A fiery Gwen Graham is already looking past next Tuesday

By: - August 23, 2018 12:57 pm
Gwen Graham

Gwen Graham in Tallahassee , October 2018

Just days before the primary election, a confident Gwen Graham on Thursday cast a vote for herself in the race for governor, then moved on to talk about being the first Democrat to lead the state in two decades.

Asked about the reality of working with what may remain a GOP- controlled Legislature, Graham said:

“I look forward to working with the Legislature, but make no mistake, if they’re not willing to work with me, work with the state government in the best interests of the people of Florida, I will find a way to go around them,” she declared.

She also said she’ll use veto power if necessary to get things done.

“I will line item veto every special project until we get back into that building to do what’s right for the people of Florida,” Graham vowed.

The former U.S. Representative and daughter of former Gov. Bob Graham, Gwen Graham lives in the Florida capital but has temporarily moved to Orlando as she travels the state in her bid to win the Democratic nomination. She came back to Tallahassee Thursday to vote in Leon County.

Although polls show an increasingly competitive race, she appears to be in the best position to beat the four other major challengers and advance to the general election against Republicans Ron DeSantis or Adam Putnam.

On the campaign trail, Graham has emphasized improving public education; making health care more accessible and affordable and
protecting the environment.

She alluded specifically to the freshwater blue-green algae outbreaks from Lake Okeechobee water discharges that compelled Governor Rick Scott to declare a red tide state of emergency for seven Florida counties due to the thousands of dead sea animals that have washed up on shore over the past few weeks.“For me personally, that’s a symptom of what has happened with having one party in control that hasn’t been looking out for the people of Florida,” Graham said.

She has been attacked by challenger Andrew Gillum, Tallahassee’s mayor, as “Republican-lite” for some of the more conservatives votes she cast during her one term in Congress. But she didn’t back down from her voting history when asked how she would bring progressives attracted to Gillum into the fold.

“Every single decision that I’ve made I’ve made on facts, and I think that’s what people want,” she said, adding that if people wanted to elect robots, “we could do that.”

While that centrist record has been problematic for Graham in the primary, it could be beneficial in the general election, says Tallahassee resident Don Drake, one of a group of Graham supporters attending her public appearance in front of the Leon County Courthouse.

“What’s really good about her is that she’s not running to the edge to get that group that’s way out there,” he said.

The eventual gubernatorial nominees from both parties will have just a little over a week to name their running mates. Democrats like Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, former South Florida Congressman Patrick Murphy and State House Rep. Shevrin Jones have been mentioned in the media as potential Lieutenant Governor choices for Graham.

While she didn’t name names, she did say what she’s looking for in a running mate.

“I’m looking forward to having a Lieutenant Governor right by my side partnering with me, someone who is a friend and we can work
together for Florida.”

Graham is traveling down to Broward County later Thursday, where Florida music icon Jimmy Buffett will be performing a free concert in support of her candidacy at the Hollywood ArtsPark Amphitheater.

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Mitch Perry
Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has covered politics and government in Florida for more than two decades. Most recently he is the former politics reporter for Bay News 9. He has also worked at Florida Politics, Creative Loafing and WMNF Radio in Tampa. He was also part of the original staff when the Florida Phoenix was created in 2018.