More than a year after former Congresswoman Gwen Graham announced she’d likely run for Florida Governor in 2018, Graham officially launched her campaign at an event in Miami Tuesday.
Graham, a Democrat, hopes to follow in the footsteps of her father Bob Graham, who served two terms as Florida’s governor from 1979 to 1987.
“We do not have time for typical politics, because this is the time to paint Florida’s future in sharp lines and bold colors,” said Graham at her announcement.
Standing alongside her family and supporters, Graham said that after almost 20 years of a state government with “the wrong priorities for the wrong people,” she would renew Florida’s education system, environment and economy.
A former Leon County school administrator, Graham focused much of her remarks on education, pledging to support public schools and reform the state’s controversial standardized testing system. Graham also criticized the state’s system of handing out letter grades to schools, which she said “produce low self esteem and even lower expectations for our kids.”
“It is time to turn the tables on the Tallahassee politicians,” Graham said.
Graham announced her campaign next to Miami Carol City Senior High, where she spent a full workday on Monday alongside educators teaching students. The high school was where her father, former Governor Bob Graham, performed his first of many “workdays” in 1974.
“As governor, I won’t just criticize this culture of teaching to the test. I will end it,” Graham said. “Because high-stakes standardized testing has led us to one-size-fits-all learning. Yet our children, parents and teachers are not one-dimensional. Our children, parents, and teachers are not standardized. I will work with the legislature, and do whatever it takes, including using the governor’s line-item veto to end high-stakes testing.”
Graham also outlined her vision for Florida’s economy and environment, calling on the state to raise the minimum wage, provide paid sick leave, invest in infrastructure, and diversify its economy.
“Instead of passing commonsense economic policies, like raising the minimum wage and paid sick leave, Rick Scott repeats, ‘Jobs, jobs, jobs!’ — as in you’ll need three jobs just to get by,” she said.
Graham, representing North Florida, served one term in Congress from 2015 to 2017. She chose not to run for reelection after a Republican-led redistricting plan changed the composition of her district to favor Republicans. She joins an increasingly crowded Democratic primary: Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Orlando businessman Chris King have already launched their campaigns, and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine is also considering a run.