Gwen Graham has more than $1 million cash on hand for increasingly heated FL-CD 2 contest

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The race for Florida’s 2nd Congressional District between GOP incumbent Rep. Steve Southerland and Democratic challenger Gwen Graham is heating up with the release of strong fundraising numbers from Graham.

Graham, daughter of former governor and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, announced Monday that her campaign collected over $1 million cash on hand to unseat the Panama City Republican. Her campaign calls the sizable fundraising a “message of bringing north Florida’s commonsense, problem-solving values to Washington is resonating with Florida families.”

Observers see the CD 2 race as one of the most competitive in the 2014 election cycle, representing a wide political spectrum, from the strongly Democratic-leaning Tallahassee – Graham’s home base – to the series of small, rural regions including Bay County, the home of the Tea Party favorite.

According to Federal Election Commission filings, during the fourth quarter of 2013, Graham’s campaign collected in excess of $474,000 for a total of $1.3 million — with more than $1,049,000 cash-on-hand — since entering the contest April 2.

Graham’s fundraising puts her at the top of the list of Congressional challengers nationwide.

Southerland raised $839,854.98 in the 2014 election cycle, spending $302,773.33, as of his October FEC filings. At that same point, Graham had raised $830,608.80 and spent $164,620.88.

“I’m so grateful for the hundreds of Floridians who have stepped up to support our campaign,” Graham said in a statement issued today. “This is yet another key milestone showing that our message of bringing Republicans, Democrats and Independents together to focus on solving problems is resonating with residents across north Florida.”

Graham’s campaign cites her father as one of the main reasons for the outstanding fundraising performance.

“Gwen is a Graham Democrat, and the voters of the 2nd Congressional District know what that means,” Graham’s campaign manager Julia Gill Woodward told Margie Menzel of the News Service of Florida. “The outpouring of support that Gwen has received is just another indication that folks in north Florida are tired of the dysfunction and obstructionism they are seeing from their current congressman and are hungry for new leadership.”

Bob Graham eventually won nine elections, including five statewide contests, while receiving an average of 61 percent of the vote.

Gwen Graham is working to remain separate from Washington party leaders. In a November 14 Weekly Standard article, Graham vowed to support the Keep Your Health Plan Act, the Republican-backed bill allowing individual plans on the market in 2013 to be grandfathered for new and current customers in 2014.

Most Democratic Congressional candidates facing races in competitive Republican districts have refused to say how they would move on the Keep Your Health Plan Act.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.