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Graham Is Able, Effective

Published in The Orlando Sentinel, October 3, 1998

(c)The Orlando Sentinel

Bob Graham's influence looms large, and his performance is impressive in the U.S. Senate. Florida would be well-served to return him for a third term.


U.S. Senate

In the race for U.S. Senate, one candidate -- Democrat Bob Graham approaches legendary status in Florida politics. A two-term senator and former two-term governor of the state, Mr. Graham has served with distinction and good sense through the years -- particularly in dealing with the federal budget, trade and international affairs.

He faces Republican Charlie Crist, by all accounts a decent and hardworking lawyer with a couple of stints in the Florida Senate.

In other words, solid candidates present themselves to the voters in this contest. But the gap between Mr. Graham and Mr. Crist in terms of experience, talent and sheer breadth of knowledge spreads far. For all his pluses, Mr. Crist remains a diminutive figure compared with Mr. Graham.

It's not that Mr. Graham lacks faults -- far from it. At times he has let his usual cautious guard down, opting for political expediency rather than for what his instincts urged. That was the case, for example, in the push for expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Mr. Graham supported that effort, despite some personal reservations, because it had developed political momentum in the United States and in Europe.

Although Mr. Graham has been a strong environmental advocate in the past, he has failed to pursue aggressively the mustering of congressional support for restoration of one of the nation's most precious natural resources, Florida's own Everglades.

Overall, however, Mr. Graham delivers an impressive performance. He played a strong and incisive role in helping to balance the federal budget, pushing for consensus with a flair for building bipartisan alliances. He has proposed creative solutions for nettlesome national problems such as Medicare's growth, welfare and tax reform.

Mr. Graham's voice has loomed large in U.S. relations with Latin America. He knows that region well and understands the fundamental benefits that accrue from expanding U.S. political and economic ties there. Florida holds a particular stake in those relationships. Mr. Graham also advocates self-determination for Puerto Rico, which is only fair.

Further, he led efforts to make sure that Florida and other states would get a fairer share of transportation dollars.

That range of issues underscores Mr. Graham's considerable scope.

Beyond that, his reputation for constituent work precedes him. He regularlyreaches out to Florida communities and takes time to understand them better through work days in various industries.

Mr. Graham has been an able and effective leader. Florida would be well-served by returning him for a third term.

The Orlando Sentinel strongly endorses Bob Graham for U.S. Senate.

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