Former Gov. Bob Graham stumps for daughter Gwen while speaking to Villages Democrats

Former Gov. Bob Graham makes a point while speaking to The Villages Democrats Club on Thursday morning.

With an enthusiastic endorsement of his daughter Gwen’s candidacy for governor of Florida, former Gov. Bob Graham was the guest speaker at The Villages Democrats Club meeting Thursday morning at Mulberry Recreation Center.

Graham, who also served as a United States senator, stressed some of Gwen’s campaign platform and goals, including support of the Affordable Care Act in order to ensure adequate health care for all Floridians; election reform that minimizes the impact of the rapidly increasing funds needed to conduct an election campaign; and the restoration of voting rights for felons no longer incarcerated.

Graham also stressed the need for a common-sense approach to gun control, such as mandated background checks, regardless of how or where the weapon was purchased, and questioning the need for civilians to have access to assault rifles.

Former Gov. Bob Graham and his wife, Adele, are greeted by Jeff Yonce, president of The Villages Democrats Club.

“We are honored and delighted that Sen. Graham accepted our invitation,” said Jeff Yonce, the club’s president. “He is one of the legendary icons of the Democratic Party. We wanted to hear his unique perspectives about the important issues we now face.”

Yonce introduced Graham by highlighting his decades of service.

“After completing eight years in the governor’s office, he had an 83 percent approval rating,” Yonce said. “This compares to Gov. Scott’s current rating in the 40s.”

Former Gov. Bob Graham reminisces with longtime friends Alan and Susan Gold.

Two of the Villagers who welcomed Graham were Alan Gold and his wife, Susan, of the Village of Gilchrist. Graham had nominated Gold to President Clinton to be a federal judge in 1986. Gold was on the faculty of the University of Miami Law School and had been one of Gwen’s professors. She had recommended Gold to her father and he went on to serve in the Southern District in Miami for 17 years.

“I’ve known the senator for a long time and have strongly endorsed his policies and goals,” Gold said. “That is why we are supporting Gwen to carry on his legacy.”

Graham had been in the public limelight since his election to the Florida House of Representatives in 1966. Four years later, he won a seat in the Florida Senate and served from 1970 thought 1978, when he was elected governor. After two terms, he successfully ran for the U.S. Senate and served from 1987 to 2005.

Gerry Van Luven, Democrats Club Vice President Mary Matine Scheiner and Tina Recchi welcome former Gov. Bob Graham prior to his remarks Thursday

More recently, in May 2010, President Obama asked Graham and former Environmental Protection Agency Commissioner William Reilly to co-lead a new commission charged with investigating the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Adele Graham answered questions and modeled her campaign dress first worn during her husband’s 1988 campaign. Copies of the dress are at the HistoryMiami Museum and the Statehouse in Tallahassee.

The following year, Graham authored a novel titled “Keys to the Kingdom” that echoes his assertions that the government of Saudi Arabia was involved in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. That was followed by four non-fiction books.

Graham’s visit was the latest in a series of “meet the candidate” forums sponsored by the local Democrats. The group previously hosted Andrew Gillum, Chris King and Philip Levine.

The Club will welcome Florida gubernatorial candidate Jeff Greene to its meeting Saturday, Aug. 11 at Paradise Recreation Center.

“The public is welcomed to attend,” Yonce said. “However, they must request tickets on our website, villagesdemocrats.org.”

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