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Democrat Maddox Takes on GOP's Putnam for Agriculture Commissioner

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Tallahassee, FL – With only a few days left to get their messages out, all the candidates are making their final pitches to voters. In the race for Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner, the nominees are still trying to let people know who they are. As Lynn Hatter reports, Democrat Scott Maddox came out against his Republican challenger, Adam Putnam, in an attempt to flip the Washington-insider label.

Maddox accuses Congressman Adam Putnam of being too Washington friendly.

"He voted the same way as President Obama and Nancy Pelosi did in support with the TARP bailout," said Maddox. "He sponsored a bill to give full amnesty to illegal immigrants. He supported the stimulus, not by his vote, but by writing letters asking for money from the stimulus for his district, and over the last three fiscal years, Congressman Putnam sponsored and co-sponsored over $50 million of pork."

Putnam did vote for the bill that provided money to banks, but he voted against the larger stimulus package passed under President Obama. He has also sponsored a bill called AgJobs in the House that would allow over a million illegal agricultural workers to have legal residence. Putnam says Maddox is trying to disguise his own record in Tallahassee.

"I'm proud to represent Florida's 12th district. It's been an honor and a privilege of a lifetime to do so, and there's no shame in that at all," Putnam said. "It's ironic that a scandal-plagued former Chairman of the party who was forced out for not paying taxes would start throwing mud five days out."

Maddox ran for Attorney General in 2002, and made a bid for governor in 2005, but dropped out when an audit of the Florida Democratic Party showed it had failed to pay $200,000 in payroll taxes when he was chairman. A recent Times/Herald poll shows Maddox trailing Putnam by 11 percentage points, with many voters still undecided. The Agriculture Commissioner race has been dwarfed by more money and media coverage going to larger contests, like those for Senate and the Governor's race. Putnam says down-ballot races always struggle for attention and his campaign has focused on building a large, bi-partisan coalition of support.

"We have received endorsements from every agriculture organization and all the major law enforcement groups," Putnam said. "Democratic Mayors, Democratic Sheriffs, 37 Republican and Democratic sheriffs from across the state, we're building a coalition that cares about the future of Florida and our ground gamed will put us over the top."

Maddox says he's running a grassroots campaign.

"I've been across this state, from Pensacola to the Keys during this campaign, and I've talked to voters all the way across this state and I hope our message is going to get through that if they want government by the people instead of the special interests, they need to vote for Scott Maddox."

Both candidates want the same job, but they see it different ways. Putnam says he wants voters to know that if elected, he'd be more than just "farmer-in-chief."

"We're talking about giving access to people who may not have access to fresh Florida produce, we're talking about protecting consumers from being defrauded and scammed, improving public lands management, creating a federal water policy for the entire state," Putnam said.

Maddox says the state doesn't do a good job in going after fraudsters, and he views the office as being the state's top consumer advocate.

"The last thing we need with 12-percent unemployment is someone picking our pocket by defrauding citizens on a systematic basis," said Maddox. "As commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services, I'll put a stop to that."

Agriculture is Florida's second largest industry and has a workforce of over 700,000. Both Maddox and Putnam are the leading contenders for the job, but they aren't the only ones in the race. They're joined by Ira Chester, with the registered TEA party and Thad Hamilton, who has No Party Affiliation.