As Campaign Ends, Southerland, Graham Work To Turn Out Votes

Nov 3, 2014

Rep. Southerland (R-FL2) at his campaign headquarters making calls to constituents.
Credit Nick Evans

The light at the end of the tunnel is growing brighter in the campaign for Florida’s second congressional district.  Incumbent Rep. Steve Southerland (R-FL2) and his Democratic challenger Gwen Graham are busy canvassing the district to rally support the day before the midterm election.

Just north of Interstate 10 in a small second-floor room, Steve Southerland and a handful of supporters are calling constituents to remind them about Election Day.  It’s no frills.  They’ve set up some folding tables and chairs, there’s a Florida congressional map on the wall, and a stack of oversized Southerland signs leaned up behind the door. 

Southerland came into office on the tea party wave of 2010, and dissatisfaction with the president was a major campaign issue then too.  But in the intervening years, the fervor that brought Tea Party candidates into power has cooled.  Some incumbents like Southerland are facing tight races, which means a lot of time on the phone—and it’s not always easy.

“Well, nobody likes to be rejected,” Southerland says.

But Southerland isn’t looking for supporters.

“What you’re really looking for is the undecided voter,” Southerland says.  “Or a person that has made—doesn’t think that it’s important to vote.  Because those are the conversations you want to have to really motivate them and encourage them to go vote, and then hopefully to vote for you.”

On the other side of the freeway, and the other end of the political spectrum, Democrat Gwen Graham’s Northside campaign office is organizing canvassing teams.  Jamie van Pelt is one of the volunteers who’ll be out knocking on doors.

“It’s a rush,” Van Pelt says.  “You get to talk to voters and interact.  You really feel like the election can be in your hands—whether you can get people out to vote, and whether they’re going to vote for Gwen.”

Graham hopes these volunteers, and others at her downtown phone bank, will be able to help push her over the top.

Graham campaign volunteers making calls of their own at the downtown office.
Credit Nick Evans

“Well I do hear a lot of appreciation, for the fact that we have people that are making calls,” Graham says.  “I understand there are a lot robocalls that are being used.  But this whole campaign has been about people for me, so I want that people-to-people connection.”

Aside from the calls, and the continual campaign ads on TV, the Internet, and the radio, the past few weeks have seen national political figures like Marco Rubio and Bill Clinton in Florida’s second district stumping for their party’s candidate.  For many voters, Tuesday evening can’t come soon enough.

Chuckling, Graham says, “We’re just going to continue doing what we’ve been doing now for over 570 days.”

Maybe the candidates are ready for Tuesday night, too.