Florida gubernatorial hopeful Ron DeSantis won’t be at The Villages Republican Club’s meeting Wednesday to debate rival Adam Putnam.
But the Congressman would have brought Donald Trump Jr. to Florida’s Friendliest Hometown that day if “the leadership” of The Villages Republican Club had agreed to it, DeSantis’ press secretary said.
“We were offered a debate/forum on that date at The Villages, to which we responded that the Republican Party of Florida sanctions all debates and that we were unavailable because we were planning an event with the president’s son,” Press Secretary David Vasquez said. “The real story here is that The Villages turned down an event with the president’s son – which will now be held in Orlando.”
While The Villages Republican Club’s Facebook page still touts Wednesday’s event at the Savannah Center as a debate between GOP gubernatorial hopefuls, it appears that the event will now feature remarks from Adam Putnam, the state’s commissioner of agriculture, who hopes to secure the GOP nomination during the Aug. 28 primary election.
Putnam is no stranger to The Villages, having visited here several times in the past few years to see firsthand the community’s growth and make comments on the additional jobs being created by the continued building. He’s also a fifth-generation Floridian and a well-known favorite among many Villages Republicans and those in power in the community.
First elected in 2010, Putnam, who spoke at the Lincoln Day Dinner in The Villages in March 2015, is now in his second term as commissioner of agriculture. He previously served five terms as the representative for Florida’s 12th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives and in the Florida House from 1996 to 2000. He grew up in the citrus and cattle industry and graduated from the University of Florida with a bachelor’s degree in food and resource economics. He and his wife, Melissa, have four children.
Wednesday’s event, which starts at 3 p.m., also will feature State Rep. Frank White, who is hoping to succeed the term-limited Pam Bondi as attorney general. White also is no stranger to The Villages, having been here June 18 to speak at a Villagers for Trump meeting. White received a rousing round of applause that night when he told members that protecting the Second Amendment will be atop his priority list.
“To me, it’s the amendment that assures all of the other rights,” he said, adding that he’s proud to have the highest rating from the NRA of all the candidates running for the seat.
White also is chief financial officer and general counsel for the Sansing Dealer Group, which has auto dealerships in Florida, Alabama and Mississippi. He said he is a huge believer in term limits and believes serving as the state’s next attorney general is his calling.
“That’s where I want to make a difference,” he said. “As a lawyer, it’s the dream job. And for me, it is a chance to defend our Constitution and to stand up for the rule of law. It’s about healthy neighborhoods and a healthy economy.”
Meanwhile, DeSantis, who has been endorsed by President Trump and also appeared in The Villages with Vice President Mike Pence in September 2016, will appear Wednesday with the president’s son at BB Kings Blues Club on International Drive in Orlando, beginning at 2 p.m. They will be joined by Judge Jeanine Pirro and Congressman Matt Gaetz.
DeSantis also is a native Floridian, having grown up in Dunedin. He graduated magna cum laude from Yale University and with honors from Harvard Law School before serving in the Navy. He also served as both a federal and military prosecutor before joining Congress in 2013.
DeSantis and his wife, Casey, an Emmy award-winning television host, have two children.
“They have gotten to know him and work with him pretty well,” Gee said recently. “They like him, they trust him and they feel that he would make an excellent governor.”
But Gee said he’s also heard many positive things about DeSantis, too.
“He’s part of the Freedom Caucus group up in Washington, and that group does a lot to protect our Constitution and they’re for conservative governors,” Gee said of DeSantis, who has identified himself as the Second Amendment candidate.
But regardless of which candidate wins the Republican nomination in the upcoming primary election, Gee said one thing has to happen.
“At the end of the day, it’s important for Republicans to come together to support that nominee,” he said. “We have to make sure that we are united and work hard to keep the state red.”
Wednesday’s event, which is hosted by The Villages Republican Club, Villagers for Trump, Sumter County Republican Executive Committee and the Republican Federated Women of The Villages, requires a ticket, which is free. Those interested in attending should contact Jerry Prince, president of The Villages Republican Club, at email@example.com.