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Gwen Graham Takes Page From Father’s Campaign Playbook In Race For Governor

Gwen Graham
Gwen Graham
Gwen Graham
Credit Ryan Benk / WJCT News
Gwen Graham

Updated 10 p.m. to correct Gwen Graham's position on gun control.

Gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham channeled her father — former Governor Bob Graham — by participating in a “work day” Wednesday in Jacksonville.

Graham experienced a day in the life of workers at the city’s largest ex-felon re-entry program. She spent the day at Operation New Hope in downtown Jacksonville, learning firsthand how the job’s done.

“I’ve had a chance to participate in the various departments, including the intake department. [I was] just talking to clinical services about the mental health services they provide,” she said.

Since announcing her candidacy earlier this month, the former Democratic Panhandle congresswoman has worked everywhere from a renewable-energy company to Carol City Senior High School in Miami, where in the mid-70s her father started his 100-workday journey.

Former Florida Governor Bob Graham ran for governor after a Miami teacher challenged him to run one of her classes years before. He would eventually experience the lives of 100 Floridians before winning.


Bob Graham on one of his 100 "workdays"
Credit Florida Memory
Bob Graham on one of his 100 "workdays"

But the younger Graham is running in a completely different political climate. Both parties are experiencing fractures after an especially polarized presidential election. So, she said her campaign’s first goal is unity.

“What I love to do is to bring people together; it’s what I’ve done in my professional life throughout my career. Get people in the room who often disagree with each other and let’s actually have a civil conversation about what is the right solution moving forward,” she said. “And for the state of Florida, that’s what I will do.”

Graham said the high profile food fights at the statehouse in Tallahassee this legislative session should leave Floridians “appalled.”

Specifically, Graham cited Republican leadership’s disagreement over funding for the state’s economic and tourism development agencies, funding for the Florida Forever conservation land-buying program and an education train bill that could see millions of dollars diverted away from traditional public schools to charters.

Graham said she would absolutely veto a budget like this year’s if she was in the governor’s mansion. She said she believes in a governing style that relies on compromise and mentioned how she was voted most independent member of the Florida congressional delegation by Washington magazine “Roll Call.”

Graham, who unseated Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland in the state’s conservative Panhandle district in 2012, bucked her party by voting to authorize the Keystone XL pipeline, to temporarily halt the admittance of Syrian refugees and against the enforcement of an Obama-era clean water rule. She also voted to ease banking restrictions that were part of Dodd-Frank reform.

“I’m really proud to have a broad base of support across all parts of the Democratic party and I look forward to having an open conversation with anyone that wishes to talk with me about any area I support,” she said. “My environmental record is one I’m incredibly proud of.”

Graham said even though she supported the pipeline and opposed the clean water rule, she’s cosponsored legislation banning fracking and coastal oil drilling. Graham is a self-described supporter of the Second Amendment, who also supports strengthening enforcement of current laws and ensuring those with violent criminal records and mental health issues cant get weapons.

She also said she'd like to see security tighten for refugees, but not at the expense of those fleeing persecution.

“I am the granddaughter of a Syrian refugee,” she said. “So it is a false choice that you have to decide whether or not to accept refugees to America — I wouldn’t be here but for an open, welcoming country — but also to make sure that we’re protecting national security. We can do both.”

Graham is facing longtime friend and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Central Florida businessman Chris King in the Democratic primary. Meanwhile, state Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is widely seen as the Republican frontrunner.

Reporter Ryan Benk can be reached at rbenk@wjct.org , 904-358-6319 or on Twitter @RyanMichaelBenk

CORRECTION:  A previous version of this story was incorrect, Gwen Graham supports gun control reform.

Copyright 2020 WJCT News 89.9. To see more, visit WJCT News 89.9.

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