Three Tampa Bay Democratic lawmakers line up behind Gwen Graham for governor - Florida Politics

Three Tampa Bay Democratic lawmakers line up behind Gwen Graham for governor

Three prominent Tampa Bay-area Democrats are lining up behind Gwen Graham in her bid for Florida governor.

St. Petersburg-based state Sen. Darryl Rouson, St. Petersburg City Council Chair Darden Rice and Tampa City Councilman Mike Suarez are endorsing the former congresswoman, the Graham campaign announced Tuesday.

“I’m honored to have the support of these Tampa and St. Petersburg leaders who are working every day on issues Floridians care about,” Graham said in a statement. “As governor, I will work with them to protect our environment, create opportunities for all, and reform Florida’s criminal justice system.”

The 54-year-old former one-term Democratic Representative from Tallahassee announced her candidacy for governor earlier this month.

“Gwen understands criminal justice reform, protecting voting rights and creating jobs are paramount issues to our community,” State Senator Darryl Rouson said. “She’s sponsored legislation to protect voting rights and personally spent time learning more about rehabilitation with ex-offenders seeking jobs and a second shot at life. Gwen has the passion, experience, and fortitude to make our streets safer, reform our criminal justice system and restore voting rights to the 1.5 million Floridians currently disenfranchised.”

St. Petersburg City Council Chair and former Sierra Club activist Darden Rice calls Graham “a champion for Florida’s environment.”

“She’s fought to ban oil drilling off our beaches, and she understands the threat climate change poses to our entire state,” Rice said. “As governor, she’ll take on climate deniers and polluters to protect Florida from drilling, fracking, and rising tides.”

“Gwen Graham is the leader we need to fight back against Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant policies and create opportunities for every Floridian, regardless of where they come from or what language they speak,” Tampa City Councilman Mike Suarez said. “As governor, Gwen will build an economy that works for all by investing in technical education, supporting public transportation and raising the minimum wage.”

Suarez’s endorsement of Graham is not a surprise. He ran former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham’s office in central Florida for about four years.

Bob Graham is Gwen’s father. He served as Florida governor from 1979 to 1987, a senator from 1987 to 2005, and is something of a living legend among Florida Democrats.

Graham is one of three Democrats officially running for governor, along with Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Winter Park businessman Chris King.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served five years as political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. Mitch also was assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley and is a San Francisco native who has lived in Tampa since 2000. Mitch can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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