Excerpts from an article by Kyle Trygstad, Special to The Miami Laker
As former Florida Senator Bob Graham watched his daughter, an incoming House Democrat, shake hands with an endless line of visitors, he peeked out of her corner office window at the briskly falling snow and marveled at the symmetry to his own political career.
Thirty-six years earlier, a 15-year-old Gwen Graham stood with her father on a frigid outdoor stage in Tallahassee at his first inauguration as Governor. It snowed that day as well.
Gwen Graham, born in Miami, has spent most of her life as a resident of North Florida and won her first bid for public office last year in a GOP-leaning district – one of just two Democrats to defeat a Republican incumbent.
With a bubbly personality – she used the words “positive” and “excited” multiple times to describe her experiences in politics so far – Graham confirmed just a few hours into her first day in office that she would be a standout in the freshman class. Already mentioned as a potential statewide candidate in the near future, she was one of four Democrats to vote for someone other than Nancy Peolsi for Speaker of the House.
“It’s certainly not personal,” she told CQ Roll Call. “It was a decision I reached during the campaign that both parties need new leadership.”
Before making her way to the Capitol for the swearing in ceremony, Graham, who turns 52 this month, was surrounded by her parents, one of her sisters, her husband – whose photos adorn Graham’s office walls and who was snapping his own shots throughout the morning – and her three children.
She had just finished hosting an open house for more than two hours, briefly greeting lobbyists, interest group representatives and anyone else intent on meeting her. Fellow members of Congress dropped by, including Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer. The rest of the well-wishes stood patiently in a line that stretched into the second-floor hallway by 10 a.m.
One visitor noted that Graham’s open house reception line was the longest she’d ever seen for a freshman.
“Have fun, do good work, hug a lot of people,” Graham said at one point. “That’s my kind of philosophy.”
No is no escaping the influence of family on this freshman congresswoman with a golden political name. She’s rooming with her 24-year-old daughter, Sarah, who was already working in D.C., and her father was by her side for much of the day and the final two months of the campaign.
“I have such an incredible role model in my dad,” Graham said. “One of the best things about this race was....the opportunity to have people share with me how much they love and respect and remember my dad for his commitment to the constituents who give you the opportunity to serve. And it was a gift every day.”