Gwen Graham kicks off jobs tour and discusses immigration; calls stalemate a failure of Congress

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Newly elected Congresswoman Gwen Graham kicked off a jobs tour of the 2nd Congressional District Monday, meeting with 16 business leaders in Tallahassee. The roundtable discussion was on the agenda of a meeting of a Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce board and included small business owners, public relations executives and academic leaders.

“This is something that your predecessor never did,” said Edward Murray, Jr. of NAI Talcor, a realty company that hosted the discussion.

In a way, that’s how Graham produced a rare Democratic victory last month; campaigning where her predecessors had feared to tread and apparently she’s going to continue the strategy in office.

She told the business executives while at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce function she realized she was the only Democratic lawmaker in the room.

The Graham jobs tour will also include stops in Jackson and Bay, counties she lost to Steve Southerland by 58 and 69 percent but did better than previous Democratic candidates. Graham defeated the incumbent by pulling in 1.1 percent more votes district wide.

Graham told the Tallahassee roundtable she wants to help grow business.

“This is an opportunity to listen to y’all and hear what is going on in your businesses, the challenges you face and how you think the federal government can play a positive role,” said Graham. “I want to be able to go to Washington and hit the ground running on day one.”

Graham will be sworn into office Jan. 5, 2015.

The items discussed to stimulate economic growth included construction of a new  interchange on Interstate 10, international designation for the Tallahassee municipal airport and training more Class A drivers of semi-trailer trucks.

Near the end, the talk turned to immigration reform. The U.S. Chamber supports immigration reform and has taken a position that immigrants are good for the economy.

Graham called the current stalemate between Congress and President Barack Obama “a failure of Congress to develop a comprehensive reform bill.”

“They could solve it, if they would talk,” Murray could be heard to say when Graham took a breath.

Eighteen Republican state attorneys general, including Florida’s Pam Bondi, are suing the president over an executive order that will spare 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation.  House Republicans have voted to block the order but two Florida Republicans, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Congressman Mario Diaz Balart, voted against the plan.

“They both said it is time for Congress to act. That’s what they said, let’s get together and talk about comprehensive immigration reform. I’m hopeful that is what will happen,” said Graham. “I hope we can stop playing politics with this issue and work toward a bipartisan solution.”