In a recent op-ed in the Tallahassee Democrat, the chair of the Leon County Democratic Executive Committee, Patty Ball-Thomas, blamed Gov. Ron DeSantis for Gwen Graham’s removal from the Rebuild 850 board.
As Florida Politics reported, Graham was asked to step aside from her role as co-chair by one of Rebuild 850’s chief organizers, Ron Sachs, after Graham’s highly partisan tweet-storm against DeSantis.
There is no doubt that Graham cares deeply about the people whose lives have been upended by Hurricane Michael.
There is also no doubt that DeSantis is doing about as much as he can do for those same people.
One of Graham’s critiques of DeSantis is his relationship with the President, calling him a “Mini Donald Trump” and the President’s “acolyte,” implying he’ll bow to whatever Trump wants.
When you look at what the Governor has actually done to advocate for Hurricane Michael victims, Grahams narrative falls apart pretty quickly.
While it’s true that DeSantis is viewed favorably by the President, he has leveraged that relationship to Florida’s advantage.
DeSantis has pushed the Trump Administration for extended federal coverage for debris removal, taking a huge financial burden off the backs of local governments.
After Hurricane Michael was reclassified as a Category 5 storm — only the fourth time that designation has been given to hurricane making landfall in the U.S. — DeSantis asked the federal government for increased federal funding for Hurricane Michael recovery, a move that could save the state hundreds of millions of dollars.
Ball-Thomas’ op-ed is a poorly thought out partisan hit piece. Graham’s political tirade is fit for a political candidate but not for the leader of a non-profit aimed at aiding people in need.
Arguably, Graham’s comments hurt Rebuild 850’s fundraising efforts, and in turn, hurt the people in the Panhandle.
The Governor’s Office had nothing to do with Graham’s ousting and both Graham and Ball-Thomas know it. The real reason for this op-ed has to do with two important numbers; 57.6 and 2022.
According to a recent survey from St. Pete Polls, DeSantis has a 57.6 percent approval rating, making him the most popular Governor of Florida in the past decade. 2022 is the year of the next gubernatorial election, and the clock is already ticking for the Florida Dems to find a suitable challenger.
If Graham wants to be the nominee in 2022, she has to keep herself relevant and differentiate herself from DeSantis.
If the Democratic Presidential Primary has taught us anything so far, it’s that “moderate” is anathema in this increasingly partisan process. The old “North Florida Way” Gwen Graham won’t stand a chance, so she needs to pivot and go on a partisan attack, regardless if the facts agree with her.
It’s unfortunate because this is not true to who she is.
One of Graham’s tweets does give some good advice: “Floridians, please pay attention, not to the spin, but to what the Governor is actually doing. Actions speak louder than words.”
If you ask the people of North Florida, I think they’ll tell you the Governor is acting, which leaves Graham with just words.
Hopefully Ball-Thomas’ op-ed will have one positive effect; to remind those of us outside the Panhandle that people are still in need.
Please visit Rebuild850.org to donate.