Congresswoman Gwen Graham said Monday that her constituent service efforts had helped people in her North Florida district secure $2.5 million in government benefits — and her thriftiness in running her office helped her return $375,000 in unspent money to Congress during the past two years.
“Our office is an example that you can get a lot done and still be fiscally conservative,” the Democrat said during a news conference at Tallahassee City Hall, where she maintains a district office.
Aides said it would be her final meeting with reporters before leaving office early next year.
“We made constituent service or No. 1 priority,” Graham said. So much so that she has discussed its importance with Neal Dunn, the Republican from Panama City elected in November to replace Graham in a radically redistricted Congressional District 2.
“I will work with him on that,” Graham said. “I hope he continues that focus on constituent services. Because, of all the things you do in Congress, there is nothing more important that helping people back home. I have had that conversation with him I know that, in his heart, he wants to do the same.”
Graham said her office helped constituents secure $489,000 in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits; $293,000 in Veterans Administration benefits; $118,000 from the IRS; and $100,000 in Deepwater Horizon claims.
Of her office’s operating budget, Graham in prepared remarks that, “with smart management, government can provide essential services to help people while also being fiscally responsible.”
Graham has made no secret of her plans to run for governor in 2018, but also that her husband’s diagnosis with Stage IV prostate cancer might prove a complication. Steve Hurm, her husband, is due at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa this week for tests.
Asked about it Monday, Graham said: “My husband said to me today, ‘Do not make this about my cancer.'”
She added: “Life does throw you curve balls sometimes, but there is no one who is a bigger supporter of mine than my husband. I am looking forward to what the future holds with him by my side.”
When can we expect an announcement?
“Don’t worry — it’ll happen sooner rather than later.”
Graham previewed the outline of the case she might make to voters.
“For 20 years, there has been a Republican dominance in state government. I think that has really hurt the state of Florida,” she said.
She hopes to “put aside partisanship. Put aside politics and just work together with good people,” she said.
“We have a lot of serious issues in this state. If I make the decision to run — and, again, I’m clearly falling in that camp of knowing we need to have a Democratic governor in 2018 — what I bring will be very beneficial to our state’s future.”