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Graham Seeking To Become Second Generation Florida Governor

Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media

Former Congresswoman Gwen Graham brought her Democratic campaign for governor to Pensacola Tuesday morning. 

Graham spent part of her day working at the USO based at Pensacola International Airport. The visit was something of a throwback to her time in Congress, as a member of the House Armed Services Committee.

“And I worked hard every single day to make sure that those men and women who have served our country are provided all the support that they’re entitled to when they come back home,” Graham said. “Being with the USO at the airport will allow me to welcome those who are coming back home from active duty, give them a hug and thank them for serving our country.”

The daughter of Bob Graham,Florida’s 38th governor and a U.S. Senator, Gwen Graham is continuing the tradition he started to go around the state and conduct “work days,”  when he would spend the day doing various jobs held by Floridians.

“My father has done 408 work days; this is my fifty-fifth today,” says Graham. “I’m very competitive; I’ll keep working away at it until I get 409.”

Graham has been on the campaign trail since last May, bringing with her a list of commitments to education, the environment, and an economy that enables all Floridians to get a great-paying job. Part of that is providing technical training down into the local school systems.

“So that the jobs that are here today, or the jobs that we want to bring here in the future, that we’re providing the training to our students,” Graham said. “So that they’ll have the skill sets to get those jobs. I want Floridians to be able to not just live in Florida, but be able to have a quality of life in Florida.”

Other economic policies supported by Graham run counter to those of Governor Rick Scott. Those include raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour and implementing required paid sick leave.

She was asked how much of her politics come from her father, and now much are hers.

“I stand on my own two feet; and I give you my word that I’ll be the same type of governor that my father was,” said Graham. And that’s what I take away from learning from him and growing up watching him, is that it’s about the people you have the honor of representing.”

Graham’s first digital video ad, entitled “Stand Up,” deals not with the Sunshine State, but with the occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington.

“’We have a President that could not be more ill-suited to be President of the United States of America,” Graham says in the ad. “Donald Trump is an embarrassment; Donald Trump is an example of a bully. I see it as my job to stand up to Donald Trump, to look out for the state of Florida.”

One of the first markets the ad is targeting is Palm Beach where Trump and some of his staff will be visiting over the course of April.

Graham says she entered the governor’s race to become a bridge over negativity and divisiveness.

“That’s how you come out of a conversation, or an attempt to find the right policy is by talking and bringing people together who have different points of view,” says Graham. “And let’s find out where we can reach agreement.”

Between now and the August 30 primary, Gwen Graham plans to visit all 67 Florida counties, resurrecting an old campaign slogan from her congressional days: “The North Florida Way.”

“Caring about people and wanting to do the best for all and having those friendships and relationships,” Graham said. “When you’re elected to office it’s not about title; it’s about being in a position to wake up every day and work for the people that give you the honor of being there.”

Despite the Panhandle’s reputation as the “reddest part of Florida,” Graham is confident that she’ll do very well in that region, and statewide.

“I have the support of many leaders across the Panhandle who supported my opponent in my congressional race,” said Graham. “But then they saw that my words are not just words.”

Joining Gwen Graham among the seven candidates in the Democratic primary are Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum; Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, and financier Chris King.

The Republicans are having their own heated primary race, with agriculture commissioner Adam Putnam facing Congressman Ron DeSantis, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran waiting in the wings.