FloridaPolitics.com sat down with Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham Wednesday.
Graham, the frontrunner for the nomination, exuded confidence as we talked in a Jacksonville bookstore/cafe.
“We are going to win this race,” Graham said.
Graham, despite this reporter’s best efforts, wouldn’t veer too far off message. We asked her to address the rumor that Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum will end up as the Lt. Gov. candidate.
“It’s too early,” Graham said of her “dear friend.”
Graham added that she is “looking for someone who can help [her] govern” in the LG slot.
We also asked Graham to address Republican candidate Ron DeSantis.
If he’s the nominee, Graham “can’t wait to debate him.”
DeSantis’ endorsement by Pres. Trump “nationalizes the race” for Governor, Graham said.
But such nationalization would have happened anyway.
“Florida’s such an important state. The Governor’s race,” Graham added, “is the most significant race in the country,” one with “national implications.”
The Governor would be in a position to veto a map that doesn’t abide by the principles of “fair redistricting,” and Graham is conscious of Florida’s “movement toward being a blue state” with an “energy and engagement” that she hasn’t seen before.
“Post-Trump,” Graham said, “people are connecting the dots” — which could be pivotal during the 2018 midterms.
Discussion covered some of the key issues facing Florida.
One such issue: medical cannabis, an issue that Andrew Gillum addressed last week when the “dangerous and deluded” Attorney General Jeff Sessions moved to rescind the Cole Memo, a guideline that protected state-level decisions on cannabis from federal prosecution.
Graham didn’t go as far as Gillum, who flat out said that the Sessions move was intended to stuff the jails.
“I line up with the people of Florida,” Graham said. “It’s a real shame that in instance after instance the voice of the people hasn’t been listened to.”
Beyond cannabis — which Graham believes could be a counter to the opioid overdose crisis filling morgues and taxing city budgets in Florida and beyond — Graham points to Florida Forever and the Florida Lottery as examples of the popular will being subverted by “20 years of one-party rule.”
Florida Forever money was “diverted to general revenue,” Graham said, and lottery money was supposed to boost the education budget, but that has declined in real dollars.
“The housing crisis … the opioid addiction crisis … so many people barely making it,” Graham said. “We must do better. We will do better.”
Graham extols the virtues of workforce training — a talking point, ironically enough, of Republican frontrunner Adam Putnam.
When informed of the thematic overlap, Graham mused: “Did he steal it from me?”
The aforementioned one-party dominance, Graham said, has also corrupted Tallahassee culture — where sex scandals of all types are dominating the headlines.
The culture has “gotten off-track [from] what elected officials are elected to do,” Graham said, which is not “party time or socializing on Adams St.”
As well, the culture needs an infusion of women, to redress an institutional “imbalance of power.”
That imbalance of power, Graham said, was a reason it took Gov. Rick Scott seven years to articulate a sexual harassment policy.
Graham looks to be well-positioned for the nomination. From there, it’s a race that she feels confident about winning.
She is quick to draw contrasts between herself and candidates in the other party.
“I’d be happy to live my life on the record,” Graham said.
Until November, she — and the other candidates — essentially will inhabit the space of the media crucible, one where everything ends up on the record sooner or later.