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Democrats recruiting Gwen Graham, daughter of former governor Bob Graham, to challenge Steve Southerland

By on February 9, 2013
graham, gwen

In 2004, a profile of Gwen Graham, the daughter of former Florida governor Bob Graham as a “a fresh face with a familiar name could be one answer for Florida Democrats starved for new candidates capable of helping the party regain political clout.” The story talked about how she would, after father’s presidential campaign fizzled out, seek elected officer for herself - “possibly a congressional run in 2006 from her family’s South Florida base.”

That was five election cycles ago.

The mother of three ended up not pursuing a congressional bid, instead she is currently the Director of Employee Relations for Leon County Schools. An extensive  Google and social networking search of Graham, as well as a search of public campaign finance databases, turns up little for the University of North Carolina grad after her brief foray into presidential politics in 2003-04. There certainly wasn’t any congressional run to speak of. 

Is that about to change?

It will if the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s Steve Israel has his way. During the House Democratic retreat at Landsdowne Resort in Leesburg, Israel emailed Graham and two dozen other top prospects (including Central Florida’s Val Demings) the party hope to see run in 2014. 

Referring to this video titled “Tea Party Congress the Sequel”, Israel wrote Graham and the others to say, “I just showed this video to the … House Democratic Caucus … [T]his kind of dysfunction and extremism is the reason we need you to run, and why the time is now. Voters are fed up with the Congress of Chronic Chaos and ready for the commonsense solutions you can offer them. I hope that in two years you’ll be joining us at this retreat.” 

Israel would like to see Graham challenge Steve Southerland in Congressional District 2. The Tea Party favorite knocked of blue dog Allen Boyd in 2010 and then held off Al Lawson in 2012. Despite these victories, Southerland is still seen as vulnerable because the district was redrawn to perform better for Democrats.  Southerland was recently listed as one of the Top 10 targets for House Majority PAC, the leading Democratic super-PAC.

A spokesman for the DCCC confirmed the party’s interest in recruiting Graham, but did not elaborate. 

It’s unclear what Graham’s response will be to Israel’s entreaties to run, but her last name alone lends her instant credibility. 

Aubrey Jewett, a University of Central Florida political science professor, said the Graham name “is as good a name as you can get in Florida politics.”

The 2004 profile of Graham, which listed her like a football recruit at 6′ 1″, as being pro-choice and sharing her father’s passions for education and protecting the Everglades.  “I’m very much my father’s daughter,” she said then. “He will always be my No. 1 political adviser. We don’t differ much.”

Graham earned a political science degree at the University of North Carolina, married Mark Logan in 1985 in Tallahassee and then earned a law degree from American University in Washington. She worked three years for a Houston-based law firm in Washington specializing in energy and environmental law before starting her family.

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