Miami Native Gwen Graham Wants to Bring "North Florida Way" to Governor's Race

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Rep. Gwen Graham, a single-term Democratic congresswoman perhaps best known for being the daughter of former senator and governor Bob Graham, announced today she won't seek reelection and is instead strongly considering a run for governor in 2018.

"I'm so excited to tell you first that I'm seriously considering running for governor in 2018," she says in an announcement video sent to supporters this morning. 

Graham was noted as a Democratic rising star after securing a narrow victory in a hard-fought race in a Republican-leaning Panhandle congressional district in 2014, but recent redistricting has returned the district to solidly red. 

Graham seems to think sticking to the same tactics that helped her win in the Panhandle may propel her to statewide victory, but even her announcement video may have Democrats in the rest of the state turned off and scratching their heads. 

1. She attacks the recent redistricting, generally seen as a win for progressive-minded voters, as a sign of government dysfunction. 

"Unfortunately, the lobbyists, politicians, and courts in Tallahassee have been at work too," Graham says, "redrawing and dividing up North Florida and the district I represent, turning what was an example of a fair district into two partisan districts. Our state government is just dysfunctional." 

Well, that's perhaps the weirdest take we've heard on the recent redistricting ruling. 

Despite the fact that Florida is almost equally divided by Republican- and Democrat-leaning voters, Republicans in the state Legislature had for years gerrymandered the state's congressional districts to favor Republicans. That's why there are 17 Florida Republican representatives and only ten Democrats in D.C. 

In 2010, Florida voters overwhelming passed an amendment banning gerrymandering and calling for fairer districts. Voters' rights groups thought the resulting districts still weren't fair, so they sued. Judge after judge agreed. The districts were thrown out, and a plan written by those voters' rights groups was adopted instead. The resulting plan is generally fairer and, in general, should lead to more Democratic representation of Florida in the U.S. House. 

Unfortunately for Graham, she was one of the few Democrats adversely affected by the decision. Trying to paint the redistricting ruling as some sort of special interest boondoggle just comes off as sour grapes.

2. Uh, what's this "North Florida way" thing? She was born in Miami Lakes.

"It's time to remind the Legislature, governor, and lobbyists that when they come to the state capitol, they're in North Florida," Graham says. "We have a certain way of doing things here. We govern in the sunshine, we serve the people, and we care for our neighbors. We call it the 'North Florida way,' and it's missing in the state capitol."

First off, it's worth pointing out that Graham was born in Miami Lakes into a Miami-Dade political dynasty. The student union building at Florida International University is named after her grandfather, a former state senator who championed Miami-Dade issues in Tallahassee in the 1930s and '40s. Yes, the FIU student union — it doesn't get much more Miami than that. 

Graham moved to Tallahassee as a teenager when her father was elected governor and completed her final two years of high school there, but she was pretty much born and raised in Dade. 

So painting herself as a child of North Florida is not only misleading but also a weird way to launch a potential statewide campaign. Talk about dividing voters. 

What Tallahassee really needs to be reminded of is that South Florida is the largest population center and the largest economic and tax engine in the state. 

Of course, Florida Democratic leaders tend to have some sort of fantasy that in order to win statewide races, they need to run candidates who can make inroads in North Florida and, as Bill Clinton once said, "hustle up the cracker vote." 

Graham fits that bill perfectly, but so do any number of recent statewide Democratic nominees who have failed miserably in general elections. 

Though, Graham could have lots of competition in a Democratic primary. Among others, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine are also said to be eyeing runs. 

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