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  1. Florida Politics

Rising star Graham in no hurry to jump into Senate race

Rep. Gwen Graham, of Florida’s 2nd District, has been talked about for the 2016 Senate bid or the 2018 race for governor.
Rep. Gwen Graham, of Florida’s 2nd District, has been talked about for the 2016 Senate bid or the 2018 race for governor.
Published Jul. 26, 2015

U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, a rising star in Florida politics, is not rushing to plot her next move in light of a Florida Supreme Court decision that could reshape her already competitive North Florida district in a more Republican way.

"I'm waiting like everybody else to see what maps are produced," the first-term Democrat from Tallahassee said in an interview outside the House chamber on Thursday.

"I'm not someone that plays the what-ifs," she told the Tampa Bay Times. "When the maps are redrawn and the courts have approved them, I will evaluate where I can best serve. My goal is to run for re-election in Florida's 2nd Congressional District. I would like to continue to have the honor of being here."

She added: "I'm a supporter of fair districting, whatever the courts determine that to be. I'm not going to in any way try to weigh in on that. That's for the Legislature and for the courts to decide."

Graham, the daughter of former governor and Sen. Bob Graham, has vaulted to the top of Florida's Democratic bench and has been talked about as a 2016 U.S. Senate candidate or a 2018 candidate for governor.

She's not speculating on any of that, though a Tampa Bay Times Florida Insider Poll named her the party's strongest candidate to replace Sen. Marco Rubio, who is running for president.

Graham's wait-and-see approach is in sharp contrast to Rep. David Jolly, R-Indian Shores, who has jumped into the Senate race in anticipation that his House district will become more Democratic.

Meantime, U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller says he is assembling a team for a Senate race but he won't make a final decision until after August.

"It's not a decision that I take lightly or can be done quickly," the North Florida Republican told the Buzz. "I'm going through the process of assembling a team I would need in order to launch a bid, should I decide to do that."

The low-key but experienced Miller would join an increasingly full roster of GOP candidates, including fellow Rep. Ron DeSantis and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera.

"I raised $670,000, including my leadership PAC, which is more than I raise in a normal cycle," Miller noted. "But again, I don't intend to make an announcement any time in the next several weeks. It would be after August. This is a decision between me and my family."

If the northwest Florida Republican does run for Senate, it could be bad news for DeSantis, as both would be competing for the most conservative voters. It also could be bad news for Jolly, who hopes to pick up a lot of support from Republican House members who are fond of and loyal to Miller.

Rubio says his White House would be classy

Rubio's White House would be all business. On Fox & Friends last week, the Florida Republican presidential contender tried to turn a conversation about Donald Trump into an indictment of President Barack Obama. His crime: having the occasional fun moment.

"We already have a president now who has no class," Rubio said, citing Obama doing selfie-stick videos, inviting YouTube stars to the White House and going on "comedy shows."

That was a reference to the Daily Show, where Obama appeared Tuesday and poked fun at critics of the nuclear accord with Iran. Rubio and other Republicans (and some Democrats) say it's a bad deal.

"It is important for us to have a presidency that restores dignity and class to the White House," said Rubio, who has appeared three times on The Daily Show.

Divided on Cuba

One clear dividing line in the Republican U.S. Senate primary is whether the United States should ease travel restrictions to Cuba. Lopez-Cantera and DeSantis both oppose easing travel restrictions while Jolly supports it.

Jolly has said Obama went too far in opening relations with Cuba, but opposing travel to Cuba could be a little awkward — and not just because it is widely supported in Tampa Bay. That's because his wife quietly traveled to Cuba in January. Laura Donahoe was not yet engaged or married to Jolly when a group of Pinellas business and government officials traveled to Cuba, though her participation was never publicly announced.

"Mrs. Jolly traveled in her individual capacity to Cuba earlier this year with a regional delegation of community leaders and elected officials," said Preston Rudie, a spokesman for Jolly.

Bush polling strong

A new Florida presidential poll has Gov. Jeb Bush in first place by a double-digit margin over Rubio and other Republican candidates. The poll, conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, found 28 percent of Republicans support Bush, while 16 percent support Rubio, who once polled ahead of Bush. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker ranks third at 13 percent, 2 points ahead of the human media cyclone Trump.

Staff writer Kirby Wilson contributed to this week's Buzz.