First term Florida Congresswoman Gwen Graham is making this her only term. The North Florida Democrat says she won’t run for re-election in the newly redrawn Congressional District Two. Instead she’s considering a gubernatorial bid. The move essentially cedes CD 2 to a republican. Now local Democrats are reacting to the news.
Graham laid out her plans Thursday in a YouTube video to her supporters. She says she’s been hard at work for her constituents.
But she says, the Florida legislature and the courts have been busy, "redrawing and dividing up North Florida and the district I represent. Turing what was an example of a fair district into two partisan districts. Our state government is dysfunctional. And this causes me to rethink how I can best serve the people of North Florida and the state. Floridians are hungry for new leadership. And I’m excited to tell you first that I am seriously considering running for Governor in 2018.”
Her decision isn’t unexpected. A redrawn Congressional District Two now favors a Republican. And four of them, plus a libertarian, are already running. Graham had also repeatedly told reporters she’d make her plans after the courts decided on a challenge to the congressional districts. Earlier in the week, a federal court upheld the district lines.
In her video message, Graham touts her achievements:
“One hug at a time I’ve been friendships on both sides of the aisle. I’ve helped pass common sense reforms, clean up congress, and rally the Florida delegation and the local community to save the Apalachicola Bay," she said.
Leon County Commissioner Kristen Dozier says she's not surprised by Graham's news.
“I understand Congresswoman Graham’s choice. I think she had a short time in office, shorter than we would have liked. She’s done a great job. And I am glad she’s thinking about other options going forward," said Dozier. She also believes there needs to be a stronger push from the Florida Democratic Party to cultivate candidates for local and state offices.
But while Dozier takes a long view, many of the issues Graham views as achievements—like working across the aisle-- have rubbed other Democrats the wrong way. They’ve criticized her votes in favor of the Keystone XL oil pipeline and a bill that would have loosened regulations for large banks. It’s this balancing act Graham calls “the North Florida Way”.
Longtime Leon County Democratic observer Brian Lupiani says Graham could have a difficult road to the Florida Governor’s mansion. Unlike her father, former governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham, Gwen Graham isn’t that widely known.
“The flip side of the name recognition is that it only works with longtime Floridians at this point—especially as a percentage-- it’s getting smaller all the time," Lupiani said. "She made some headlines when she beat Steve Southerland, but I don’t know if the rest of the state knows her very well.”
If Graham decides to run for Governor in 2018, she could face state agriculture commissioner Adam Putnam, who is also interested in the job. Graham has $2.1 in her campaign account while Putnam has about $4 million. And he’s already won a statewide race.