Bruce Ritchie: Bob Graham is back on the campaign trail helping daughter Gwen

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Former U. S. Senator Bob Graham was back on the campaign trail this month, and he said he’s loving it.

Graham’s daughter, Gwen Graham, is running as a Democrat for Congress against Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Panama City. Last week, she wrapped up an eight-day “Grilling with the Grahams” tour of the congressional district’s 14 counties with her father and other family members.

“This reminds me of some of the happiest times of my life — when I was campaigning in Apalachicola,” Bob Graham told reporters during a campaign stop on Aug. 1 in Franklin County.

Graham also has appeared in television campaign ads with his daughter. In response, Southerland’s campaign manager, Luke Strickland, issued a statement calling on Gwen Graham to state her position on issues including Obamacare and federal fishery regulations.

“We recognize Senator Graham’s career in public service, but that’s not what this race is about,” he said.  “It’s about which candidate will have the courage to stand up to both parties when it’s right for North and Northwest Florida.”

Bob Graham told the audience in Franklin County that he hopes the election will restore people’s confidence in their national government, which he said has become “almost dysfunctional” because of partisanship and gridlock.

“And the way to turn that around is to change the kind of people who are in the Congress, to elect people who aren’t there in order to scream and yell about their ideology but are there to try to understand what the American people want and what are some reasonable answers to their desires,” he said. “That’s what Congress is when it’s functioning best.”

He told reporters that his daughter is making the campaign decisions on her own, just as she made her decision to run — and then informed him of it.

“I’m proud to be her father,” he said. “But she is running as Gwen Graham on her own life experiences, which she can bring to the position, and her commitment to things like saving the Apalachicola River.”

Bob Graham served as governor from 1979 to 1987 and served in the U.S. Senate from 1987 to 2005. He retired from office but has remained involved in public service. For example, he served as co-chairman of a presidential commission that investigated the 2010 BP oil spill.

“My father (Ernest R. ‘Cap’ Graham) was elected to the Florida state Senate in the week I was born,” Bob Graham said. “My mother said she spent her whole pregnancy going to political events and I have a womb affection for politics. So no, I did not think, when my last term in the U.S. Senate ended, that was the end of my political career.”

Bruce Ritchie is an independent journalist covering environment and growth management issues in Tallahassee. He also is editor of Floridaenvironments.com