Republicans go on offensive against Gwen Graham
Gwen Graham hasn't officially launched a campaign for Florida governor in 2018 -- but that's not stopping the Republican Governors Association from taking a pre-emptive swipe at the outgoing Democratic congresswoman from Tallahassee.
In a statement Thursday, the RGA accused Graham of not being transparent, saying her congressional office hasn't responded to a Freedom of Information Act request made by the RGA.
However, the federal FOIA applies only to the executive branch, i.e. federal agencies. Congress, like federal courts, is exempt so Graham -- or any other member of Congress -- is under no obligation to respond to FOIA requests.
Nonetheless, RGA spokesman Jon Thompson said, "when it comes to transparency, Gwen Graham says one thing, but does another."
"Graham says she believes that Florida families deserve full transparency, but as her actions have demonstrated, she only believes in full transparency until it could impact her quest for political power," Thompson said.
Graham dismissed the RGA's criticism, saying in a statement: "We are 23 months away from the governor's election in Florida, and there will be plenty of time for the RGA to engage in this petty nonsense and partisan attacks."
"For the rest of 2016, I'm focused on finishing the job I was elected to do and then enjoying the holiday season with my family. I recommend the folks at the RGA do the same," Graham said.
She also offered "some advice for the DC crowd from a mother: Turn off your Twitter accounts and your press release machines for a few weeks; go spend time with your family, visit friends, check out some museums, read a book, and join the rest of our great nation in spending a few weeks without the nonstop vitriolic back and forth of Washington type politics. Until 2017, I wish them warmest regards this Holiday Season."
The RGA's FOIA request, dated Oct. 12, was for documents and correspondence out of Graham's congressional office that involved Graham Cos. (a private family business), the American Dream Miami mall project, and any real estate or land deals. The Miami Herald reported in June that Graham Cos. sold most of the land that's being used to build the mega-mall and is pursuing its own shopping complex nearby.
Graham emphasized that she "voluntarily resigned from the company's board when I was elected to Congress (in 2014) and I have no involvement with this project." Because of that, there are "absolutely no records" her office could produce anyway, her spokesman Matt Harringer added.
Graham, a Miami Lakes native and daughter of former Democratic U.S. Sen. and Gov. Bob Graham, opted not to seek re-election this year after one term in Congress. She said in April that she was "seriously considering" running for governor in two years -- and her public appearances and speeches since then have only solidified the assumption that she'll be a contender.
Other potential Democratic candidates include Orlando attorney John Morgan, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum. Supporters of both Morgan and Gillum have launched efforts this fall aiming to "draft" them to run.
On the Republican side, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is seen as the most likely leading contender, but other names -- such as House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes -- are also in the mix.
*This post has been updated.