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FL-Gov: Second-tier Democratic candidates in Florida are going after each other — and it's nasty

House Armed Services Committee members Rep. Gwen Graham (D-Fla.) (left) talks with Rep. James Langevin (D-R.I.) during a hearing on Capitol Hill in November 2015 in Washington, D.C. Graham is one of several candidates running for the Democratic nomination for Florida governor in an increasingly contentious primary. (2015 file photo/Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Seeming to all but ignore the frontrunner, the two trailing candidates competing for the Democratic Party’s nomination for governor of Florida have launched attacks against each other.

What's the story?

While Phillip Levine seems to hold a promising lead in the Democratic race, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham have started targeting each other.

A $782,000 television ad campaign run by a national PAC called “The Collective” accused Graham of voting to scrap Obamacare. The ad said in part, “Gwen Graham says she is the progressive candidate for governor but while in Congress she voted against President Obama 52 percent of the time.”

Graham denied this accusation, and responded, “I am disgusted that Andrew Gillum would allow a secret-money group to run a false attack against a fellow Democrat.”

Gillum shot back, claiming that he had nothing to do with the ad, but added that Graham’s defense told a story of its own.

“It's crystal clear just how uncomfortable the Graham campaign is with the congresswoman's own voting record,” Gillum spokesman Geoff Burgan said.

What else?

This is just the latest bout between the two campaigns. When a prominent Gillum supporter, Leslie Wimes, called Graham a “skank,” the national pro-choice organization EMILY's List was among the national voices calling for Gillum to publicly denounce Wimes. Gillum's campaign avoided denouncing Wimes, instead encouraging her to attack Graham for her record.

Wimes, meanwhile, slammed EMILY's List for coming to Graham's defense.

“So when a true progressive runs against a fake Democrat, EMILY’S List does nothing," Wimes said. "But when someone who described herself as a ‘very conservative Democrat’ runs against a black man who’s a true progressive, they jumped in waist deep for her.”

Graham's campaign has admitted that she once called herself a "conservative" Democrat but touted her low scores from the American Conservative Union to prove that she had fully embraced progressive policies.

The current governor, Republican Rick Scott, is legally barred from running for re-election under the state's term limit laws, so the winner of the Democratic primary will face off against an as-yet-unchosen Republican candidate.

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