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  1. Florida Politics

Democrat Gwen Graham takes heat for right-leaning votes

“... The people of North Florida expect us to work together,” Rep. Gwen Graham says.
Published Jan. 25, 2015

U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee, who unseated Republican Steve Southerland in November, is under fire from Democrats for votes in favor of the Keystone pipeline, to roll back Wall Street reforms and other issues, illustrating the difficulty she faces in a district with a sizable conservative base.

The rift is evident on Facebook, where Florida Democratic Party chairwoman Allison Tant posted a photo of her and Graham on Tuesday and the comment section filled up with negative assessments of Graham.

"Yeah it's a great picture, now what about this Keystone pipeline crap?" one person wrote.

Said another: "So disappointed. Might as well have Southerland there. Especially your vote on weakening Dodd Frank regulations on Wall Street. Regretting contributing to your campaign."

Some of the commenters do not appear to live in Graham's district, so it's not necessarily representative of widespread feelings among voters. But the criticism is notable and shows how Graham has quickly taken on a statewide profile as Democrats are eager to cultivate talent amid disappointing results in past elections.

"I was an early supporter of Gwen and am shocked, heartbroken, and furious at her votes in lockstep with right wing Republicans FOR the Keystone pipeline, (have you seen the Yellowstone oil spill this week where 50,000 gallons have spilled from a pipeline running through it and has ruined the drinking water for humans — never mind the animals?), FOR gutting Dodd Frank (really?), FOR a classic ultra-right wing initiative to require cost/benefit analysis of every regulatory change (which even the Republican controlled FL legislature has repeatedly vetoed), FOR a ridiculous change to the ACA which does nothing more than punish working families while simultaneously putting more money into the pockets of WalMart. And this is only her FIRST WEEK in Congress."

More: "She also voted for Keystone XL and to dismantle regulations including under the Clean Air Act. Why?! Please tell her to vote like a Democrat and not a Tea Party member."

Graham's balancing act is not unlike Florida Rep. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter, who has voted with Republicans on a number of issues, including health care. It helped isolate Murphy from attacks in the 2014 election and he won a return trip to D.C. Then there's Democratic Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who last year did more to help Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi with their campaigns, than his fellow Democrats.

Murphy and Buckhorn, like Graham, is seen as a future statewide candidate.

"I promised to bring the North Florida Way to Washington — and that means working with both parties to reach common sense solutions," Graham told the Buzz. "Now, I'm following through with that promise and focusing on creating jobs, improving education and ending the gridlock in Congress. Neither party is right 99 percent of the time, so the people of North Florida expect us to work together to get things done."

Her moves have drawn praise, including an editorial in the News Herald of Panama City. "It seems clear that Graham is making a good faith effort to work with Republicans on the important issues of the day."

In a statement to the Buzz, Leon County Democratic state committeewoman Tabitha Frazier said: "I know that many liberal Democrats had been hoping for a party-line voter when it came to Gwen, one of the few Democratic wins in the entire country. But the majority of North Florida voters are moderate and she campaigned to victory as a moderate. Gwen's independent leadership and across-the-aisle style in Congress are exactly what she promised, and it's a refreshing change from Rep. Southerland's tea party priorities and extreme partisan ways."

Twitter jab

Rand Paul has become the trash talker of 2016.

As Jeb Bush met Thursday with Mitt Romney, Paul took to twitter. "Mitt Romney's friendship band to Jeb Bush at today's meeting in Utah," he wrote above a picture with a bracelet that read "Common Core."

But friendship was misspelled as "frienship." Paul replaced it but Kristy Campbell, Bush's spokeswoman, was too quick.

"You misspelled friendship. Maybe there is something to be said for higher standards?" she tweeted.

CFO on 'Connections'

Check out chief financial officer Jeff Atwater on Political Connections on Bay News 9 today at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Braynon to lead

State Sen. Oscar Braynon II, D-Miami Gardens, will be the next Senate Democratic Leader. His term begins in November 2016. Braynon was selected for the role by a unanimous vote of the Senate Democratic Caucus.

Kathleen McGrory contributed to this week's Buzz.

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