Gwen Graham signs pledge to take North Florida common sense to Congress

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Gwen Graham, the Democratic candidate in Florida’s 2nd Congressional District, Thursday pledged not to accept Congressional perks like health care subsidies and use of the House gym if elected in November.

“This do nothing Congress has been more concerned with protecting the perks that they receive just by getting elected then they are in ending squabbles and getting things done,” said Graham, who is challenging two-term Republican Rep. Steve Southerland  of Panama City.

The second Congressional District takes in all of 12 counties in the Panhandle and parts of another four. It stretches from Taylor County in the Big Bend to Washington County in the west with two major population centers being Tallahassee and Panama City.

Southerland owns a Panama City funeral home and Graham is from Tallahassee and worked for the Leon County School Board.

Graham focused her pledge-signing media event on Southerland’s role in last year’s shutdown of the federal government over a dispute about healthcare policy. While siding with those who wanted to take away an insurance subsidy for Congress and its staff, Southerland used the subsidy to purchase insurance when the shutdown maneuver failed.

Graham said the episode was one example of where Southerland’s priorities are “skewed.”

“They shut down the government to accomplish that goal and yet Congressman Southerland took the subsidy,” said Graham. “It’s hypocritical and it’s wrong. You will not get that from Gwen Graham in Congress.

Graham’s pledge includes:

  • Refusal to take a salary for missing a vote without registering an official absence with the Clerk of the House
  • Refusal to take any special taxpayer subsidy for healthcare not available to the public.
  • Vote to end wasteful perks including taxpayer funded first class flights, private jets, car leases and the taxpayer-funded (House) gym, and
  • Pledge to bring North Florida’s commonsense approach to ending this blatantly wasteful spending.

“We’re pleased Gwen Graham has finally joined Steve in opposing first class travel, private jets, and other services for members of Congress,” said Matt McCullough, spokesman for Congressman Southerland.

“Instead of carbon copying a false attack from Nancy Pelosi’s playbook, Ms. Graham should have recognized that Steve voted to ban first class travel and health care subsidies for members of Congress, while withholding member paychecks if they don’t pass a budget,” said McCullough.

Graham took House Republicans in general and Southerland particularly to task for failing to deal with what she described as a “humanitarian crisis” created by tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants flowing into the country via its southern borders.

Southerland opposed a Senate bill, which the Obama administration said, would have provided a stable workforce for farmers and create jobs. Last year, Southerland was part of a House faction that refused to take up the measure.

“I know there are people on both sides of the aisle, Republicans and Democrats, are ready to do that but we have a small minority in Congress, and Congressman Southerland is part of, that refuses to engage in any discussion to start trying to find solutions,” said Graham.

Speaking about the measure last year, Southerland told the Panama City News Herald he wanted increased border security before addressing any comprehensive immigration reform.

“There’s s a 2006 border security act that this administration still fails to acknowledge,” he said, “so honor the laws that are on the books — show us that you can handle a little bit before we start handing you a lot,”  Southerland said at the time.

A poll released Wednesday by Republican-leaning Harper Polling for the Partnership for a New American Economy indicated that three-quarters of the American public does not accept that as a valid reason for not addressing immigration reform, while those supporting reform note that the Obama administration has deported more undocumented immigrants than any previous administration.