Graham, and family, steer ‘North Florida Way’

Published: Wednesday, August 6, 2014 at 09:20 PM.

“You can’t replace this,” said Gwen Graham, as she overlooked the tranquil expanse of river where the canoes had just been. “Floridians are about what is most precious to Florida, and that is the scene you see before us. It’s the most spectacular, pristine treasure. It’s a treasure not only to North Florida, but for our country.”

Before any more breaths could be taken away by the majestic beauty, she made quickly clear she believed that environmental preservation did not have to come at the expense of jobs. “With the right creativity, we can do both,” she said. “Ecotourism, for this precious and unique area, can bring people to North Florida.”

In a county overflowing with registered Democrats who have increasingly favored Republicans in national elections, Graham, a labor attorney with the Leon County School District, is working to chart a course that stresses her interpersonal skills and desire to put the practical needs of constituents ahead of partisanship.

“It’s all about relationships,” she said. “I connect very directly with people, and that’s the kind of representative I want to be, to represent North Florida as they deserve to be represented. Don’t you think that’s something Congress needs today? We need to put aside ideological rigidity. So many members of Congress, on both sides of the aisle, are unwilling to be open to considering other points of view.”

The implication that Southerland is a card-carrying Tea Party spokesman could hardly be missed, just as he is likely to try to stress there is little room between Graham, and the politics of former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and President Barack Obama, two personalities that have seen dwindling popularity in the district.

A key to the city for former governor

Bob Graham, a governor who Floridians have consistently found immensely popular, underscored this anti-partisan theme in his remarks to the barbecue lunch at Battery Park. Following a rousing introduction from Apalachicola Mayor Van Johnson, who gifted him with a key to the city, Bob Graham offered a summation of the type of approach that granted him 38 years in public office, beginning with state representative in 1966. In fact, his wife sported a large wooden button from that race nearly five decades ago, with the name “Gwen” taped over where “Bob” used to be.

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