Graham's daughter stumps for dad

By Sara Faiwell
Iowa Presidential

Iowans may spot her elegantly walking down local streets, well dressed, clutching her designer handbag and never forgetting the smile. She brings with her one message: Vote for my Dad.

Over the past month, Gwen Graham Logan -- Florida Senator Bob Graham's eldest daughter of four -- was stumping for her father in Iowa City, one of her many stops around the state during his campaign.

"I want to meet as many people in Iowa as I can," said Logan, 40, who lives in Tallahassee, Fla. with her husband, Mark, and three children. "The most helpful way to help dad is to connect people with him."

That connection needs to happen quickly. Iowa's Jan. 19 caucuses are approaching and Graham is already being described as the leader of the second tier of candidates. On Thursday, false rumors were spreading saying that he planned to drop out of the race.

Like a seasoned politician, Logan listens, quizzes and hugs along the way. This was evident as she took a tour of the Iowa City/Johnson County Senior Center two weeks ago, asking questions about the facility, wondering about the enrollment at nearby University of Iowa and inviting residents out for coffee.

"Iowans expect a lot of personal attention from the candidates," said Graham's Iowa director Jessica VandenBerg. "The caucus-goers in Iowa appreciate Senator Graham’s commitment to his family."

Family members can often help the candidate extend the reach of his or her campaign and allow it to reach more voters, said University of Iowa political science professor Peverill Squire, a well-known expert on the state's electorate.

"Many candidates find that having their families in the public eye helps soften and humanize their public images," said Squire. "And because they have families it makes it easier for many in the public to identify with them."

Graham supporter Louise Young of Iowa City said she was excited to see Logan in town this week. The two met at the Senior Center and Young later met her for coffee.

"This is the first time I've met her," said Young. "I hope to see her again in the future."

When asked if her father was facing an uphill battle with being far behind in the polls, Logan quickly responded, citing that in 1975, Jimmy Carter was only at 1% in Iowa polls.

Campaigning is nothing new for Logan. She still can picture driving around Florida in a RV when she was 13 years old and her dad was running for governor.

"When he was running for the senate I wasn't involved on this level," she said. "Now, I want to be independent and speak on his behalf."

Under most circumstances voters are not looking to family members to explain the campaign's stance on social national issues, Squire said. Instead, the family may offer the voters a small chance to gain insight into who the candidate is as a person, he said.

But when questions about foreign policy and the budget are thrown at this mom, Logan says she isn't feeling the heat because she's confident that she knows his issues and stances. If there's ever doubt about something she's asked, Logan said she will never answer for her father.

Besides Logan, other candidate's family members aren't as prevalent in the state yet. Last month, Chrissy Gephardt, daughter of Sen. Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.) talked to Iowa City residents at a local restaurant.

Between now and the nation's first caucus, at least one member of the Sen. Graham's family will permanently be working Iowa voters, Logan said.

"As a daughter, what I can do best is convey a feeling about my dad that only I can convey," Logan said. "I can offer people personal insight."

E-mail Sara Faiwell at [email protected]

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