Last week we took a critical look at Congresswoman Gwen Graham’s first week in office. The newly-elected member of Congress from Florida’s second district had carved out a record initially that would put her to the right of Democrats like Pete Peterson, Bill Grant (before his bizarre party switch) and Don Fuqua on economic issues. But this week, Graham has shown her independent streak, sitting with Rep. David Jolly (R-Florida) during the State of the Union address, while striking a moderately liberal tone in her post-speech analysis. Her voting record has also shifted back toward the middle in the ten days while the thoughtfulness of her approach has won over elements in the media.
Liberal Democrats in Tallahassee might not be pleased with Graham’s record thus far, but it appears like a Congresswoman who won her seat by the narrowest of margins against a national tidal wave is astutely cultivating an independent image. This perceived independence gives her the opportunity to work the western part of the district more aggressively than might have been thought and opens up the possibility of Graham cutting the margins in 2016 of any strong Republican challenger. In all likelihood, the Republican nominee in 2016 will come from west of Tallahassee, though some local Leon County options exist for the GOP.
Much like her father, former Governor and US Senator Bob Graham, Congresswoman Graham has stated that she would like to try and tone down the partisan volume and focus on problem solving. Thus far, her formula seems to be gaining a great deal of attention and arousing speculation as to her motives.
Rumors have begun to swirl that Graham might be looking at statewide office, but a source close to the situation said they would be stunned if she made the jump so quickly. Given the weakness of the Democratic bench in the state and the need for strong statewide candidates, Graham’s name has been floating in some circles as a possible 2016 or 2018 US Senate candidate. However, the softness of the Democratic Party’s bench and farm team ensures for at least the near future that Graham’s window to run statewide could be much longer than many think. Therefore, the need to jump early into a difficult statewide race is not a necessity.
It is early days still for Graham in the U.S. House but her voting record, public statements and pedigree have all made her someone that is being closely watched. While this would have a potentially damaging impact on your average newly-elected freshman, Graham seems more than ready for the spotlight.
Graham’s astuteness will serve her well in this district which tends to be a complicated one for most Democrats or Tallahassee-based candidates. So whether or not her critics like the direction she has taken, everyone must concede even at this early stage how formidable she has proven be.