Liberal DC Groups Rally Behind Gwen Graham's Bid Against Steve Southerland
Around the State
Gwen Graham is pledging to “bring independent, North Florida values back to Congress” even as liberal groups in the Beltway continue to double down on their support of her challenge against U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Fla.
The daughter of former Gov. and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., Gwen Graham represents one of the best hopes for Democrats to pick off an incumbent Republican in Congress. Despite having aided her father’s political career and worked on the presidential campaigns of former Gov. Howard Dean, D-Vt., and then-U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., in the 2004 election cycle, Graham is positioning herself as a political outsider.
Graham played up that image toward the end of last week as she announced her campaign had enough signatures to make the ballot by petition.
“I am so humbled by the outpouring of support our campaign has received – this is an early but important signal demonstrating our grassroots strength across the district,” said Graham. “From volunteers knocking on doors to neighbors talking to neighbors, our campaign is continuing to gain incredible momentum thanks to thousands of North Florida residents who share our commitment to putting problem-solving over politics in order to break the gridlock in Washington. I look forward to working with Republicans, Democrats and independents as we fight to bring independent, North Florida values back to Congress.”
Graham kept up that theme on Tuesday as she called on Southerland to support the unemployment extension legislation which passed the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate this week.
“This is exactly the kind of thing North Floridians can’t stand about Washington’s out-of-touch priorities,” Graham said on Tuesday, before taking off the gloves to go on the attack. “The same Congressman Steve Southerland who has called his own $174,000 annual taxpayer-funded salary ‘not so much,’ and freely spends our hard-earned tax dollars on big special interests who crashed our economy, refuses to stand with struggling North Floridians doing everything they can to find work and recover from one of the worst recessions in modern history. Before giving more handouts to the ultra-wealthy or corporations that ship jobs overseas, Republicans and Democrats in Congress should come together and pass this common-sense measure that will directly support Florida’s middle class families and help get our economy back on the path to recovery.”
But even as Graham stressed her bipartisanship and her lack of connections to Washington, liberal groups came out swinging at Southerland on her behalf this week.
Stephanie Schriock, the president of liberal super-PAC Emily’s List, turned up the heat on Southerland on Tuesday, hitting him for not backing laws and regulations to ensure equal pay for men and women.
“Ending gender discrimination in pay is the No. 1 workplace issue for American women,” said Schriock. “But instead of working to expand economic opportunity for women and families, Steve Southerland is standing in their way.”
Schriock vowed that her group would be active in North Florida to oppose Southerland and help Graham.
“We need leaders in Washington who share the priorities of working families, and the more than 351,000 women who live in Florida’s 2nd District are going to remember that on Election Day,” Schriok added.
In the meantime, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) continues to go to bat for Graham, launching a robocall this week attacking Southerland for backing the budget proposed by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.
“We are giving Floridians the opportunity to connect directly with Congressman Southerland and tell him that they do not want his Washington budget that heaps tax breaks and handouts on special interests and the wealthiest Americans, and forces the middle class to pay the price,” said Josh Schwerin from the DCCC on Monday. “With this radical budget, Congressman Southerland and Republicans in Congress are turning their backs on Florida’s middle-class families, raising their taxes, costing them jobs, and ending the Medicare guarantee.”
“Republicans in Congress are trying to sell you out so that they can help their wealthy contributors,” the narrator of the call says. “And your congressman, Steve Southerland, is part of the problem. You’re already getting squeezed, and these Republicans in Congress are just making it worse. Their latest budget would cost 3 million jobs, raise taxes on families like yours, give tax breaks to corporations that ship jobs overseas, end the Medicare guarantee and raise costs on seniors. Tell Congressman Southerland that his House Republicans should stop selling out the middle class and instead focus on creating good jobs.”
In the meantime, Southerland is finishing up his petitioning and showing no signs of backing down on the issues. Southerland has been showcasing being honored by the American Conservative Union (ACU) for his record in Congress.
“I'm proud of my consistent, conservative record in Congress and appreciate the support of the American Conservative Union,” Southerland noted at the end of last week.
Southerland went back to that theme on Sunday. “Thanks again to the American Conservative Union and Chairman Al Cardenas! I was honored to receive an award this week recognizing my conservative record,” Southerland insisted.
Reach Kevin Derby at email@example.com.