CD 2 rivals Gwen Graham, Steve Southerland to debate

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The Panama City News Herald is going to get its wish, Congressman Steve Southerland, R-Panama City and Democratic challenger Gwen Graham will meet in a debate; details to be worked out.

In a follow up question about Southerland and the Affordable Care Act, at a news conference where U.S. Senator Bill Nelson endorsed her candidacy, Graham was asked if she was challenging the incumbent to a debate about Obamacare.

“I am willing to debate him on any subject that we can agree upon. And if that is the subject that he wishes to debate me on, I am all for it.  Absolutely,” said Graham.

Democrats think Graham can flip the district to the Democratic column. Southerland first elected in 2010 easily won reelection by winning supermajorities in the district’s western counties. The 14-county district stretches from Taylor County in the Big Bend to Bay and Washington counties in the panhandle.

“Steve looks forward to debating Gwen Graham on issues impacting North and Northwest Florida,” said Luke Strickland, Southerland’s campaign manager. “In particular, there’s a clear contrast between Steve’s record of leadership and Ms. Graham’s lockstep support for the Obama-Pelosi agenda.”

National observers like the Cook Report and Roll Call consider the race a tossup.

The News Herald called upon the two candidates last month to participate in a moderated discussion to help voters to decide whom to vote for in November.  The list of issues the paper suggested for a debate included healthcare, the economy, fisheries, immigration and energy policy.