Gwen Graham, the former congresswoman who narrowly lost the Democratic nomination for governor to Andrew Gillum in 2018, has a provocative theory for what happened: Billionaire candidate Jeff Greene may have been a plant to thwart her candidacy.
“Jeff is not someone who spends money easily, and I’m starting to think that he might have been someone who was encouraged to run to intentionally drag me down,” the Tallahassee Democratic said in the latest episode of Political Party with Adam Smith.
She acknowledged she has no evidence to back that up, but she is confident the candidates Greene spent millions of dollars attacking in campaign ads and mailers – her and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine – would have beaten Ron DeSantis in the general election.
“I just have a feeling someone was funneling him money to make sure that I was not the Democratic nominee,” she said.
Greene, a Palm Beach investor, texted that Graham’s assertion is “ridiculous.”
Graham had been the early favorite in that primary, but Greene’s spending against her took a toll. Gillum won the nomination with 34.3 percent, while Graham won 31.3 percent, Levine 20.3 percent and Greene 10.1 percent. DeSantis went on to beat Gillum by less than half a percentage point.
Graham, who unseated a Republican congressman in north Florida in 2014, is considering running for governor in 2020 and believes Florida Democrats need a candidate who win appeal to swing voters and centrists. Exciting the Democratic base, as Gillum did, is not enough.
“The reality is 2018 was a blue wave year. We had the wind at our back. We had a hurricane at our back. And we lost,” she said.
She has been a vocal critic of DeSantis from the start of his term, even as other Democrats early on applauded his ostensibly moderate stances on issues like medical marijuana. That’s because of her experience with him in the U.S. House, she said.
“He is someone that was unpopular on both sides of the aisle, primarily because he’s just not a people person,” Graham said.
“I made an effort to get to know all of the members on the Democratic side and the Republican side, and I became very good friends with many of them, most of them. (With) Ron, it was impossible. Not only could you not communicate with him, he went through great effort to make sure he would not have to communicate with people. He would walk around on the House floor with air buds in his ears so that he could be completely tuned out.”
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