Gwen Graham talks July 4 party presence, climate change, 'fire and fury' - Florida Politics

Gwen Graham talks July 4 party presence, climate change, ‘fire and fury’

In a matter of minutes Thursday night in Lake Mary, gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham went from indignation over Gov. Rick Scott‘s climate change policies to laughing at why President Donald Trump used the words “fire and fury,” to near tears in explaining her presence at a July 4 party with Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.

The moments, coming during a question and answer session with the Seminole County Democrats, illustrated how well Graham can be received by Democrats with her familiar Democratic messages, and yet how her background of old money still leaves her having to defend herself to skeptical progressives.

Earlier, Graham covered numerous policy positions in rapid fire, from support for a minimum wage increase to a call to reintroduce the arts, extra curricular activities, and technical training into schools, during a 13 minute speech to the Seminole Democratic Executive Committee.

Then during the subsequent question and answer period she really loosened up, calling Scott’s [and President Donald Trump‘s] climate change positions “criminal” and making fun of them, and then becoming emotional when challenged to explain how her she could distance herself from the influence of money if she goes to parties with people like Kushner and Ivanka Trump.

Graham has responded previously, primarily in a written statement, to questions about the ritzy party and its odd-bedfellow guest list of Democrats and Republicans, along with other rich and famous people.

On Thursday, she laid it out in a very personal and emotional manner, and took it live, as one woman webcasted her response on Facebook Live. Graham’s voice began to break as she described the relationships between herself and her cousin who threw the party, Lally Weymouth, and the rest of the family, including Gwen Graham’s parents, former Gov. Bob and Adele Graham, and Weymouth’s late parents, Philip and Katherine Graham.

It was important for her parents and her to attend, she explained.

And she had no idea PresidentTrump’s daughter and son-in-law would be there too, she insisted.

“I was there to take care of my parents,” she said. “I did not talk to them [Trump and Kushner.] I did not approach them.”

“I’m sorry to get emotional,” she added, “but it was hurtful to see these attacks come. This was about family for me. I love my cousin. I love my family. It was important for me to be there for family. And by the way, the moment I saw Ivanka and Jared I was, ohhh, gosh. I stayed away, on the other side of the tent.”

That led to a follow up question, pressing her on whether “big money, dark money, big corporations” would be a part of her. She denied influence, but would not dismiss the need for money.

“In order to run for office you have to raise a lot of money,” Graham said. “You know how much money I have to raise, I’ve been told, in order to be competitive with Republicans? Quite a bit. So, I mean, I’m not sure which groups you’re referring to, what you’re talking about, I haven’t taken any corporate money, if that’s what you’re talking about.”

Moments before she was expressing outrage with Scott, and making fun of Scott and Donald Trump

“It is criminal what Gov. Scott has done in Tallahassee to ignore the biggest threat to Florida, which is rising sea levels. Rising sea levels, we are on a peninsula! We have water all around us! There is no state, there is no state in the nation that is more impacted by climate change than Florida,” she said. “So what we need to do is planning for what is inevitable. The water is already here. Everyone saw what happened in Miami Beach.

“We need to prepare for it. We need to recognize it. We need to deal with it. We need to be putting money into infrastructure projects,” she continued. “We need to make sure we do all we can to move to renewable energy in this state, to do our part.”

She said as governor it would be her responsibility to immediately start developing plans to deal with rising sea levels.

“You can deny the use of words, but you cannot deny the reality on the ground. You know what now? Guess who recently said we’re not gong to allow the use of the words climate change in the federal government? Donald J. Trump. Also known as Rick Scott’s BFF.”

Speaking of Trump, she segued, “When Donald J. Trump said, ‘fire and fury’ [declaring what America’s response would be if North Korea made any more threats,] who watched Game of Thrones Sunday night?

“That’s where he got it! That is where! The fire and the fury! He got it from Game of Thrones! I love that show!”

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@flordiapolitics.com or scottmichaelpowers@yahoo.com.

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