It was standing room only Saturday morning at The Villages Democratic Club meeting.
More than 500 people piled into the Colony Cottage Recreation Center to hear Florida gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham speak.
Greeting the crowd with an energetic “Good Morning Democrats,” Graham launched right into her unscripted opening remarks. After speaking briefly she opened the floor to questions, telling the crowd to ask her anything. Questions ranged from student loans and education to the census and redistricting. Gun control, greyhound racing and campaign financing were also part of the conversation.
Graham intends to be the next governor of Florida and thinks she is the one among the current Democratic candidates that can win. As she told a small group after the program, “They are all good people, but they can’t win. I can win in a purple state. In order to win as a Democrat you need to have the support of Democrats, but you also have to be able to pull in the Independents and the reasonable Republicans who are ready for a change,” said Graham.
Village of Sabal Chase resident Beverly Eckert agreed.
“We desperately need to elect a Democratic governor. People know you. I think you are our best chance,” she said.
Currently a purple state in Graham’s estimation, she looks forward to turning Florida blue in 2018.
“It is bright blue in here this morning,” she told the audience. The audience of Villages Democratic Club members, the largest democratic club in the state according the VDC vice-president Mary Martine-Scheiner, responded with applause.
Another line that was greeted with applause was her stance that there should be no more fracking in Florida. Regarding climate change Graham said that Scott should have been run out of office for ignoring the rising sea levels. “Growth management is a complicated puzzle. We need smart people, knowledgeable in their fields to redirect the state from what has happened over the last twenty years,” she said.
Graham said she is passionate about anything that affects the lives of Floridians. The cost of health care, wages, cost of living and especially education. She is vehemently opposed to the current standards testing and grading of schools.
“That was started 20 years ago by Jeb Bush with the intention of privatizing the schools. We need to return to the promise of public education across Florida and end the grading of schools,” she said.
“I wake up every day thinking about the people of Florida,” said Graham. “I am doing this for the people of Florida and I can’t wait to serve as governor. I would like to invite you all to a great victory party on Nov. 6, 2018.”
VDC president Jeff Yance thought Graham hit a home run.
“I think you can tell by the applause,” said Yance. “She was vibrant, straightforward with her answers and what she was saying is what this crowd wants to hear.”
Registered Republican Al Lala likes to check out all the candidates.
“I like what I heard today. She really spoke from the heart,” he said.
Kathi Schue and Leone Gentner said they like both Andrew Gillum and Gwen Graham.
“They are both native Floridians,” said Schue.
“They both have good agendas,” said Gentner.
Villagers and non-residents will have an opportunity to see all of the Democratic candidates May 19 at the Savannah Center. Information about this event can be found at www.thevillagesdemocrats.com.