As voters and politicians spent the recent weeks discussing civility, and then discussing the discussion about civility, Gwen Graham made clear her position in a conversation with Florida Politics at the Leadership Blue conference in Hollywood.
“I know that as Governor, I’m going to face a lot of people who disagree with me. And I am committed to being a uniter in this state.”
“Even in disagreement, you can find a way to not do that in a way that is ugly, negative, and divisive.”
It’s likely that even if Graham does become the first Democratic governor in Florida in 20 years, she’ll be dealing with a Republican legislature. But she says she’s prepared to not let that reality turn into legislative gridlock.
“I’m someone that enjoys getting people around a table who often don’t agree with each other, and figure out a way for them to talk to one another. We’ve got to have the ability to talk to one another, and through those conversations find where we can find common ground.”
It’s clear which side of that table Graham will be sitting on, however, as she made clear her desire to advocate for liberal policies.
Graham seemed most proud of her stances on education, touting the endorsement of the Florida Education Association. “They know what my commitment is to public education in the state of Florida. It’s the backbone of my campaign.”
Graham highlighted a few issues at the top of her to-do list regarding education reform, such as the end of high-stakes standardized testing.
“We do have to have a way to make sure that the students are tracked so that we know if they’re growing or not. But that’s not what this high-stakes testing has been doing. Teachers don’t even get the information about the testing results until the summer after their kids have already graduated. So it’s purely being used for punitive measures to determine which schools they’re going to give extra money to.”
She also promised to eliminate the grading of public schools. “I don’t think the grading of our schools is anything but degrading to those kids who happen to not live in the certain area where their school is an ‘A’ or a ‘B.’ And we’ve got to make sure every child knows that their school is supported.”
Graham also promised to raise teacher pay, but did not put a hard number on the proposal. “We certainly want to be above the national average.” She said schools should be provided enough resources to raise teacher pay consistently.
Graham then spoke about major events which have occurred throughout the campaign which she says have shaped the race.
“In a long campaign, it’s amazing how things occur that change the dynamics.”
She pointed to two items in particular: the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School and its effect on the conversation around gun safety, and the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy calling into question the future of Roe v. Wade.
The latter issue is of special importance to Graham as she pushed to become Florida’s first woman governor.
“I think women understand that we do not have enough women leaders fighting for our own health care rights.”
And she highlighted what a Republican win might mean if Roe v. Wade is indeed overturned.
“I watched the Republican debate a few nights ago and was appalled at the response of both Adam Putnam and Ron DeSantis of this issue. They talked about the heartbeat bill. We know what that means. It means that their goal would be to take away a woman’s right to choose. And that’s not going to happen on my watch.”
Graham says the stakes are high, and urged all voters to take the process seriously.
“This is so important for the future of the state.”