TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The daughter of former senator and governor Bob Graham will leave Congress next year and consider trying to follow her father's footsteps into the governor's mansion.
Democratic Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee announced Thursday that she wouldn't run for re-election — a move that's been widely predicted since her congressional district was redrawn, splitting her home county in half. Her district is now firmly Republican.
Graham cited the new district in a video announcement, blaming politicians, lobbyists and courts for making it more partisan.
"Our state government is just dysfunctional, and this causes me to rethink how I can best serve the people of north Florida and our state," she said. "I'm seriously considering running for governor in 2018."
She said she will serve the remainder of her term and then consider the run. The move shouldn't be surprising for Florida Democrats. Party leaders were talking about her potential run for governor even before she was sworn in to her first House term last year.
But the thought then was she would seek re-election and then consider running. That changed when several groups successfully sued the Legislature, claiming congressional maps that were redrawn in 2012 were gerrymandered and violated the state constitution. The maps were redrawn again and approved by the state Supreme Court last year.
Graham is one of more than 40 House members who have decided not to seek re-election. More than a dozen of those are stepping down to seek another office.
She was one of the bright spots for the Democratic Party in a politically devastating year, narrowly winning her seat over Republican incumbent Steve Southerland, a product of the 2010 tea party wave.
During her time in office, Graham has been one of the more moderate Democrats, voting with the Republican majority on a number of issues. She was one of four Democrats who didn't back Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in the vote for House Speaker. She cast her vote for fellow Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper of Tennessee.
"She showed she was not just a party hack and voted for her district, which she'll have to explain, but I think that can become an advantage," said Screven Watson, a Tallahassee-based political consultant. "She immediately steps into this race as a force to be reckoned with."
Graham's father served two terms as governor, ending in 1987 when he began the first of three terms in the Senate. He is still a popular figure with Democrats.
"There is a Bob Graham network that she can inherit and reawaken," Watson said.
Republican Gov. Rick Scott can't seek a third term because of term limits.
Graham has continued to raise money as if she were seeking re-election and has nearly $1.8 million in her House campaign account. While she can't transfer it over to a gubernatorial campaign, she can give it to the state Democratic Party or an independent political committee that could help her run for governor.
Online: U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, http://gwengraham.com/
AP writers Gary Fineout in Tallahassee and Donna Cassata in Washington contributed to this report.