Florida Republican Rep. Steve Southerland has admitted he’s facing a tough reelection fight against Gwen Graham, the daughter of former Sen. Bob Graham, a onetime presidential candidate.
While allowing for “a certain deference to the Graham name,” Southerland says it will be a close race in the conservative-leaning north Florida district despite being captured by GOP nominee Mitt Romney in 2012, according to Politico.
He also pointed out that Graham had started her TV ad campaign in June while he only started running commercials last month. But despite the stiff opposition, he still believes he has an excellent chance of retaining his seat.
“We like where we are,” said Southerland, a funeral home owner, who was reelected in 2012 and is a member of the House leadership.
While he attempts to link his opponent to Democrats in Washington and the failures of Obamacare, Southerland says he’s “someone who did exactly what he promised, and someone who has done well.”
But Democrats have high hopes for Graham, whose political platform centers on local issues combined with national women’s concerns as she tries to distance herself from the problems of the healthcare law and her embattled party.
“I don’t think either party is right 96, 97 percent of the time,” Graham told Politico while attacking Southerland as being part of the GOP establishment.
“We need a Congress in general that’s more willing to consider that someone else’s ideas might be equally as valid. We need to figure out a way to come down more in the middle, to get things done again.”
Calling herself a moderate, Graham says she would like to see a new minority leader in the House to replace California Rep. Nancy Pelosi, saying, “There needs to be new leadership on both sides of the aisle.”
Democrats have made Graham, a 51-year-old lawyer, their top pick to take a seat away from a GOP candidate this election cycle, according to Politico.
“She put together a really good plan. She’s well-funded and she’s got pretty good genes,” said former Democratic Rep. Allen Boyd, who served seven terms in the district before being beaten by Southerland in 2010.
Graham even has the support of longtime friend Brian Ballard, a prominent Republican who worked on Romney’s campaign.
Saying she’s “really risen to the challenge of the campaign, he added, “She’s a pragmatist, her dad’s a pragmatist. If she can portray that, she’s got a good chance. But it’s a tough district.”
Her father is seen as her biggest asset in the election, with his huge name recognition from his days as a former senator, governor and short-lived 2004 presidential candidate casting a mighty shadow over Southerland’s campaign.
His daughter was three when her father was elected to the state legislature, and spent time as a kid marching in parades and knocking on doors with her dad.
She helped her father in his brief presidential bid, then worked on campaigns for Howard Dean and later John Kerry, now Secretary of State. Her name has been bandied around as a potential Democratic candidate since 2004, the political new site reported.
“I’m sure she learned from sitting around the family room with me is that, from time to time, things are going to get difficult, maybe even nasty,” Graham told Politico. “And you’ve got to be strong enough to believe in yourself and persevere through that.”
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