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Bob Sparks: Gwen Graham will soon reveal her 2016 intentions

Down deep, U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham may already know whether she will run for re-election next year. With the Florida House and Senate in agreement on the new look of her District 2 and Corrine Brown’s District 5, the writing (or map) appears to be on the wall.

Graham is doing the right thing by waiting until the court makes it official. Barring something totally unforeseen, a good chunk of her Democratic support in Tallahassee, Leon County and all of Gadsden County will be erased from District 2.

In the meantime, Graham is saying the right things by talking about seeking re-election. She told the Tampa Bay Times that at the right time she would “evaluate where I can best serve.”

“Where” could also include jumping into the race for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Marco Rubio. Perhaps she is considering a run for governor in 2018. Neither would be an unknown endeavor for her family.

If Graham wishes to try to remain in the U.S. House of Representatives, she will have an important decision to make by September. In addition to evaluating her re-election plans, Graham must decide how she will vote on an issue of major concern to her constituents.

Next month the House will take up a resolution against the Iran nuclear deal that was negotiated by Secretary of State John Kerry. The resolution is likely to pass, but not all members have made their intentions known. Graham has not revealed her position.

Her vote on the highly unpopular deal is likely to signal her intentions for 2016. A vote to join her Democratic colleagues in support of the Obama Administration’s agreement should be considered a decision to forego a return to the House.

Like Obamacare in 2010, the issue is likely to determine winners and losers in swing districts. Several Democrats lost their seats in 2010 over the Affordable Care Act. The man Graham defeated in 2014, former Rep. Steve Southerland, ousted former Rep. Alan Boyd by tying him to the unpopular health care law.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Fort Lauderdale, the Democratic National Committee chairwoman, can get away with voting to approve the Iran deal. Gwen Graham cannot. Two of Graham’s Democratic colleagues from South Florida, Rep. Alcee Hastings and Rep. Ted Deutch, have come out against the deal.

A recent poll by Quinnipiac University found that only 25 percent of Floridians support the disastrous agreement while 61 oppose.  Nearly an identical percentage of respondents, 61-27, said the deal will make the world “less safe.”

Among Democrats, 50 percent approve, but only 6 percent of Republicans. For someone about to lose a bunch of Democratic voters while gaining more Republicans, ignoring a large chunk of your constituents is not a path to victory.

Representation of a new Republican-leaning district, with plenty of active military and retirees, does not fit in with voting to lift sanctions and release billions of dollars to Iran. They understand millions of dollars will go toward creating more havoc in the Middle East, if not the U.S.

They know Iran is responsible for the deaths of American servicemen and women in the Middle East. Most of us believe they will cheat. The Quinnipiac results confirmed the consensus view that no deal would be better than this one.

Democrats such as Graham would do well to avoid the temptation to support this deal by taking comfort that 2016 is a presidential election year. Yes, Democrats have performed better in recent cycles, but Graham and those in swing districts should realize the vote-drawing power of Barack Obama will not be at the top of the ticket.

Both Hillary Clinton’s campaign and her remaining credibility are disintegrating before our eyes. Vice President Joe Biden seems about to become his party’s best hope.

Graham would at least have a small chance in the proposed new district, and a reasonable chance in a Senate run, by voting with her constituents against the deal and vote to override a guaranteed presidential veto.

Her actions this fall will reveal her mindset about next fall.

Bob Sparks is a business and political consultant based in Tallahassee, Fla. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

Written By

Bob Sparks is a former political consultant who previously served as spokesman for the Republican Party of Florida, Department of Environmental Protection and the Florida Attorney General. He was a senior adviser to former Gov. Charlie Crist. Before entering politics, he spent nearly two decades in professional baseball administration. He can be reached at and Twitter @BobSparksFL.

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