Saturday, November 17, 2018
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  • From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Column: Really, Publix? Adam Putnam is who you’re backing in the governor’s race?

At a time when Americans are repelled by the nasty partisan politics encroaching into every corner of our lives, Publix has entered the fray of the Florida governor’s race.

It’s a misguided move. Food and politics don’t mix well.

But, the Tampa Bay Times reports, the loved supermarket icon, its heirs and past and present leaders are bankrolling the campaign of Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam at unprecedented levels.

They’re endorsing and subsidizing no saint.

Although President Donald Trump has snubbed his candidacy in favor of his Republican opponent, Putnam is a vocal supporter of Trump’s vitriolic anti-immigrant policies, and while he served in Congress before Trump existed, he cast anti-minority votes.

Last August, for instance, Putnam took to Twitter to echo Trump lies and fear-mongering rhetoric.

“San Fran & Takoma Park have been overrun by liberals. They’re allowing illegals to vote. Is this fair to Americans?”

And with that tweet, he ran a bizarre “poll” by his Florida Grown Political Action Committee asking — “Should illegal immigrants be allowed to vote?” — as if anyone is backing anything other than U.S. citizens voting.

His voting record, on the other hand, clearly shows he’s all about suppressing the vote of minorities who are U.S. citizens.

Publix, I guess I’ll be buying my salmon and kale elsewhere.

Your campaign contributions to a build-the-wall kind of guy — to the tune of $670,000 over the last three years — is a slap in the face to the Hispanic customers Publix has successfully courted with family-oriented advertising in Spanish and minority hiring, and by integrating ethnic products into the offerings.

We’re under attack by this president — and you support a mini-Trump wannabe for governor?

This is our time of need. Hispanic families who have lived in this state for decades are dealing with pain and angst over the separation of parents from their U.S.-born children and detentions and deportations as a result of Trump’s dehumanizing policy. Even legal residents are at risk, too.

But, apparently, Publix isn’t giving the suffering of its customers a single thought.

The Lakeland-based company is pushing the line that it is subsidizing Putnam’s campaign because he’s the “pro-business” Polk County hometown boy in the race.

And boy, are they showering him with love.

The Tampa Bay Times reported that “no other Florida candidate has ever come close” to that kind of campaign cash from Florida’s largest Fortune 500 company. Publix’s most recent contribution of $100,000 on April 30 was the largest, too, according to the latest campaign finance filings.

Putnam not only attacks undocumented immigrants, calling them “illegals” as if they were a thing and not human beings, but he’s no advocate of voting rights for blacks and naturalized U.S. citizens.

In Congress, where he served 10 years, Putnam voted to ease requirements of the Voting Rights Act that ensure states won’t discriminate against blacks and minority citizens. In a direct affront to Hispanics and Haitians, Putnam voted to remove the requirement that states like Florida with substantial minority populations provide bilingual ballots and language assistance at the polls. And he pressed for stricter photo I.D. requirements because driver licenses aren’t enough for him.

And this is the man Publix is endorsing for governor? So much for “Publix Sabor.” So much for the corporate celebration of Hispanic heritage.

No, thank you, I’ll do my grocery shopping elsewhere.

We do have plenty of choices in places like South Florida and Orlando, home to the largest chunks of the state’s population and voters Putnam needs to win on his way to the governor’s mansion.

We’re home to one of the largest Hispanic retailers in the nation, Sedano’s, as well as a variety of other Hispanic-owned grocery stores we’d do well to patronize given this endorsement of a bigot who peddles faith in his political message but lacks basic human empathy. And with the advent of Whole Foods, Fresh Market, and Trader Joe’s, Publix is no longer the only or best mainstream game in town either.

As for Putnam, he’s facing U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, another North Florida Trump lover, for the Republican nomination to replace term-limited Gov. Rick Scott, who is vying to strip Senator Bill Nelson of the seat he’s held since 2001. The winner will face whoever is left standing from a crowded Democratic field that includes former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Orlando businessman Chris King.

Plenty of choice there, too, Publix.

RELATED COVERAGE: Publix clarifies: We support Putnam, not the NRA

Publix is supporting Adam Putnam’s run for governor like no politicians before.

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