Monday, February 23, 2015

Was It A Mistake To Spend Millions Of Dollars To Elect Right-Wing Democrat Gwen Graham In Florida?


Florida's 2 worst congressional Democrats

Almost a year ago, when she first declared her candidacy for the Florida panhandle seat that gaffe-prone Republican Steve Sutherland had won from reactionary Blue Dog Allen Boyd in 2010, I managed to contact Bob Graham's daughter Gwen. I spoke with her while she was driving southwest from Tallahassee towards Panama City. My first impressions were that she was "well spoken and idealistic-sounding but that she didn't want to go beyond generalities she had down by rote, like 'I want to be a different type of representative to find a common ground with Democrats and Republicans.' When I asked her about specifics like the Chained CPI and marriage equality she abruptly told me her campaign manager said it was time for her to take another call." I can take a hint. "Steve Israel," I thought to myself, "is going to love her." She was one of only two Democratic challengers that year who beat a Republican incumbent. In November Graham came out with 125,132 votes (50.4%) to Southerland's 122,939 (49.6%).

Party registration in 14-county FL-02 favors Democrats 50.1% to 42.1%. Between 21 and 22% of registered voters are blacks and Democrats have to sweep that community and still keep nearly 40% of white voters to win. Graham's campaign worked very hard and succeeded in doing that.
The campaign and its communications staff came up with what may be the best campaign slogan of the cycle: The North Florida Way. By summer of 2014, when Gwen Graham decided to go on air (and had the airwaves to herself for several months), the slogan was used in every spot. Graham promised to work across the aisle and derided the partisan nature of both Congress and Congressman Southerland. She promised to work for the betterment of the community and to always represent North Florida’s interests in Congress.

This tactic was brilliant. By going on television early and ensuring the voters she was "one of them," Graham had helped inoculate herself to the eventual attacks that would come from Southerland and his allies, as well as subdue the district’s bias against electing federal Democrats. The eventual attacks that came were predictable– that Graham was just a Tallahassee liberal who would support Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi. Graham pushed back, saying she would not back Pelosi for speaker and argued that new leadership was needed in both parties. Graham also hit Southerland for his partisan voting record, for not voting to end of the Government shutdown, and his vote against the Violence Against Women Act, after he claimed to have supported it.
FL-02 was unfriendly territory for Charlie Crist that same night and helped reelect Governor Rick Scott, while boosting both Senator Bill Nelson and Graham. Because of her legendary father's connections, Graham managed to outraise and outspend Southerland, $3,663,383 to $2,971,841. Third party spending in the district was very heavy-- $8,322,425, and almost all of it was negative. The DCCC put in $2,726,976 (along with another $867,980 from their House Majority PAC) while the NRCC kicked down $2,364,250. The NRA put in over $280,000 for Southerland and various Koch-funded big-bucks GOP groups piled on with over another million. Right-of-center Beltway Democratic groups like the Blue Dogs, EMILY's List ($78,165) and the New Dems, as well as undiscerning, lockstep environmental and union groups put money down for Graham to buy anti-Southerland ads.

All that effort and money spent on behalf of Graham has bought the Democrats a seat. Was it worth it? On her very first vote, Graham refused to vote for Nancy Pelosi and cast her ballot for fellow Blue Dog Jim Cooper of Tennessee. Now, almost 3 months later, she has the distinction of having amassed the single worst voting record of any Democrat in the House. Her ProgressivePunch crucial vote score is 10.0. Basically, she votes against progressive legislation 90% of the time, tied with over 20 Republicans and worse than another half dozen Republicans. Boehner can count on her across the board to help disguise his radical right agenda as "bipartisan" to a credulous, lazy mass media.

So what good is she? Although a Member of Congress for less than 3 months, she has already floated her name out there as a prospect Democrats might want to nominate for the Marco Rubio Senate seat. What a dreadful thought! And maybe even too much for the pathetic Florida Democratic Party Establishment, which seems to be coalescing behind another right-wing Democrat, Patrick Murphy. His own ProgressivePunch Crucial Vote score is the second worst of any Florida Democrat-- 11.11.

With a PVI of R+6, the DCCC has already added her to their Frontline List of endangered candidates and will likely waste more millions of dollars on her. Again... for what? More votes for the Boehner's pro-business/anti-family agenda? A Democratic bench that is thoroughly rotten and uninspiring? This week, the DCCC is making a charm offensive among progressive incumbents to persuade them to contribute money to keep reactionaries like Graham and Murphy-- as well as the crappy new recruits like Emily Cain in Maine and Monica Vernon in Iowa-- in Congress. Graham has voted 90% of the time against progressive initiatives and Murphy 88% of the time. Why would a progressive want to see either of them win again, let along contribute money to the effort? Monica Vernon (like Murphy) is a rich Republican opportunist trying to win a Democratic seat. There is something seriously wrong with the DCCC that isn't getting fixed and isn't likely to get fixed until there's a very serious changing of the guard inside the House Democratic Caucus.


UPDATE Democrats Deserve A Choice

This is the letter Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida President Susan Smith has released to caucus members and supporters this morning.

Dear Caucus Members and Supporters:

Florida Democrats deserve a real choice in 2016. We can let Washington insiders determine our U.S. Senate candidate or we can build a grassroots movement to nominate a strong progressive with a record of fighting for the issues and the values that we hold dear.

The Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida should lead the way in supporting a candidate with a bold record of fighting for our issues and values.

We need a champion who believes in fairness and genuine opportunity. Someone who supports working families while protecting the most vulnerable among us. Someone who understands that security means being strong internationally and safe at home.

Progressives are often accused of having a litmus test for candidates. If having a litmus test means that we expect a Democratic candidate to support policies that benefit the 99% and not just greedy CEOs who have rigged the game, then we are guilty. If it means opposing trade deals like the Trans Pacific Partnership that benefit multinational corporations at the expense of working families, then we are guilty.

If it means that we want a candidate with a history of fighting for the rights of women to make their own healthcare decisions, to be paid equally for equal work, and to live free from violence, then we are guilty.

If it means that our candidate must be on the frontlines in the battles to give legal status to young Dreamers, and to protect voting rights for African Americans, and marriage rights for the LGBT community, then we are guilty.

Our litmus test would also require that a Democratic champion have a record of fighting for alternative energy sources. U.S. foreign policy should not be held hostage to Middle East oil dependency, and Big Oil should not determine our environmental protections at home. Our champion will make the safety of Florida's precious land and water resources a top priority.

The Democratic Party is at a crossroads. We can no longer nominate "Anybody But" candidates. We must fight for leadership and representation that is bold and inspiring. The Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida is ready to engage in finding and promoting that candidate. Who will be our champion? Please tell us your choice for the 2016 Democratic U.S. Senatorial candidate by emailing us at
Sounds like a description of Alan Grayson. Does not sound like Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Patrick Murphy or Gwen Graham.

Labels: , ,


At 1:12 AM, Anonymous ap215 said...

Good article from Raw Story.


Post a Comment

<< Home