Alan Grayson entering CD 9 to take on Darren Soto - Florida Politics

Alan Grayson entering CD 9 to take on Darren Soto

Former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson wants his old seat back, and is preparing to file Tuesday to take on fellow Democrat and incumbent U.S. Rep. Darren Soto in Florida’s 9th Congressional District.

Grayson, who has been preparing for months for a last-minute announcement on a new run for Congress, holding back only the where, not the what or when, told WESH-TV News that he is filing in Florida’s 9th Congressional Disrict, which he represented from 2012-2016, before he left it for a failed run for the U.S. Senate.

Grayson also represented Florida’s 10th Congressional District from 2008-2010. In recent weeks he has hinted about seeking possible returns in either of those districts, as well as possibly in several others in the Central Florida area.

Soto, a former state senator, was elected in 2016 to represent the district covering Osceola County, eastern Polk County, and southern Orange County.

Grayson told WESH-TV that polling suggests he remains popular in CD 9, and that he believes he has more appeal among Hispanic voters than does Soto, who is of Puerto Rican descent, “because people know that I’ve done useful things.”

Both Soto and Grayson are lawyers.

The leading Republican in the race is Saint Cloud businessman Wayne Liebnitzky, who said he expects to qualify Tuesday for the ballot.

Soto is formally kicking off his re-election campaign at a rally Thursday morning in Kissimmee.

Grayson’s political star rose during his first term in Congress when he said Republicans’ health care plan for America was “Don’t get sick … and if you get sick, America, the Republican health care plan is this: Die quickly.”

That and other provocative comments played well with the far-left contingent of the Democratic Party and earned him plenty of appearances as a talking head on shows such as HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, but they were less well-received by DNC higherups, who kept Grayson at arms length for most of his political career — a status he still wears like a badge of honor in campaign emails.

By 2016, Democratic leaders were openly contemptuous of Grayson, with former U.S. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid telling him “I hope you lose” during the 2016 Democratic Primary for U.S. Senate.

And lose he did.

Democrats unleashed a torrent of opposition research on one of their own, alleging Grayson had a history of spousal abuse. While his culpability remains hazy — Grayson’s daughter spoke in his defense and said her mother’s domestic abuse calls, including one against her, were bogus — the allegations played no small part in Grayson’s dismal 18 percent showing in the primary race. He also faced serious questions over a hedge fund he managed while a congressman.

How those scandals and his at times abrasive personality will play in his former district remains to be seen. He was indeed popular among his constituents, who elected him to the new CD 9 in 2012 with 63 percent of the vote and re-elected him with 54 percent of the vote two years later in a Republican wave election that saw Democrats lose 13 seats nationwide.

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.
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