Matt Caldwell Announces Candidacy For Commissioner Of Agriculture.
By Lehigh Acres Gazette
Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-North Fort Myers, formally announced his candidacy for state Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
“Running as a conservative is one thing,” Caldwell told a group of more than 150 supporters in south Fort Myers on Monday morning.
“Governing as a conservative and challenging the status quo, that puts a bull’s eye on your back every single day, is another,” said Caldwell.
Elected a state representative four times starting in 2010, Caldwell is one of several state political figures facing up-or-out decisions as they reach term limits in their current elected offices. Caldwell seeks to succeed incumbent Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who is running for governor. Both Putnam and Gov. Rick Scott also cannot run again.
But with the 2017 Legislative Session nearing an end and a special session becoming more unlikely, Caldwell said Monday he decided to pull the trigger sooner, so he can start focusing on the statewide campaign.
“We’re just going to get out of session and start focusing on grassroots,” said Caldwell.
In a statement to POLITICO Florida, which first reported Caldwell had filed his paperwork, Caldwell said he was running “in order to continue our work together, fighting for and building upon the important issues we’ve tackled in the Florida House.”
Since January, Caldwell has raised $702,825 for his political committee Friends of Matt Caldwell. State records show his February 2017 fundraising haul of $412,075 was the largest single month haul since August 2016, when the committee was started.
The committee ended March with more than $650,000 cash on hand, according to state records.
Caldwell called the sum a “great base from which to start.”
“At the end of the day, it’s a statewide race,” he said. “It gives us a starting point to talk about the political issues.”
Caldwell, the chairman of the Government Accountability Committee, has spent much of his career in the Legislature focused on environmental and agricultural issues, a background that could serve him well in the position.
He can’t run for re-election in the House because of term limits.
He isn’t the only legislator who has thrown his hat in the race. Sen. Denise Grimsley filed to run for the seat earlier this year. A fifth generation Floridian, Grimsley was first elected to the Florida House in 2004, where she served until 2012 when she was elected to the Senate
Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam can’t run for the seat because of term limits. He is widely expected to run for governor.