Congressman Says Gwen Graham’s Dad ‘Not on the Ballot’

Southerland faces a tough re-election in 2014. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Southerland faces a tough re-election in 2014. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Posted July 29, 2014 at 5:00am

Rep. Steve Southerland II, R-Fla., said he isn’t buying the hype around his opponent, attorney Gwen Graham, the daughter of Bob Graham, a former senator and governor.  

“The Grahams aren’t from Northwest Florida,” Southerland said in a recent sit-down interview with CQ Roll Call. “They’re a South Florida family.”  

“We respect the Graham name,” the two-term Republican continued. “We respect greatly the governor’s service and the senator’s service, but unfortunately, he’s not on the ballot.”  

National Democrats have touted Graham as one of their best recruits this cycle, saying she’ll be able to close the deal with voters in Florida’s 2nd District, thanks in part to her father’s legacy. Southerland’s re-election is quickly becoming one of the most competitive House races in the country, and it’s ratedTossup/Tilts Republican  by the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.  

Democrats also boast Graham is better equipped than their 2012 nominee, Al Lawson Jr. Southerland disagreed. “I wouldn’t say she’s a better candidate,” Southerland said. “Look, nobody had better name recognition in our district than Al Lawson … He served 28 years, again, was Senate minority leader from the district, played ball in Tallahassee — a very athletic town, got the basketball coliseum named after him.”

Southerland defeated Lawson by nearly six points in 2012. Lawson considered running again this cycle, but state and national Democratic power brokers preferred Graham.

Florida’s 2nd District covers parts of the Sunshine State panhandle, including the state capital, Tallahassee. Mitt Romney carried the district by five points in 2012. Southerland described it as “South Alabama, South Georgia with a beach.”

Graham is running hard on her father’s name. She frequently hosts “Workdays,” a tactic her father deployed during his political career in which he spent a day performing the job of a constituent. On Monday, she began airing two political ads featuring her father.

Her fundraising also tells a story of political connections: In the most recent reporting period, Graham raised more than the incumbent.

“The governor served, I think, with distinction and served in the senate three terms but has not been on the ballot since 1998,” Southerland said. “I have four daughters, none of the four of my daughters know who Bob Graham is.”

Southerland volunteers he has “ten thousand cousins” in the district and that his family line in the area traces back “200 years.”

No wonder the Graham campaign frequently cites “the North Florida Way.”