Gwen Graham's Moderate Facade Can't Hide the Liberals Behind Her

By: Jeff Henderson | Posted: July 17, 2013 3:55 AM

Gwen Graham and Bob Graham

Gwen Graham and Bob Graham

Gwen Graham is taking a page out of her father’s political playbook for her congressional campaign in talking about going to the middle while dancing to the left.

In the early stages of her bid to defeat U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Fla., next year, Graham seems to have two basic strategies in place. She reminds voters constantly that her father is Bob Graham who served as both governor and a U.S. senator. Graham also insists she is a moderate, a “Graham Democrat” who can be an “independent voice in Washington.”

Graham certainly tries to portray herself as a common-sense moderate who fits into the largely rural Big Bend district Southerland represents.

“Our problems can’t be blamed on only Republicans or only Democrats – we need more people in both parties committed to working together and finding real solutions,” Graham wrote in the “Why I’m Running” section of her campaign webpage. “I’m running for Congress to represent you with an independent voice in Washington. I will work with anyone, regardless of party affiliation, to create jobs, invest in education and balance our budget – with a plan that stands up for the middle class, keeps taxes low and protects Medicare and Social Security. I am ready to go to Congress to be part of the solution, not more of the problem.”

But, despite her rhetoric, Graham is getting help from liberal groups and Democrat partisans. Back in 2004, Graham was a key staffer for Howard Dean, the most liberal Democrat running for president since George McGovern. She still has ties to Dean’s camp, including having his strategist Joe Trippi on her payroll as a campaign adviser and has sent thousands his way.

Graham is also getting the support of Emily’s List, a large PAC dedicated to electing pro-choice Democrats to office. The “moderate” and “independent” Graham joins prominent liberal Florida Democrats like Corrine Brown and Debbie Wasserman Schultz in being endorsed by Emily’s List.

On Tuesday, representatives of the teachers' unions came out to praise Graham. Despite her campaign’s efforts to remind voters about her PTA experience, Graham spent years as an administrator in the Leon County schools as director of employee relations and later on as division director for professional standards and chief of labor and employee relations. In her positions, Graham had to pay more attentions to public employees than students and families which makes her the ideal candidate for teachers' unions to support.

If all of this sounds familiar, Bob Graham was a master of sounding like a moderate while going left on the issues. This strategy certainly helped him in Florida as he won two gubernatorial elections and three U.S. Senate contests. But when Graham decided to run for president, it sunk him in the early stages of the campaign. Graham tried to have it both ways, stressing his opposition to the Iraq war to win the votes of liberals while reminding moderates he was a founder of the moderate Democratic Leadership Council (DLC).

It was a disaster. Despite having most Florida Democrats behind him, Graham couldn’t raise any cash and was a nonfactor in the early going. Graham didn’t even make it to Iowa and announced that he would not run for a fourth term in the Senate. A humiliating end for one of the most successful careers in Florida politics.

Gwen Graham could fall into the same trap that ensnared her father’s presidential hopes. The National Republican Campaign Committee (NRCC) is already portraying Graham as a liberal and she might have to move to the left if she takes on Al Lawson in a Democratic primary.

At a press event on Tuesday, Gwen Graham continued trying to have it both ways. Slamming Southerland as an “extremist,” Graham refused to say if she would vote for House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to be speaker. It’s typical of this Graham. She has the backing of the national and state Democratic establishments but won’t go on record to say if she’ll support her party’s leader to lead Congress. Graham continues to sell herself as a moderate and to push voters to ignore the liberals behind her campaign.

Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis exclusively for Sunshine State News


Comments (9)

7:29AM JUL 19TH 2013
if bob graham supports her good. he was one of the most effective and best gov.'s we ever had as oppose to what we have now he was a gem.
henderson's piece is nothing up a two for one hatchet job attempt as usual. we need people who are willing to work across the isle not more grid lock. the right wing of the republican party is killing the country, stifling growth and creating divides which hurt everyone. get rid of them and vote for sanity.
10:58AM JUL 17TH 2013
?? for Gwen, do you support abortions on demand after 20 weeks?
Do you support the Keystone Pipeline? Do you support the Interior Dept continuing to blow up old old rigs? Do you support Obamacare? What is your opinion on the IRS targeting conservative groups? Do you think the American people need to know the truth on Benghazi or Fast and Furious? Do you support Nancy Pelosi?
11:04AM JUL 18TH 2013
And Nacy Pelosi was one of the most effective Speakers of the House in decades as well as a responsible and pragmatic minority leader now.
10:59AM JUL 17TH 2013
oil rigs typo sorry
7:14AM JUL 18TH 2013
The Keystone pipeline is objectively bad for America. I realize blowing up old rigs resonates with you as you likely identity with old whatever but as best I know the only thing that is happening is some insistence on the part of regulators that old rigs be securely capped. Funny how ,once again, oil and gas interests maximize their initial profits and manage to pass the costs of mitigating the adverse effects of their business to the taxpayers since many of the abandoned rigs no longer have owners of record. Slightly more than 1% of abortions are performed after 22 weeks and these are truly the necessary ones . A lot of gross defects that assre death for the fetus and /or endanger the womans life are not able to be identified until 20 to 22 weeks gestational age. And at the end of the day what busines is it of yours or the state about a womans choice to carry to term or not?Obamacare/PPACA is a good thing for the nation and its citizens. There is no "IRS Scandal" or "Benghazi Scandal" or "Fast and Furious Scandal." There is the scandalous and unethical behavior by Congressman Issa in manufacturing a patently false narrative about the IRS. Beghazi was a terrible event that is explained by a combination of hubris and poor judgement on the part of Ambasador Stevens, too much trust in the ability of the Libyan government and militias to provide security, and the consequences of cut backs demanded by Republicans in the State Department Security Budget. Fast and Furious was act 2 of a very bad idea first used in the Bush'43 reign and the direct conseqence of the NRA'a malicious influence in making it impossible to stop sales to strawmen buyers of 10's to 100's of firearms at a time since the real business of the NRA is gun marketing and sales. Your remarks as usual are not tethered to reality.
8:54AM JUL 17TH 2013
I attended the press conference yesterday. Graham's reference to Southerland as an extremist was pegged to his partisanship, not his views. And of course democratic groups are going to support her - do you think they are going to back Southerland??
Your reference to her dad's presidential campaign omitted the fact that he had open heart surgery just as it was getting cranked up. Please don't try to revise history by suggesting that Bob Graham gave up his Senate seat because of his unsuccessful presidential run. Anyone who knows Florida politics knows that had nothing to do with his decision.
Gwen Graham is a refreshing change from the "just say no" tea party Southerland and the far left ideologues of the Democratic Party. She is her own person and will be an independent representative for ALL of the people of the Second District. Lord knows we need a change from the incumbent.
7:10AM JUL 17TH 2013
And the reality of Steve Southerland's rabid right wing beliefs and supporters cannot hide it is awful for District 2 as well as all Americans.
3:33PM JUL 18TH 2013
she will lose this race. This isnt Miami where she contemplated running a few years ago. This is the panhandle. Te chance to take southerland out was 2012 in a newly drawn district and tremendous Obama turnout. None of that exists today.

Southerland was only one of a handful of members to vote against Repub leadership on sequestration. And his stances on food stamp fraud will go over just fine in that district.

This is fools gold for Democrats. If they were smart, they would field a better candidate against Bill Young and Ros Leightinen.
12:26PM AUG 2ND 2013
2014 is the year Tea party Republicans Lose Big in Fl. Look at the 2012 How many seats republicans Lost Its going to be A snowball effect in 2014 Florida is tired of the same old crap In Florida

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