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Bob Graham, again

From his Florida neckties to his Everglades boat tours, Bob Graham has often been described as the Sunshine State's most popular politician.

Certainly, he has been one of its most successful. Graham has been a political leader in Florida for some 26 years, having served in the state House, state Senate, two terms as governor and, since 1986, as a U.S. senator.

Though he may still be best known for his so-called "work days," in which he has done everything from bag groceries to collect garbage, Graham has been a vocal supporter of public education, a defender of the environment and an articulate spokesman for national issues that affect Florida.

In this election, voters face virtually no choice at all. Graham's opponent, Bill Grant, is a former congressman who can't seem to figure out his own political philosophy. Grant, who switched from Democrat to Republican in 1989, has become so rigidly doctrinaire on issues such as taxes and health care that his transformation seems based more on political opportunism than personal philosophy.

Graham is a centrist Southern Democrat who supports the death penalty and the line-item veto but who has been willing both as governor and senator to make difficult decisions about taxes and social programs.

Of the most pressing issues facing America, he says: "First and foremost is the failure of the economy to grow, which has led to increasing unemployment and doubts about America's economic leadership. . . . With regard to federal policy, the government must assume responsibility for improving the quality of the work force. . . . Congress must show greater sensitivity to job creation issues during a time of recession."

Though Graham was considered a contender for the Democratic vice presidential nomination this year, he has been slow to develop his stature in the Senate. He hasn't helped himself with his tendency to be coy on some issues, but he also has shown courage in some of his votes, including one to reject Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. He hasn't won assignments on the key committees, but he has been able to use his seat on the Environment and Public Works Committee to contribute to key environmental legislation, including the Clean Air Act.

In this race, Graham faces no real challenge. Grant can in no way measure up to the accomplishments of this highly decorated politician. Over the years, Graham has won plaudits from a wide range of advocacy groups, including those supporting the causes of environment, education, the elderly and criminal justice.

He has served with honor and intellect, and we strongly recommend his re-election to the U.S. Senate.