Republicans have elected Cindy Graves as the new chair for the Republican Party of Duval County. The vote, taken in a room with an overflow crowd, was unanimous.
If you had to pick a word to describe her, dynamo would be perfect. Graves’ abilities impact politics and elections, past and present, in the nation’s third most populous state.
As the US heads into an election that is one of the most critical in our lifetime, any Republican candidate will welcome Graves’ leadership in Duval. She will be on the front line of the battle against the Clinton machine controlling Democrat politics since the 1990s.
Graves is a walking hard drive when it comes to information about Florida politics past and present. She’s worked on a number of campaigns featuring candidates who overcame odds or tight margins. From Marco Rubio’s US Senate win to Duval mayor Lenny Curry’s victory over the former mayor who was a Democrat and Clinton insider, Graves has marshalled forces and raised funds to place strong leaders in Florida’s political offices. Even when the odds were long, such as with the Rubio Senate campaign, Graves just focused on the outcome Republicans wanted and ultimately achieved.
Above all, Graves understands the messaging that comprises the ‘Big Tent’ many Republicans talk about but sometimes fail to manifest. Asked about the 2016 presidential election, she has a perspective other Republicans should emulate:
“Our three core values – strong economy, limited government, and a strong defense have now become a national obsession trending with nearly all demographics thanks to 8 years of Obama in the White House. Our GOP values translate into a win for American middle class voters with more jobs, a national balanced budget, common sense healthcare, national security, local control of education, caring for our veterans, ending dependence on foreign oil, and an overhaul of immigration policies that are now completely out of control.”
Graves, perhaps better than anyone, understands the critical need to get out the vote. During the last mayoral race in Jacksonville, the margin between the Democrat and the Republican appeared to be tight. Most media believed the incumbent would be reelected. After all, Democrats outnumber Republicans in voter registration in the county, albeit not by a huge margin.
Graves was part of the overall effort by Republicans to elect a strong leader who would make sure Jacksonville didn’t see the horrendous breakdown of communities characterizing many metro areas across the nation where Democrats have held power for decades.
After the 2015 mayoral election, one Facebook commenter put things in context, writing, “First shots fired for 2016.”
The new GOP chair for Duval is always at the top of my list when I need information to put politics in context. She’s one of the only locals on that list. Personally speaking, I value her input tremendously because she tells it like it is. A puller of punches Mrs. Graves is not.
Above all, Graves understands that what is good for the economy and our communities is good for all of us. She and others in the organization she led twice, the Florida Federation of Republican Women, have worked tirelessly to get out the vote and communicate to the public critical information for making good decisions on candidates.
Like a number of others in leadership positions, Graves didn’t endorse a candidate in the 2016 GOP Primary process. She took the ‘ABC’ approach as many Republicans call it—“Anybody but Clinton.”
Throughout the often divisive primaries as some GOP strategists were hurling insults at competitors’ voters, Graves consistently reminded everyone unity is key to a November win. By the time Donald Trump had been chosen by millions of voters who installed him as presumptive nominee, Graves had long been focusing on the real target—the Clinton machine.
The Jacksonville mom of four has a portfolio of accomplishments including serving on committees for nonprofits in the social services and communities sector and receiving the inaugural National GOP Women’s Public Relations Award. Expanding the voices of women in politics has routinely been part of her messaging, and the FFRW is a testament to that because GOP clubs in Florida increased from five to more than 60.
Graves is adept at fundraising, and in 2015 she served as national fundraising chair of the National Federation of Republican Women. In 2012 she created the DC Women’s Project, unifying 20,000 women in the Sunshine State after the primaries ended. Her accomplishments are too lengthy to include them all, but it’s safe to say she’s a driving force in GOP politics in the key state of Florida and beyond.
“Cindy Graves is the person you put in charge if you want to succeed,” said Dena Stebbins DeCamp, current president of the Florida Federation of Republican Women. “Her ideas are innovative and exciting; she attracts people to her with her knowledge and confidence.”
On the national level, Graves got words of praise from Sharon Day*, co-chair of the Republican National Committee. Day cited Graves’ “unparalleled passion” and her “long record of success” as attributes in “organizing Republican women in Florida and around the country.”
Graves is eyeing November with her customary optimism and drive, noting, “The Republican National Committee has an unbeatable ground game this year and Duval is key to this dynamic new burst of activism sure to invigorate the middle class voter weary of failed policies and broken promises like the disaster known as Obamacare.”
Graves sees November as a critical juncture for our country. The next president has the potential to nominate a number of Supreme Court justices, and a mandate to restore national security to a level necessary to meet challenges of “a world that has become increasingly dangerous under Barack Obama.”
The military has a strong presence in Northeast Florida, and Graves noted a new survey by the Military Times showing “active duty military preferred Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton by more than a 2-to-1 margin.”
I know Cindy Graves personally, and have had many long conversations about politics and government with her over the years. When she hosted a popular talk radio show until 2015, I was a weekly correspondent. I still have people tell me how much they enjoyed our back-and-forth on the radio. If you spend time around her, you’ll see why she is so skilled at organizing volunteers and raising funds. She can talk you into joining an activity even if you know your schedule is already packed. Graves makes politics fun, and she makes the work of it fun.
Outspoken, practical, and committed, Graves is an asset to any campaign and to her community. I know few people who can match her energy and accomplishments, one reason the word dynamo is so fitting for her.
As November approaches, Graves and the thousands of women in Florida who know what four more years of the Clinton machine would mean are ready to take on a challenging foe. The new Duval GOP chair will be front and center alongside her fellow Republicans working hard to help turn the country around and make sure the Clinton machine doesn’t deliver four more years of hard times for the middle class.
Graves will be at the center of the battle to be sure ABC prevails: Anybody but Clinton.
*Ed. Note: Sharon Day and Kay B. Day are not related.
(Essay by Kay B. Day/May 17, 2016)