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Politics

Steve Southerland and Gwen Graham Shadowbox Over Debates

June 23, 2014 - 6:00pm
The debate over debates has begun in North Florida in one of the most competitive congressional elections in the nation.

The team behind Democratic congressional candidate Gwen Graham, the daughter of former Gov. and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., hand-delivered a letter from their candidate to U.S. Rep. Steve Southerlands, R-Fla., campaign office in Panama City on Tuesday. In the letter, Graham called for more debates than the two she and Southerland have already agreed on.

Insisting she has spoken to thousands of citizens across North Florida on the campaign trail, Graham maintained they were very engaged in the election. They are excited about this race and the implications it has for our country, Graham wrote. North Florida families are concerned about their jobs, their childrens future and Americas standing in the world.

Graham did not offer any details on how many debates she wanted, where they would take place or what their focus would be, insisting those could be worked out by the campaign teams.

My goal is to bring a new kind of approach to Washington that includes more cooperation and problem-solving, Graham wrote. Lets show the voters that we care about the issues that matter to them this election. I hope youll join me in this conversation.

Yet even as Graham promised a new kind of approach to Washington that includes more cooperation and problem solving, she went after Southerlands Washington politics on Tuesday.

Theres a clear contrast in this race between Congressman Southerlands Washington politics and the North Florida approach of compromise and problem-solving Im running on -- and these debates will offer residents the chance to hear directly from us, Graham insisted to supporters on Tuesday.

Despite being a key adviser to her father and working for the likes of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and former Gov. Howard Dean, D-Vt., during their presidential bids, Graham claimed she was a political outsider who could help fix Washington.

Ive spoken to thousands of folks across our community, and they are hungry for an open conversation about how we fix the dysfunctional politics being practiced by D.C. politicians in both parties and start getting Congress refocused on issues that matter to us here in North Florida, Graham noted to supporters.

Luke Strickland, Southerlands campaign manager, noted that Graham was relying on the support of Beltway Democrats in the contest and called for her to speak against them.

Steve certainly hopes the candidates will have a healthy debate of the issues this fall, Strickland said on Tuesday. But if that dialogue is going to happen, it needs to start with Gwen Graham denouncing the liberal outside groups who are smearing Steve's record and misleading voters. Once Gwen Graham demands that Nancy Pelosi and her special-interest allies stop flooding North and Northwest Florida with negative attacks and false information, we will be happy to start the process of scheduling debates. Until that point, the ball remains in Gwen Graham's court."

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com.

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