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AFP Goes to Bat for Steve Southerland Against Gwen Graham

April 1, 2014 - 6:00pm

The fur is flying in a North Florida congressional race even with the election being seven months out.

U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Fla., is a top target for Democrats in November and conservative group Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is looking to provide the Republican incumbent with some cover with a new television commercial this week.

In the new ad, AFP urges North Florida residents to thank Southerland for opposing President Barack Obamas federal health-care law. The ad features quotes from Southerland against Obamas health-care law.

On health care, Steve Southerland has it right, the narrator of the ad says. He puts us first, not special interests.

Despite Democrats holding a decided advantage in this North Florida district which stretches from Madison County toward the Panhandle and includes Tallahassee and the Big Bend, Southerland defeated U.S. Rep. Allen Boyd in 2010 and held off former Florida Senate Democratic Leader Al Lawson in 2012. Both Boyd and Lawson had been hampered by hard-fought Democratic primaries, something which doesnt apply to Gwen Graham who is the only Democrat currently challenging Southerland.

Democrats have high hopes for Graham, the daughter of former Gov. and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla. During her fathers political career, including his unimpressive bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in the 2004 election cycle, Graham was a key campaign aide. She later helped former Gov. Howard Deans, D-Vt., and then U.S. Sen. John Kerrys, D-Mass., presidential bids in 2004.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) went to bat on Grahams behalf, pushing back against AFPs new ad. The DCCC insisted the Koch brothers, the billionaires who have largely helped fund AFP, are nervous about Southerlands chances in November and jabbed the congressman for backing the GOPs budget proposals. The DCC insisted the Republican budget proposal was reckless and costs 3 million jobs, ends the Medicare guarantee and jeopardizes middle-class families financial security while helping higher-earning Americans.

Its no coincidence that shady billionaires are coming to Congressman Steve Southerlands rescue on the same day he released his reckless budget, said David Bergstein, a spokesman for the DCCC. Congressman Southerland is campaigning on a platform of handouts to the ultra-wealthy, paid for on the backs of Floridas seniors, students and small businesses.

Congressman Southerlands flawed priorities may endear him to out-of-state billionaires like the Koch Brothers, but they remain wildly out of touch with the values of North Florida families, Bergstein added.

Graham sent out a message to supporters and insisted political outsiders were needed to straighten out Washington. "The politicians in Washington have sat by idly as the economy crawls along at a sluggish pace; as the price of education skyrockets; and as national security threats flare across the globe," Graham wrote. "In the last year, our own congressman, Steve Southerland, single-handedly torpedoed the farm bill;he supported shutting the federal government down, all while doing nothing to help businesses create jobs in North Florida.

Graham went on to castigate both parties and the veteran campaign worker called for "new leadership."

"Southerland has failed to be a leader for us -- but its not just his fault," Graham wrote. "We can blame Democrats and Republicans for the failures in Washington. Its time for new leadership on both sides of the isle."

Despite Graham's jabs at Washington, she is getting help from the Beltway. The DCCC included Southerland as one of its top targets in a new website attacking House Republicans for supporting U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan's, R-Wis., budget proposal.

"CongressmanSoutherland?'s new Republican budget is the clearest illustration yet that he is not on the side of Florida'?s middle-class families. ? CongressmanSoutherland?'s Republican budget rewards the special interests and the wealthy who need help the least, and does it on the backs of the middle class,"? said Josh Schwerin, a spokesman for the DCCC. "?The people of Florida cannot afford CongressmanSoutherland?'s reckless budget that costs jobs, threatens middle-class families'? financial security, raises their taxes, and ends the Medicare guarantee for Florida seniors, while giving more handouts to the corporations and special interests that are shipping our jobs overseas.?"

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