Troutman Joins Lineup of Florida Ag Commissioner Hopefuls

Daniel CooperAgriculture, Industry News Release, Legislative

by Lloyd Dunkelberger
News Service of Florida

Former state Rep. Baxter Troutman entered the race for state agriculture commissioner on Monday, priming his Republican bid for a Cabinet seat with $2.5 million of his own money.

“For two decades, I’ve been building a business and continuing my work in Florida agriculture,” Troutman, of Winter Haven, said in a statement. “Real experience and success in the private sector is what we need more than ever.”

Troutman, 50, who runs Labor Services Inc., a Winter Haven company that provides temporary workers, said he would emphasize keeping “taxes low” and growing the state’s economy.

Troutman, who served four terms in the Florida House until term limits forced him out in 2010, enters a crowded field of candidates seeking to replace Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who is running for governor next year.



Troutman joined a Republican primary campaign that includes state Sen. Denise Grimsley of Sebring, state Rep. Matt Caldwell of North Fort Myers and Paul Paulson, an Orlando businessman. Michael Christine, a University of Miami law student, is running in the Democratic primary.

Troutman comes from a wealthy and politically connected family. His grandfather, Ben Hill Griffin Jr., created an agriculture enterprise that included citrus, cattle, sugar cane and major land holdings.

Troutman, who is an heir to the Griffin fortune, is starting his campaign with a $2.5 million personal contribution. Troutman, who will have to file a new financial disclosure when he formally qualifies for the Cabinet race next year, listed his net worth at $40 million in 2009 while he was a member of the Florida House.

And in an indication the Cabinet race may be an expensive one, Grimsley’s campaign announced on Monday that she has raised a total of $875,000 for the race, including $386,000 in her agriculture commissioner’s campaign account and $488,500 in her Saving Florida’s Heartland political committee.

“Denise is building a broad-based coalition of support in the agriculture commissioner race,” said Ryan Smith, her campaign manager. “We will continue our aggressive efforts to travel the state, grow our social media audience and build our grassroots conservative network in the weeks and months ahead.”

Caldwell’s political committee, Friends of Matt Caldwell, has raised more than $700,000 since January, and he was expected later Monday to report additional contributions raised since he formally announced his campaign on May 1.

Troutman said his wife Becky, whom he proposed to on the House floor in 2008, will be the co-chairman of his campaign.

Two of Troutman’s cousins have played prominent political roles in Florida, including former state Sen. JD Alexander of Lake Wales, a former Senate budget chairman, and former U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris of Sarasota, who also served on the state Cabinet as the secretary of state, which is no longer an elected position.

The agriculture commissioner’s post will be on the ballot next year along with the other two Cabinet seats for attorney general and chief financial officer.

The 2018 primary election will be held on Aug. 28, followed by the general election on Nov. 6.

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