Thursday, December 21, 2017

How To Win Statewide In Florida Again


This doesn't work in Florida any longer

Blue America endorsed Andrew Gillum for governor of Florida on Monday. Looking back over that post, I decided we needed a better look at two things-- who Gwen Graham is and who Andrew Gillum is. Let me work on the Andrew part of this for a few days so I get it right. The Gwen Graham part is so much easier because I've followed her short congressional career so carefully and because it is so very NOT nuanced.

You know how important the Tim Canova race against Wasserman Schultz in South Florida is to us. And you have probably surmised how hard we're pushing Alan Grayson to stop playing with his 5 children and run for Congress in Central Florida. Andrew is the North Florida candidate we're as excited about as Canova and Grayson. And Andrew is under attack by that embodiment of the corporatist establishment, Gwen Graham.

For the uninitiated, Graham is the daughter of former Governor, Senator, and one-time Presidential candidate Bob Graham. Bob was first elected as Governor in 1978-- giving a young Gwen the privilege of growing up in the Governor’s Mansion. She later went on to become an attorney-- and despite her constant claims that she “never expected to run for Congress”-- won a Congressional seat in 2014.

Gwen touts her victory over Steve Southerland as a bright spot-- and in a year when Democrats ran scared campaigns in the face of the Tea Party-- she would ordinarily have been right. But, tragically, her voting record might as well have belonged to her Republican opponent.

In her first year, she somehow racked up more votes with the Republican Majority, led by then-Speaker John Boehner and Speaker-in-Waiting Paul Ryan, than with President Obama. You read that right-- a former Congresswoman running for Governor of Florida as a Democrat-- voted against President Obama more than she voted with him. We may have some misgivings about Obama’s record-- but it is a betrayal that any Democrat who seeks higher office would do so on the basis of a record of opposing President Obama.

She only served one term in Congress, but it is riddled with votes that no doubt made her corporate benefactors such as the oil and gas industry, or the big banks, think their investment had paid off handsomely.

She voted to make it harder for people to get employer-based health insurance-- voting to change the number of hours required for health insurance to 40 from 30. Even though her family never had to worry about getting health insurance, perhaps the Congresswoman doesn’t understand that regular people can’t just hold down one 40-hour per week job to make ends meet.

She voted for the Keystone XL pipeline-- and took thousands of dollars from big oil and gas companies like Exxon Mobil when she was in Congress. No wonder she didn't mind taking $50,000 for her Gubernatorial campaign from a Florida developer who had to pay millions in fines.

She voted to make it harder for Syrian refugees to enter the country-- joining the Republican fearmongers and Blue Dog extremsts like Patrick Murphy in the process.

She bowed to the will of the big banks that are ruining this country by voting to weaken Dodd-Frank regulations on those financial companies-- and didn’t seem to be at all bothered by it.

Since she got in the governor’s race, she’s tried to do what primary voters want by painting herself as some kind of a progressive-- but her votes in Congress tell the real story. She’s a congresswoman who is truly Republican-lite-- cut from the same cloth as Patrick Murphy and countless other failed moderate Democrats all over the country who have fallen on their faces in general elections.

I didn't mention him on Monday but Miami Beach Mayor Phillip Levine-- a self-described “radical centrist” who praises Señor Trumpanzee-- is also competing for the Democratic nomination. But the big self-funder has already poured in millions of his own dollars and got little to show for it in recent polling.

Graham and her forces have been hard at work in Florida, trying to tear down Andrew Gillum, largely ignoring Levine.

As I explained Monday, self-styled progressive, Gillum is the dynamic and charismatic African-American Mayor of Florida’s capital city. He’s been in the public eye for more than a decade, having won a City Commission seat when he was still a senior in college at Florida A&M University. He got his start in politics opposing Jeb Bush’s attacks on affirmative action, and helping lead voter registration and organizing efforts across Florida.

His life story is the kind that we all look up to-- born the fifth of seven kids to working-class parents in Miami-Dade, he was the first in his family to go to college. Gillum has been open about his brothers’ run-ins with the law, and he’s talked compellingly about forgiveness and second chances in his campaign.

Goal ThermometerGillum is right on so many of our issues-- it’s a disservice to the Democratic Party that he is facing the kind of opposition that he is from a Republican-lite unaccomplished former member of Congress. He voted to ban fracking in Tallahassee, and has firmly opposed the Keystone XL Pipeline and the Sabal Trail Pipeline as well. He wants to raise the minimum wage to $15 in Florida, and has talked about ending Florida’s Jim Crow law that disenfranchises more than 1.5 million former felons from voting. He’s leaped headlong into the challenges of fixing health care and proudly endorsed Medicare-for-All.

He’s got the right story, and he’s got the right policies and history. He’s just the kind of inspirational candidate that in a wave year-- when Democrats should see huge advantages from disastrous Donald-- could make real history in a state like Florida. More than 20 years have gone by since they had a Democratic governor-- instead stuck with Governors like Rick Scott-- and now is the election when Florida Democrats need to break that streak. No more Republican-lite-- Florida saw just how badly Patrick Murphy, a right-of-center Blue Dog, got beat by the organized Republican base and Marco Rubio. If Democrats put up more mushy, squishy "moderates," they will get squished again, just like they were last year-- and every year since Lawton Chiles died in office in 1998.

When she became a Congresswoman representing the Big Bend, Graham announced she would "reach across the aisle." She might as well have been sitting across the aisle. According to USA Today, Graham was one of:
12 Democrats to vote for a bill increasing from 30 to 40 the number of hours an employee must work per week to qualify for mandatory health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.
28 Democrats to vote for a bill approving the Keystone XL pipeline.
Eight Democrats to vote for a bill making it tougher for federal agencies to impose new rules without detailed justification.
29 Democrats to vote for a bill relaxing some Dodd-Frank banking regulations.
31 Democrats to vote for an intelligence authorization bill to ban the government from transferring detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the U.S.
19 Democrats to vote for a bill granting states authority to regulate coal ash disposal. The measure would undo a federal EPA rule.
25 Democrats to vote against a bill approving the nuclear deal with Iran.
She may not be exactlythe same as likely Republican candidate Adam Putnam, but close enough to discourage enough voters to do what Florida Democrats have been doing for as long as most millennials have been cognizant of politics: lose. Time for a different approach and a chance to catch the energy of the moment in American politics.

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