- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 9, 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - After months of considering a run for governor, Republican House Speaker Richard Corcoran announced Wednesday he will stay out of the race and instead back Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

The decision means that what once looked like a crowded primary to replace outgoing Republican Gov. Rick Scott will now be a showdown between Putnam and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis.

“I said for the last year or so that we would look to run for governor or go home,” Corcoran said as he stood with Putnam. “When you look at it, Florida is an expensive state. It costs a lot of money to run … I don’t think we have the resources to move forward.”

Corcoran said after making the decision to stay out of the race, backing Putnam was an easy choice.

“I know his character. Adam is sincere, he is authentic, he is principled, he is passionate. He loves this state,” Corcoran said. “Once I made the decision that I wasn’t going to run, I’m definitely not someone who sits on the sidelines, and it took all of 2.2 seconds for me to utter the name Adam Putnam.”

Scott can’t run for re-election because of term limits and is instead running for U.S. Senate. By the end of 2017, it looked like at least four major Republicans would be in the race to replace him. Sen. Jack Latvala entered the race, but later resigned from his position and dropped out after a Senate investigation found he likely groped a woman who worked as a Senate aide.

Corcoran was widely expected to announce a campaign at the end of this year’s legislative session. He raised close to $7 million through a political committee and began running ads taking a stance against undocumented immigrants. But he’s not well known statewide, and after spending $4.6 million, he wasn’t polling well.

DeSantis’ campaign characterized Corcoran’s endorsement of Putnam as one Tallahassee political insider backing another.

“Conservative principles don’t matter to career insiders, just deals and dealmaking,” DeSantis spokesman David Vasquez said in a press release sent out before Corcoran’s announcement.

Putnam dismissed the criticism.

Richard and I know Florida. We have been through every corner of this state,” he said. “Floridians want someone who will lead our state with passion and conviction, with high character, someone who knows our state and will always put Florida first.”

Democrats running for governor include former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Orlando-area businessman Chris King.

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