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Democrat Gwen Graham Picks Up More Jacksonville Endorsements For Florida Governor

Ryan Benk

Updated 7/18 to include Graham's clarified position on the proposed JAXPORT dredge.   

Jacksonville City Councilman Garrett Dennis and former Mayor Jake Godbold are endorsing the former congresswoman over her two major rivals in the Democratic primary.

At the Mary Singleton Senior Center Monday, Dennis told those gathered in the cafeteria his reasons for his endorsing Graham included her support of public education and the Affordable Care Act.

But the clincher for him is her commitment tohelping ex-felons re-enter society.

“She’s also fought to protect the right to vote and support the right of restoration that’s also something near and dear to my heart,” he said.

Graham supports a proposed constitutional amendment to automatically restore voting rights to those convicted of certain nonviolent crimes.

She’s also in favor of reforming the ACA and said she’d be willing to work with Republican congressional leaders and state lawmakers on compromises, but she’s staunchly opposed to current GOP proposals to repeal and replace the law.

“The block granting is particularly bad for Florida. It’s going to hurt seniors. We need to be expanding Medicaid. The fact that (Florida) Governor (Rick) Scott did not take Medicaid expansion … people have died,” she said. “I don't know how our legislators put their heads on their pillows at night.”

Graham is also critical of state lawmakers for how they’ve implemented recent constitutional amendments mandating conservation fundingand expanding medical marijuana. She said their decisions over the last year not to fund the state’s Florida Forever land-buying program and to ban smokeable cannabis go against the will of voters.

Graham also offered conditional support for dredging the St. Johns River so JAXPORT can accommodate larger shipping vessels, so long as it's done in an environmental responsible way.

In an emailed statement Tuesday, campaign spokesman Matt Harringer said the Army Corp of Engineers plan inadequately addresses environmental protections.

“Gwen supports the project but with far more environmental mitigation than currently exists in the plan,” he wrote.

Corps researchers contend its environmental impact study and blueprint demonstrate a balanced approach that complies with all federal regulations. The St. Johns Riverkeeper disputes those findings, though, and in April sued the Corps for not accounting for enough environmental damage.

Former Mayor Godbold didn’t make it to the announcement Monday but said in an emailed statement, Graham “understands how important Jacksonville is to winning Florida” and that “as governor, she will invest in infrastructure to build on our city’s success and help Jacksonville grow in the 21st Century.”

Democratic Jacksonville City Councilman Tommy Hazouri and Duval Soil and Water Chair Shannon Blankinship are also supporting Graham’s run at the governor’s mansion.

She faces Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Orlando businessman Chris King for the Democratic nomination. State Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is the GOP front runner in the race. 

Ryan Benk can be reached at, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter at @RyanMichaelBenk.

Ryan Benk is a former WJCT News reporter who joined the station in 2015 after working as a news researcher and reporter for NPR affiliate WFSU in Tallahassee.