primaries. Most Florida primary voters live in rural agricultural towns, like Putnam’s own Bartow, FL. Putnam, however, traded a life on the farm for a lifelong career in politics. Corcoran, on the other hand, has an indisputable record of conservatism and anti-cronyism.
Corcoran’s PAC has raised a formidable $608,000 in its first month. That momentum could take it well beyond $5 million before the end of the year.
Corcoran said that he will not make any decisions about running for governor until after the 2018 legislative session, though he is expected to run.