Jane Rieker
September 11, 1978 12:00 PM

As if being a cattle rancher, dairy farmer, urban developer and multimillionaire weren’t quite enough, Florida State Senator Bob Graham, 41, has decided he would like to be governor. And why not? In little more than a year of campaigning, Democrat Graham has tried nearly everything else. He has picked tomatoes, hefted furniture, tuned Toyotas, cleaned stables and rolled cigars. In all, he has put in 98 days on 98 different jobs. By the September 12 primary, he hopes to make it an even 100.

To prove he isn’t just grandstanding, Graham works a full eight-hour day, doesn’t stop to mug when the TV cameras roll and isn’t shy about collecting a paycheck. With a net worth of nearly $4 million, he hardly needs the money, but his stunt has brought him both exposure and worthwhile experience, he says, as well as relief from the grind of campaigning. “This is a terrific antidote to staleness,” says Graham, adding, “There were at least a dozen issues before the last legislature when I felt I had a special insight because of the jobs I had worked.”

Graham, the son of a former Florida state senator, is a brother-in-law of Kay Graham, publisher of the Washington Post (which will not endorse any candidate in the primary). Named Dade County’s “best all-round teenage boy” at 16, Graham worked on his father’s farm as a boy and later graduated from Harvard Law School. Afterward he and his brother Bill expanded the family’s dairy interests and developed the new town of Miami Lakes from Graham pastureland. He was elected to the legislature in 1966.

Looking back, Graham says he embarked on the jobs project on a dare from a schoolteacher in 1974. His first day turned into a semester teaching government at a Miami high school. He decided to revive the idea last summer at the time he announced his candidacy wearing blue-collar work clothes. He applied for some of his jobs incognito, through the Florida State Employment Service; others came through friends. Lately he’s been deluged. So far, he says, his toughest assignment was working on an oil rig, the dullest picking oranges and washing cars. A woman was murdered on Graham’s shift as a policeman in Tallahassee, and once, working on a shrimp boat out of Apalachicola, he had to walk out 70 feet on a narrow outrigger to lower a net. “Ten feet above the water, close to midnight, I wondered again how much I wanted to be governor,” he recalls. Playing the role of a corpse in a community theater melodrama was easier. “I just had to lie on the floor for an hour and a half,” says Graham. “But people kept pushing furniture onto my fingers.”

A virtual unknown when his campaign began, Graham has since shouldered past five opponents in the polls. He now trails only the favorite, Florida Attorney General Robert Shevin, who constantly hears Graham’s footsteps. Once, working as a bellboy in an Orlando hotel, Graham had to carry Shevin’s bags to his suite. (No tip.) A few weeks later Shevin’s wife, Myrna, boarded a plane in Tallahassee only to find that Graham was a flight attendant. “A gimmick is a gimmick,” she muttered, “but this is too much.”

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