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Former Florida U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson will try to reclaim his old seat

Grayson is running against his successor, U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, in Democratic primary for metro Orlando seat

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

ORLANDO (CFP) — Liberal firebrand Alan Grayson will try to reclaim his old seat in the U.S. House, setting up a Democratic primary battle with the man who succeeded him in Congress, U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, for a seat in metro Orlando.

Former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson

“We did a lot of good things for a lot of people, and I don’t see that happening right now,” Grayson said in an interview with WKMG-TV where he announced his intention to run.

With characteristic understatement, Grayson boasted that “I wrote more bills than any other member of Congress, and I got more passed than any other member of Congress.”

He is also faulting Soto for not pushing for the impeachment of President Donald Trump, which House Democratic leaders have been actively discouraging in order to avoid energizing pro-Trump voters.

Soto was elected to the 9th District seat in 2016, after Grayson gave it up to make an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate. In that race, Soto defeated Grayson’s wife, Dena, who ran to succeed her husband.

The race to unseat Soto won’t be easy for Grayson. The district, which takes in southwest Orlando city and suburban Osceola County, has a growing Puerto Rican population, an advantage for Soto, who is Florida’s first congressman of Puerto Rican descent.

U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, D-Florida

Soto has also been endorsed by all 10 of Florida’s other Democratic congressman — a clear sign of just how much Democratic leaders don’t want to see a Grayson redux.

Grayson, 60, a Harvard-educated lawyer who made a personal fortune in the telecom industry, 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 was also involved in a nasty divorce with his first wife, Lolita, whom he accused of bigamy and tried to have arrested for using a joint credit card to buy groceries.

Lolita Grayson has also accused him of being unfaithful and abusive, charges that dogged him during his senatorial campaign. He has denied any abuse.

Soto, 40, is an attorney who served in the Florida legislature before being elected to Congress. He was one of just three freshmen named to a leadership post in the House Democratic caucus after arriving in Washington.

In April, Soto’s wife, Amanda, was arrested for disorderly intoxication after getting into a fight with her mother at Walt Disney World. The congressman explained at the time that prior to the incident, his wife had stopped taking medication for depression under a doctor’s direction.

The winner of the Soto-Grayson primary will face Republican Wayne Liebnitzky, a businessman and professional engineer from St. Cloud whom Soto defeated in 2016.

Florida’s primary is August 28.

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