AFP Goes to Bat for Steve Southerland Against Gwen Graham

By: Kevin Derby | Posted: April 3, 2014 3:55 AM
Steve Southerland and Gwen Graham

Steve Southerland and Gwen Graham

The fur is flying in a North Florida congressional race even with the election being seven months out.

U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Fla., is a top target for Democrats in November and conservative group Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is looking to provide the Republican incumbent with some cover with a new television commercial this week.

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In the new ad, AFP urges North Florida residents to thank Southerland for opposing President Barack Obama’s federal health-care law. The ad features quotes from Southerland against Obama’s health-care law.

“On health care, Steve Southerland has it right,” the narrator of the ad says. “He puts us first, not special interests.”

Despite Democrats holding a decided advantage in this North Florida district which stretches from Madison County toward the Panhandle and includes Tallahassee and the Big Bend, Southerland defeated U.S. Rep. Allen Boyd in 2010 and held off former Florida Senate Democratic Leader Al Lawson in 2012. Both Boyd and Lawson had been hampered by hard-fought Democratic primaries, something which doesn’t apply to Gwen Graham who is the only Democrat currently challenging Southerland.

Democrats have high hopes for Graham, the daughter of former Gov. and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla. During her father’s political career, including his unimpressive bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in the 2004 election cycle, Graham was a key campaign aide. She later helped former Gov. Howard Dean’s, D-Vt., and then U.S. Sen. John Kerry’s, D-Mass., presidential bids in 2004.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) went to bat on Graham’s behalf, pushing back against AFP’s new ad. The DCCC insisted the Koch brothers, the billionaires who have largely helped fund AFP, are “nervous” about Southerland’s chances in November and jabbed the congressman for backing the GOP’s budget proposals. The DCC insisted the Republican budget proposal was “reckless” and “costs 3 million jobs, ends the Medicare guarantee and jeopardizes middle-class families’ financial security” while helping higher-earning Americans.

“It’s no coincidence that shady billionaires are coming to Congressman Steve Southerland’s rescue on the same day he released his reckless budget,” said David Bergstein, a spokesman for the DCCC. “Congressman Southerland is campaigning on a platform of handouts to the ultra-wealthy, paid for on the backs of Florida’s seniors, students and small businesses.

“Congressman Southerland’s flawed priorities may endear him to out-of-state billionaires like the Koch Brothers, but they remain wildly out of touch with the values of North Florida families,” Bergstein added.

Graham sent out a message to supporters and insisted political outsiders were needed to straighten out Washington. "The politicians in Washington have sat by idly as the economy crawls along at a sluggish pace; as the price of education skyrockets; and as national security threats flare across the globe," Graham wrote. "In the last year, our own congressman, Steve Southerland, single-handedly torpedoed the farm bill; he supported shutting the federal government down, all while doing nothing to help businesses create jobs in North Florida.

Graham went on to castigate both parties and the veteran campaign worker called for "new leadership."

"Southerland has failed to be a leader for us -- but it’s not just his fault," Graham wrote. "We can blame Democrats and Republicans for the failures in Washington. It’s time for new leadership on both sides of the isle."

Despite Graham's jabs at Washington, she is getting help from the Beltway. The DCCC included Southerland as one of its top targets in a new website attacking House Republicans for supporting U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan's, R-Wis., budget proposal. 

"Congressman Southerland’'s new Republican budget is the clearest illustration yet that he is not on the side of Florida'’s middle-class families. – Congressman Southerland’'s Republican budget rewards the special interests and the wealthy who need help the least, and does it on the backs of the middle class,"” said Josh Schwerin, a spokesman for the DCCC. "“The people of Florida cannot afford Congressman Southerland’'s reckless budget that costs jobs, threatens middle-class families'’ financial security, raises their taxes, and ends the Medicare guarantee for Florida seniors, while giving more handouts to the corporations and special interests that are shipping our jobs overseas.”"


Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com. 

Comments (4)

2:14PM APR 3RD 2014
Sutherland shoud be proud to have oppsoed the job killing and economy halting obamacare law. Odd the DCCC cites the non passage of Obamacare woumd result in 3 milliion job losses but thatn is exactly is what has happened because of passage of Obamacare, not to mention the increased number of people without health insurance as a result of Obamacare. There was plenty of outrage when 30 million people lived daily without health insurance, now there are more people without health insurance than before, but the same people who were outraged in 2009 aren't anymore. I like to say about liberals, their outrage is selective and synthetic. This is another example.
Roy I. King
9:48AM APR 3RD 2014
Congressman Southerland certainly does not represent my values. He has a one-percent conservation voting record from the League of Women Voters among other things.
8:09AM APR 3RD 2014
David Bergstein's statement misses its' mark by limiting his comments to "North Florida values" rather than our entire state which, I honestly believe, has values in place as well.
The so called "Americans For Prosperity" (AFP) is nothing more than a handful of the very rich, elite who enjoy the benefits of financial welfare at the cost of normal and everyday citizens and taxpayers!
One thing I am certain. If a candidate is endorsed by "AFP" or anything even similar in name, I could NEVER vote for that person as it would be easily compared to shooting myself in my good foot!
7:37AM APR 3RD 2014
Yep, the part of Florida with the most aggregate poverty and the most need of healthcare should thank Congressman Southerland,Representative Dead Sea Skinny Dipping Club, for opppposing a bill that will help more than a 100,000 of the folks that live in the district. Because billionaires for penury and misery support Southerland's efforts to deepen their penury and misery.
Florida and the Nation need Gwen Graham in Congress.

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