Despite increasing speculation that Bob Graham is mapping out a run against Rick Scott in 2014, the former U.S. senator and two-term governor emphatically denied he has any further personal interest in the governor's office.
"No way," Graham told Sunshine State News on Tuesday. "I have no intention of running for office again. I've had my last campaign."
Rumors of Graham's interest in the Democratic gubernatorial nomination have been rampant around the state capital since Thanksgiving, and during Monday night's Associated Industries of Florida reception on Adams Street they were swirling. One political consultant's assistant, eating dinner at a table for eight, said to guests around her, "Bob Graham has been so visible lately. He's been up here (from Miami) more than once and he's always looking for the cameras. He's running, no question about it."
Graham was in the news in late 2011 when he sought to create the Florida Conservation Coalition. The coalition aims to unite numerous environmental groups by one vision: to pressure the 2012 Florida Legislature and governor to recognize environmental issues and take legislative action on them. Graham has said his sole purpose for speaking out is to make sure 40 years of hard work at the state level are not reversed.
If he ran in 2014, Graham would would be 78 years old.
Brannon Jordan, communications director for the Democratic Party of Florida, did not return phone or email requests to confirm or deny the possibility of a Bob Graham candidacy.
The son of Cap Graham, a longtime Democratic leader from Miami-Dade who served in the state Senate in the late 1930s and early 1940s and ran for governor in 1944, Bob Graham ranks as one of the most successful politicians in the Sunshine States history. His older half-brother Phil Graham and his wife Katherine were the longtime publishers and owners of the Washington Post.
First elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 1966, Graham moved up to the state Senate in 1970. He won re-election in 1974, the year he launched his famous workday campaign stops that have been imitated by numerous politicians in the Sunshine State, including Rick Scott and GOP U.S. Senate hopeful Craig Miller. Graham defeated then-Attorney General Robert Shevin in the Democratic gubernatorial primary in 1978.
After serving eight years as governor, he defeated incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Paula Hawkins in 1986. Graham served three terms in the Senate, holding off Republican challengersBill Grant in 1992 and Charlie Crist in 1998. Graham would serve as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Seen as a moderate Democrat in a crucial swing state, Graham was considered a leading vice presidential possibility for his party in 1984, 1988, 1992, 2000 and 2004, but each time he was passed up. He sought the Democratic presidential nomination to take on President George W. Bush in 2004 but he had problems gaining traction and raising funds. After announcing his bid earlier that year, Graham pulled out of the race in October 2003, months before the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary.
Others seen as possible Democratic gubernatorial contenders in 2014 are Scott's 2010 opponent Alex Sink, who lost by a whisker; Senate Minority Leader Nan Rich, D-Weston, who announced her interest in the office last September; and former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, who left the GOP, unsuccessfully ran without party affiliation for U.S. Senate in 2010, and now frequently consults with Democratic Party leaders.
Crist was unavailable for comment Tuesday afternoon.
Reach Nancy Smith at email@example.com or at (850) 727-0859. Kevin Derby contributed to this story.