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Insider Poll: Gwen Graham Best Bet for Florida Senate Seat

Image: Insider Poll: Gwen Graham Best Bet for Florida Senate Seat
(Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

By    |   Monday, 20 Jul 2015 09:43 AM

Less than eight months after winning a tight House race in Florida, Democratic Rep. Gwen Graham is being touted as her party's strongest candidate for U.S. Senate next year and a possible contender for governor in 2018, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

The latest Tampa Bay Times Florida Insider Poll of nearly 160 top political operatives found that the 52-year-old daughter of former Sen. and Gov. Bob Graham would be the strongest candidate in a general election, edging out Reps. Alan Grayson and Patrick Murphy.

A court ruling is pending over how lawmakers drew Florida's congressional lines, and 70 percent of insiders said she should run for the Senate if her district is redrawn to be overwhelmingly Republican, which is widely expected, according to the Times.

"There is no downside for a Cong. Graham U.S. Senate bid," said one Florida insider who is not affiliated with either party.

"Her proven ability to appeal to conservative Panhandle voters, historic family ties to the voter rich Gold Coast and her high and very favorable Graham name ID provides the winning edge over Cong. Murphy, also an attractive candidate, in the D Senate primary. If she should lose the general, Graham would then be well positioned to be the D front runner for governor in 2018," the insider said.

"Should Gwen decide to run she would have a distinct name, fundraising, and political advantage statewide beyond all candidates," a Democrat told the Times. "She cannot run against Corrine Brown, and is essentially reduced to hoping for an appointment from Hillary Clinton or losing all momentum if she chooses to run for governor in 2018. Ironic that she did so well only to be cut out of the deal."

Graham shot to prominence after she defeated GOP Rep. Steve Southerland last year in a Republican-leaning district during an election cycle that saw Republicans increase their congressional majority.

Graham, however, appears not to be making any plans to run for Senate and says she is focused on her current job, the Times said.

Despite enthusiasm for Graham, 63 percent of insiders predicted Murphy would be the Democratic Senate nominee in 2016 while just 19 percent said Graham and 18 percent predicted Grayson, the Times said.

Nevertheless, 53 percent said Graham would make the strongest general election Democrat compared to 43 percent for Murphy and 4 percent for Grayson, the Times reported.

"As impressive as Gwen Graham is, I fear the long-term effects of my party rushing to push people into races simply because of our weak bench," said one Democrat, according to the Times.

"I think she would be competitive in that [House] seat even if it moved a few points into the red. She'd be better served to put up a good fight and then, win or lose, look towards Bill Nelson's U.S. Senate seat in a few years."

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Less than eight months after winning a tight House race in Florida, Democratic Rep. Gwen Graham is being touted as her party's strongest candidate for U.S. Senate next year and a possible contender for governor in 2018, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
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Monday, 20 Jul 2015 09:43 AM
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