Graham says her view will help address harassment 'epidemic'

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) Former Democratic U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, the only woman in Florida's governor's race, said Thursday she has a unique perspective that will allow her to address what she calls a sexual harassment epidemic in state government.

"I do believe that as a woman, that I have an ability to talk about this in a way that resonates with everyone, not just women, but men as well," she said. "I will hold the highest standard and I will be an example of an ability to come together, men and women; respect one another and work together and never again face this ... epidemic of sexual harassment, sexual assault allegations."

Graham, speaking at a news conference, outlined her ethics proposal, ranging from sexual harassment to banning elected officials from lobbying for eight years after they leave office.

Her proposals come as an array of politicians, celebrities and business leaders around the country face a growing number of allegations about sexual misconduct. That includes state Sen. Jack Latvala, a Republican candidate for governor who is being investigated after allegations he groped women. Latvala has said he has done nothing wrong.

Graham said she has had a "me too" moment, though she didn't discuss details.

"I think that probably every woman in this room has had a me too moment and I think what's important at this time is that we stand together and we recognize that this is a place and a time when people are feeling safe to come forward and that as we move forward, we don't forget what we've learned from this moment and make sure that everybody feels safe in the workplace," she said.

She proposed creating an independent ombudsperson to identify and explain government sexual harassment policies and to investigate and refer complaints to the attorney general's office.

One of her primary opponents, businessman Chris King, also announced sexual misconduct policy proposals Thursday with a Facebook video. He proposed creating office for victims' advocacy to investigate harassment and assault allegations.

"We've got to start holding our leaders accountable for bad behavior," he said. "I am deeply, deeply appalled at the behavior of folks that are in positions of power that are abusing these women."

Graham, King and Latvala are running to replace Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who is leaving office in January 2019 because of term limits. Other Democrats running include Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine. Republican Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is also seeking the seat.

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