Gubernatorial candidate Graham follows in father’s workday footsteps

March 01, 2018
Democratic candidate for Florida governor Gwen Graham, right, listens to Desirae Mearns, project director of the Serving Health Insurance Needs of Elders program at the Area Agency on Aging during a visit, March 1, 2018, in West Palm Beach. (Greg Lovett / The Palm Beach Post)

The 53rd “workday” of Democrat Gwen Graham’s campaign for Florida governor brought her Thursday to the Area Agency on Aging — and to a circle-of-political-life moment.

Graham’s workdays are modeled after those of her father, former Florida Gov. and Sen. Bob Graham, who logged more than 400 stints as a citrus packer, construction worker, bellhop and other jobs around the state between 1977 and 2004.

At the Area Agency on Aging — a state- and federally funded resource that helps people age 60 and older with everything from home-delivered meals to adult day care to protection from scammers — the people Gwen Graham met included Bruce Hays, a volunteer who advises seniors on health insurance and Medicare questions.

“Are you running for something?” Hays asked.

“Not only am I running, I’m going to be the next governor of Florida,” Graham replied.

When he realized who she was, Hays recalled meeting Bob Graham on one of his workdays in the early 1980s when Hays worked for a biomedical company in Miami.

Such encounters happen “every single day — and it’s wonderful,” Gwen Graham said afterward.

Graham, a former U.S. House member who lives in Tallahassee, is vying with Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and Winter Park entrepreneur Chris King for the Democratic nomination for governor. Polls show Florida voters so far are largely unfamiliar with the Democratic field and the three Republicans in the race.

“I think people are living their lives and that’s one of the things I’m doing every day is learning about the people of Florida and how I as governor can be in a better position to make a positive difference in their lives,” Graham said.

The Area Agency on Aging that Graham visited serves Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River and Okeechobee counties. Similar agencies serve 10 other regions around the state.

“Every single aspect of somebody’s life there’s someone here that can help you maybe find a resource or find a way to get the care that you need or support that you need,” Graham said.