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Political Party with Adam Smith: Gwen Graham on the 2018 gubernatorial race

Adam Smith



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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  1. Avatar


    November 25, 2020at4:45 pm

    Democrat party in Florida isnt credible now and is unlikely to be in the future on issue of school choice. They lost 2018 Gov race because of it. See WSJ articles and exit polling. And school choice has been expanded under DeSantis. Democrat party likely loses again in 2022 for that reason and fact that DeSantis has proven himself to be highly competent. Gwen Graham would’ve been a much better candidate than Gilliam in 2018. But now, DeSantis recent results and name recognition in Florida well exceed the fading Graham family legacy.

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    November 26, 2020at12:46 pm

    Spot on! Our nation is so much greater without political family legacies and dynasties.

  3. Avatar

    Ron Ogden

    November 26, 2020at2:56 pm

    “She acknowledged she has no evidence to back that up. . ..” When referring to President Trump and his claims, writers like to use the word “baseless”. It fits in this case, too.

    Speaking of 2022, it is time Adam Smith inquired of John Morgan who he thinks will be–or intends to make–the Democratic candidate. I doubt it is Gwen Graham. She has no more qualification today than she did two years ago: a name, and that is all.

  4. Avatar

    Aaron Darr

    November 28, 2020at8:43 am

    She had my support in 2018, she’ll have it again in 2022 should she run.

    She is the only person who could beat DeSantis.

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