Speaking to a group of about 40 locals in private meet-and-greet Wednesday morning in Miami Beach, former Tallahassee Congresswoman Gwen Graham said she plans announcing a decision on a gubernatorial run "soon." The anticipated candidate, expected to enter the 2018 race for governor, received a warm welcome from residents eager to help her become Florida's next governor. She all but announced a bid for governor, telling a reporter invited to the event that she will make an announcement soon.
"I'm making sure everything is methodically planned out," she said after the meeting, which was hosted by Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez. The daughter of former Florida governor and senator Bob Graham, Gwen Graham is on the short list for Democratic candidates for governor in November 2018, when Gov. Rick Scott will be term-limited out. On Wednesday, she was in "pre-campaign" mode, though residents were already asking how they could volunteer for her impending campaign.
Graham said the issue that resonated the most in the room was the threat of sea level rise — no surprise in the Beach, where tidal flooding has worsened in the past several years because of rising sea levels and hundreds of millions are being spent on anti-flooding infrastructure work. She said the topic will be important across the state.
"It think it's an economic issue for Florida," she said, adding that the rising cost of flood insurance will force Florida to address the problem.
While Graham was acquainting herself with the small group of Beach residents, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine was returning to South Florida from a visit with Democrats in Pasco County as part of his own "listening tour." Levine, who has said he is not running for a third term as Beach mayor, is another potential candidate seriously considering a gubernatorial run.
The businessman spoke at a meeting of the executive committee of Pasco County Democratic Party, where he said he shared his desire to create a mandatory living wage for workers and foster entrepreneurship in Florida.
"I think it was well-received," he told the Miami Herald on Wednesday.
Levine, who runs a media company that works in the cruise industry, said he was in no rush to make a final decision on a bid for governor. He emphasized that his business keeps him busy and allows him time to decide.
"These are politicians, and politicians have only one thing can do in life: run for office," he said. "They can declare they're running. That's fine. I have other decisions to make, so I'm in no rush."
One well-known Democrat has formally launched a campaign. Andrew Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, made it official earlier this month.