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U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson off and running for Senate seat in Florida

Outspoken liberal firebrand’s campaign sets up a battle royale in the Democratic primary

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

florida mugORLANDO (CFP) — U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, the firebrand liberal notorious for caustic comments about Republicans, has announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate in 2016, setting up what is likely to be a bruising Democratic primary battle in the Sunshine State.

U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson

U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson

“I am unbought and unbossed,” Grayson, D-Orlando, said in a video announcing his Senate bid posted to his campaign website July 9. “I own nothing to anyone but the people.”

Grayson is running in defiance of Democratic party leaders, who are backing moderate U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter and had hoped to avoid what is likely to be a divisive Democratic primary.

On the day of his announcement, Grayson provided a flavor of what’s to come in an interview with WKMG-TV in Orlando, in which he accused Murphy of being a closet Republican and said the Senate race “is going to live until the end of time.”

“People understand what I stand for. Patrick wants to cut Social Security, cut Medicare, and Patrick gave $2,300 to Mitt Romney’s campaign,” he said. “Patrick’s running in the wrong primary. He should be running as a Republican because that’s who he really is.”

To bring home the flavor of his political persona, Grayson is calling his campaign website

U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy

U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy

For his part, Murphy greeted Grayson’s announcement by issuing a statement saying he was looking forward “to a clean, honest discussion of the issues in this primary.”

Grayson, 57, a Harvard-educated lawyer, burst onto the national scene after his election to Congress in 2008 with a floor speech in which he said the GOP’s health care plan was for the uninsured “to die quickly.” He has called Republicans “knuckle-dragging Neanderthals,” likened the Tea Party to the Ku Klux Klan and once compared former Vice President Dick Cheney to a vampire.

In 2009, he had to apologize after calling a female lobbyist “a K Street whore.” He is also known to subject reporters to profanity-laden tirades for stories he doesn’t like.

Grayson’s controversial profile cost him his House seat in 2010, a campaign in which he referred to his opponent, U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster, as “Taliban Dan” in a television ad. But Grayson returned to Congress in 2012, winning in a newly created Orlando-area district.

In addition to his hyperbolic comments, Grayson is also involved in a nasty divorce with his wife of 25 years, Lolita, whom he accused of bigamy and tried to have arrested for using a joint credit card to buy groceries. Lolita Grayson has charged that the congressman was unfaithful and abusive.

In his kickoff announcement, Grayson took an unabashed liberal line, calling for ending taxes on Social Security benefits, expanding Medicare to cover dental and vision care and ensuring that “every job should provide enough money to become part of the middle class.”

The Senate seat opened up when Republican U.S. Senator Marco Rubio decided to run for president. Democratic leaders are fearful that Grayson’s is too controversial and too liberal to win a statewide race in Florida — squandering an opportunity to pick up a seat that is vital to the party’s hopes of taking back the Senate.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is backing Murphy, 32, who was a registered Republican until he switched parties to run for the House in 2012. He was re-elected in 2014 with nearly 60 percent of the vote in a competitive district.

On the Republican side, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis has jumped into the Senate race, and Lieutenant Governor Carlos López-Cantera is also expected to run.

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