By JOSH ZIMMER
© St. Petersburg Times, published November 8, 2000
State Rep. Adam Putnam held an early lead in the race to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Charles Canady.
In a campaign that drew national attention, Putnam, 26, was running ahead of Lakeland car dealer Mike Stedem in one of the most expensive statewide campaigns for an open seat.
According to the latest federal election filings, Putnam had outspent Stedem $845,000 to $490,000 in the District 12 race.
Putnam, from a well-known Polk County agricultural family, would be the youngest representative in Congress, barely meeting the federal requirement that House members be at least 25 years old. With 25 percent of the vote in he led Stedem by a 3-to-2 margin.
"Our message was strong and clear because there were some differences between the candidates," Putnam said. As for his age, "It's very humbling the voters were willing to put that amount of trust in my candidacy," the two-term state representative said.
Democrats, eager to regain control of the House, stumped hard for Stedem. House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt campaigned for him two months ago.
The district covers most of Polk County, as well as eastern Hillsborough and Pasco counties.
Despite his political success, Putnam has earned opponents, such as environmentalists who opposed his efforts to return hundreds of thousands of wetlands to private landowners.