Graham Reaching Out To Fellow Florida Congressmen
Last Tuesday Republicans took control of the U.S. Senate and experts say World War II is the last time so many GOP members have been slated for seats in the House. But the outcome was a little different in North Florida where Democratic challenger Gwen Graham nipped Tea Party favorite Steve Southerland in the fight for Florida’s second congressional district.
Graham beat Southerland by about 2,000 votes. Southerland is one of just three Republican incumbents who lost seats Tuesday. Congressman Vance McAllister from Louisiana lost after a scandal involving him kissing a married staffer. Congressman Lee Terry from Nebraska also lost. He faced heavy criticism after initially refusing to give up his salary during the federal government shutdown. Southerland’s loss came down to numbers. Graham easily took traditionally Democratic Counties, Leon and Gadsden, getting about twice the votes Southerland pulled. Which meant she just needed to chip away at the votes Southerland could gain in most of the district’s smaller rural counties. Southerland says he’s hoping to help Graham make a smooth transition.
"We will assist in any way possible in a transition because it's not about me and it's not about Gwen. It's never been about us. It's about you. It's always been about you to me. And so we're going to transition. We're going to coordinate. We're going to be very helpful because I don't want any person to fall between the cracks," Southerland says.
But the day after her victory, Graham said she knows the job she’s got ahead of her will likely be anything but smooth.
“I’m not naïve. I know there’s going to be challenges and I’m ready to take those challenges on. I’m the kind of person that I continue to reach out to folks and try to build bridges that need to be built at this point. So, I will work hard to make sure that the gridlock and dysfunction that we’ve found, that I can be at least one voice in changing that,” Graham says.
Graham says she plans to hit the ground running. She’s already put in calls to the state’s first and third district Congressmen and hopes to team up with them. Graham says she wants to focus on programs to help grow the North Florida economy, including helping workers get trained for the jobs available in the area. She’d also like to create a veteran’s database to help military members match their skills with available jobs. Graham says a lot of that will start with building relationships with key leaders in Washington DC.