Democrats Spent Millions On Gwen Graham-- Aside From Twisted Bragging Rights, Got Less Than Nothing For The Efforts
Gwen Graham is a Florida Blue Dog with the lowest ProgressivePunch score (27.45)-- by far-- of any Democrat in Congress, from anywhere. Her voting record is so right-wing voting that 5 conservative Republicans-- Mark Sanford (R-SC), Tom Massie (R-KY), Chris Gibson (R-NY), Justin Amash (R-MI) and Walter Jones (R-NC)-- have voted in favor of progressive legislation more frequently than she has. It's not just that her record is graded an "F," with the exception of Texas Blue Dog Henry Cuellar (Bush's favorite Democrat) none of the worst Democrats in the House have records anywhere near as bad as hers. Even former Republicans like Brad Ashford (Blue Dog-NE) and Patrick Murphy (New Dem-FL) vote with the Democrats far more than Graham does.
She claims that a less gerrymandered congressional district isn't fair and that she isn't going to run for Congress again but will likely run for her party's gubernatorial nomination. The one time I spoke with her on the phone-- when she had first declared her congressional campaign, I found her to be a natural politician: overly cautious, deceptive, cowardly and unctuous. I called looking for hope for a Democrat who could win in a tough district; instead I found someone who would be likely to be nearly as bad as a right-wing Republican. She only wanted to talk in vague generalities and 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." She beat the top incumbent 50.4-49.6%. Back then party registration in 14-county FL-02 favored Democrats 50.1% to 42.1%. Between 21 and 22% of registered voters were blacks and for a Democrat to win, he or she would have to sweep that community and still keep nearly 40% of white voters. 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.The districts voters went for Rick Scott that night and against ex-Republican Charlie Crist, and they chose to stay with conservative Democrat Bill Nelson as well-- though Nelson isn't nearly as far to the right as 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 the Pelosi-controlled 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.
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.
All that effort and money spent on behalf of Graham 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, with nearly a full term under her belt, she has the distinction of having amassed the single worst voting record of any Democrat in the House. Boehner was able to count on her across the board-- as Ryan can now-- to help disguise their radical right agenda as "bipartisan" to a credulous, lazy mass media.
Hacks in the media, like to refer to her as a "rising star" and buy into the craven, values-free careerism she exhibits because it matches their own. She's been raising money hand-over-first from all the corrupt interests she cavorts with in DC. As of the March 31 FEC filing deadline she had raised $2,163,902, much of it from the Finance Sector, although her single biggest contributor this year was the New Dems, who gave her $18,501. For a backbencher with virtually no influence and no legislative achievements she has been a favorite of K Street lobbyists, who see her as an easy vote for their shady attempts to influence policy of behalf of their corporate clients. The $45,764 they gave her this cycle is more than any other Democratic freshman and the only Floridian who has taken more in bribes from K Street lobbyists is, predictably, Patrick Murphy-- the lobbyists' 4th favorite congressman after John Boehner ($199,200), Paul Ryan ($194,400), and Kevin McCarthy ($187,048). So far this cycle Murphy has scooped up an astronomical $156,313, even more than Steny Hoyer ($125,529), widely known as the King of K Street.
Graham will have two conservative Democratic mayors to get by to win the nomination-- Miami Beach's Phil Levine and Orlando's Bob Buckhorn. Three truly horrible choices for Florida Democrats, albeit none quite as bad as the two most likely GOP contenders, Adam Putnam and Little Marco. Another lesser-of-two-evils is about to be thrust onto Florida voters.