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Grayson is running against his successor, U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, in Democratic primary for metro Orlando seat
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com 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.
“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.
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.
Wasserman Schultz beats back Bernie-allied rival; Corrine Brown out
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor
GAINESVILLE, Florida (CFP) — U.S. Senator Marco Rubio handily won renomination in Florida’s Republican primary and will face Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy in a race that will help determine which party controls the Senate.
Rubio took 72 percent in the August 30 vote, easily defeating businessman Carlos Beruff, who garnered just 18 percent. On the Democratic side, Murphy was the clear winner, taking 60 percent of the vote, compared to just 18 percent for his main challenger, U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson.
The bad news for Grayson continued, as his wife’s attempt to keep his 9th District U.S. House seat in the family sputtered in the Democratic primary.
Meanwhile, in South Florida’s 23rd District, Democratic U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz beat back a challenge from Tim Canova, turning aside an effort by angry Bernie Sanders supporters to force her from Congress over accusations that she, as chair of the Democratic National Committee, showed favoritism to Hillary Clinton in the presidential race.
Wasserman Schultz took 57 percent to 43 percent for Canova, who spent more than $3 million trying to unseat the veteran congresswoman.
However, another veteran Democrat was not as fortunate. U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, who was indicted on corruption charges in July, was defeated in the 5th District primary by Al Lawson, a former state legislator from Tallahassee, in what was likely the last chapter in a 34-year-long political career.
Lawson won 48 percent to 40 percent for Brown.
A redraw of state’s congressional map, ordered by the Florida Supreme Court, substantially altered Brown’s district, forcing her to run in a swath of new territory outside of her Jacksonville base. Federal prosecutors have also accused Brown of conspiring with her chief of staff to convert a scholarship fund into a private slush fund used to pay for her political promotion and personal expenses. She has denied the charges.
Rubio initially decided to give up his Senate seat to pursue the Republican presidential nomination. But after his White House aspirations fizzled, he reversed course, prompting the departure of three of the four major candidates then in the race, all but Beruff.
Speaking to supporters in Kissimmee, the senator dismissed Murphy as an “old-fashioned liberal” handpicked for the Senate by Democratic leaders and a dilettante whose wealth family has given him “everything he’s every wanted.”
“If Patrick Murphy wants to be a U.S. Senator, he’s going to have to earn it by beating the son of a bartender and a maid who came to this country in search of a better life,” he said, employing details from his own biography that were a staple of his run for president.
But speaking to his supporters in Palm Beach County, Murphy criticized Rubio for his poor attendance in the Senate while he was running for president.
“Marco Rubio is the worst of Washington because he puts himself first every time,” Murphy said. “He gave up on his job. He gave up on Florida.”
Murphy also pounced on Rubio’s statement on CNN a day before the primary that he would not commit to serving his full Senate term, saying “no one can make that commitment because you don’t know what the future’s going hold in your life personally or politically.”
Murphy retorted: “Guess what, senator. I’ve got two words for you. I can.”
In his battle against Grayson, Murphy — who was a registered Republican until 2012, when he switched parties to run for Congress — had the backing of virtually all of the Democratic establishment, including the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
Party leaders were fearful that a victory by the outspoken Grayson — who regularly subjects reporters to profanity-laden tirades and once had to apologize after calling a female lobbyist “a K Street whore” — would spell disaster in November.
During the primary campaign, Grayson also faced domestic abuse allegations made by his ex-wife. He denied ever hitting her, but the story prompted two liberal groups — Democracy for America and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee — to reverse their endorsements.
In the end, Grayson not only lost to Murphy by more than 40 points but also barely edged out a lesser known candidate, political newcomer Pam Keith, for second place. Keith had snagged a surprise endorsement from one of Florida’s largest newspapers, The Miami Herald.
In addition to helping torpedo Brown in the 5th District, the new map made the 2nd District, which takes in the middle of the Florida Panhandle, more Republican, prompting Democratic U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham to retire.
After a nasty campaign with substantial spending by outside groups, Republicans chose Neal Dunn, a Panama City urologist, over Mary Thomas, a state government lawyer from Tallahassee. Dunn took 41 percent to 39 percent for Thomas, who was trying to become the first Indian-American woman ever elected to Congress.
After Grayson gave up his 9th District to run for the Senate, both his wife, Dena Grayson, and one of his top aides, Susannah Randolph, launched campaigns to succeed him. But State Senator Darren Soto beat them both in the Democratic primary, which is tantamount to election in the heavily Democratic Orlando-based district.
Grayson took 36 percent of the vote, compared to 18 percent each for Randolph and Dina Grayson.
In the 18th District, which Murphy gave up to run for the Senate, Democrats selected Randy Perkins, a multimillionaire businessman from Delray Beach, while Republicans went with Brian Mast, an Army veteran who lost both his legs while serving as a bomb disposal specialist in Afghanistan.
The 18th District, which takes in parts of Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast, is likely to be a genuine toss-up in November.
The 26th District, which takes in the Florida Keys and southwest Miami-Dade County, will feature a rematch between Republican U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo and the man he beat in 2014, former Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia.
While Curbelo was unopposed in the GOP primary, Garcia eaked out an 800-vote win over Annette Taddeo in the Democratic primary.