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Gwen Graham headlining tonight’s Pinellas County Kennedy-King Dinner

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

The Pinellas County Democratic Executive Committee hosts their annual Kennedy-King Dinner at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater Friday, the first under the control of party chair Susan McGrath.

The event’s featured speaker is North Florida congresswoman Gwen Graham, a budding star in the state party whose political future is unclear.

Graham’s victory over Republican Steve Southerland in Florida’s 2nd Congressional District seat in November 2014 was one of the rare highlights for the Florida Democratic Party in what was otherwise a disastrous election night. Combining her ability to win in a conservative leaning district and the fact that she comes from Democratic Party royalty (as the daughter of former senator and Governor Bob Graham) it wasn’t surprising that she catapulted her into the spotlight.

But the Florida Supreme Court’s announcement this summer that eight of the state’s 27 congressional districts needed to be redrawn because they were in violation of the Fair District Amendments has dealt a serious curve ball to Graham’s immediate plans. Her redrawn district (yet to be affirmed by the Court) is more heavily Republican than her current district. Graham could also choose to run against fellow Democrat Corrine Brown in newly refigured District 5 (polls show her losing).

Although some pundits have speculated that she could give up on re-election to Congress and opt to run in the Democratic primary for Senate, it appears highly unlikely.

A stronger possibility is that she cools her jets and runs for the Democratic nomination in 2018. A long time away, yes, but there’s no doubt that a statewide run could be in her future, making her appearance before Pinellas Democrats Friday a start to begin introducing herself to Tampa Bay area Democrats.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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