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Graham makes 3rd Senate bid official

It came as no surprise to anyone, but Sen. Bob Graham announced his candidacy for a third term Monday during one of his trademark work visits to Busch Gardens.

About three dozen Democratic supporters gathered at the edge of the park's African veldt for Graham's second formal announcement of the day. Graham already has raised more than $3.4-million, and early polls show him far ahead of his only challenger, state Sen. Charlie Crist, R-St. Petersburg.

Graham also announced his candidacy earlier Monday in Orlando, after a work day appearance at a construction project at the Orlando International Airport.

Calling himself reasonably in the center, Graham said he will continue to support attacks on Medicare fraud and demand a greater emphasis on service from the Internal Revenue Service.

"I want to continue to be your employee, and I understand I work for you and not the reverse," he said.

The announcement may end any speculation that the former governor would return to state politics with a run against Republican Jeb Bush. Graham said his standing on the U.S. Senate Finance Committee can do more for Florida than anything he could do as governor.

He dismissed questions about the troubled state Democratic Party, quoting political satirist Will Rogers: I don't belong to an organized political party. I'm a Democrat.

"The Democrats are being Democrats," said Graham.

Earlier Monday, Graham chopped vegetables for the park's animals, visited the animal nursery and rode a truck through the veldt, a sprawling preserve that is home to roaming herds of ostriches, gazelles and giraffes.

Graham met a gentle 3,000-pound rhino named Jasper, hand-feeding him half ears of fresh corn. Two giraffes named Tango and Claudia followed him across the park's veldt for a handout of chopped apples.

Crist, who said he has raised about $860,000, said Monday that he is running on the same tax-cutting platform he used in his state race.