While he’s not sure if he will attempt to resume his political career by running against Charlie Crist in Florida’s 13th Congressional District, former Republican congressman David Jolly says he will be part of another campaign in the future – a GOP effort to block Donald Trump from being renominated in 2020 as the party’s presidential nominee. Read more
A bored and angry Alan Grayson can be a can be dangerous for someone, and he’s aiming now at President Donald Trump.
The former Democratic, hard-boiled congressman from Orlando, who continues to keep a campaign warm for a possible return-to-Congress effort, has started a leadership political action committee called Lock Him Up Now to pursue and keep track of evidence of alleged crimes and misdemeanors of the 45th president of the United States, and to raise money for an anti-Trump effort.
With a webpage subtitle of “The Resistance, Help End the Trump Presidency,” the organization’s goal is to compile and even create legal cases for impeachment or forced resignation.
“Our side needs somebody concentrating on what it will actually take to get rid of him,” Grayson said. “I think he’s already crossed the [impeachment] threshold.”
Grayson of course is known for his harsh, often bombastic, knee-breaking, sometimes outrageous, progressive-oriented political rhetoric.
Yet he also was one of the more successful whistle-blower lawyers in the country. Grayson said he intends to use that experience and knowhow to try to draw out any potential whistle-blowers on Trump, and get them to provide information, leaked or otherwise, that could be compiled into cases. His organization’s website is set up partly for that.
He said he has confidence that an independent, whistle-blower-oriented investigation could have opportunities beyond what either the official U.S. Congressional inquiries or FBI Director Robert Mueller can pursue.
Grayson served three [non-consecutive] terms in Congress. He represented Florida’s 10th Congressional District but was defeated for re-election by Republican U.S. Rep. Dan Webster. Then he served two terms representing Florida’s 9th Congressional District, but stepped out last year for an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic nomination to run for the U.S.
Since leaving office he’s kept a relatively low profile until now, but has kept open his congressional campaign fund. Because of that, last winter he filed to run against Webster again, this time in Florida’s 11th Congressional District. Yet he insisted then, and continues to insist now, that filing was just a paperwork matter to keep the option open and money flowing, and he hasn’t decided if he’ll run again, or where, or against whom.
Meantime, Lock Him Up Now is pursing both evidence and money, and seeking to become a rallying point for anti-Trump efforts
“We’ve struck a cord. A very large number of people think Trump needs to be impeached and forced out of office, or to resign,” he said.
Grayson’s critics, and there are numerous in both parties, may argue a collapsed U.S. Senate campaign and eight months out of office, Grayson’s fundraising opportunities might be limited. But he contends he’s raised $600,000 from 37,000 individual contributors for his still to-be-determined congressional run.
“I have a very broad base of support. People continue to contribute, notwithstanding my lack of success in the Senate race last year,” he said.
The Lock Him Up Now organization recently commissioned a national poll, which Grayson said he paid for himself. It asked 1,245 voters nationwide a series of questions about Trump, with what he said is a margin of error of 2.8 percent.
Yes, the questions were leading.
One asked: “Is Donald Trump a pathological liar?”
Grayson said 69 percent responded yes, 20 percent no, and 11 percent maybe.
“Is Donald Trump a jerk?”
Grayson said 77 percent responded yes, and 23 percent no.
And, he added, political party breakdowns didn’t change that, saying 88 percent of Democrats said they thought the president was a jerk, 80 percent of independents, and 61 percent of Republicans.
It has been said that money is the lifeblood of politics. If so, many members of the Florida congressional delegation are very healthy, while others are on life support.
This is based on second quarter financial reports covering funds raised, funds spent and cash on hand. In contrast to the general assumption, money does not guarantee political success. Just ask Jeb Bush, who quickly raised over $100 million in his quest for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. The money produced no primary wins and only three delegates.
Candidates who raise large sums of money do so either to scare off political opponents, to prepare for a serious challenger, or to stockpile funds to run for higher office. The biggest war chests among the Florida congressional delegation are held by incumbent Republicans who are considered safe.
Small campaign accounts do not necessarily signal a political problem. In many cases, a small campaign account is a sign that the incumbent faces no serious opposition. Democrat Alcee Hastings, representing District 20 in Miami, only has $92,074 in his campaign account. That signals that Hastings has never faced a serious challenge since winning a congressional seat in 1992.
Those with the largest campaign accounts include Republican Vern Buchanan in District 16 ($1,982,876), Republican Ron DeSantis in District 6 ($1,674,185), Republican Carlos Curbelo in District 26 ($1,078,588) and Democrat Charlie Crist in District 13 ($1,121,494).
Crist, serving his first term in Congress, is perhaps Florida’s best-known member of Congress and a prodigious fundraiser. Curbelo represents one of two Florida congressional districts held by a Republican that has a large Democratic advantage. Curbelo is more threatened than most members of Congress. Both Buchanan and DeSantis represent districts with a marginal Republican electorate. DeSantis’ district has a +4 Republican advantage and Buchanan’s district has a +6 Republican advantage.
Only one challenger taking on an incumbent has raised over $50,000. Louis Sola made a personal loan of $99,000 to his campaign account.
Two former members of the Florida congressional delegation filed campaign reports, signaling their hopes to keep their options open to another congressional run.
Former Republican Congressman Cliff Stearns raised $51,704 and has $1,579,227 in his campaign account, more than all but two of the current members of the delegation.
Democrat Alan Grayson, who represented District 9, filed paperwork in District 11. Grayson raised $68,532 and has $455,584 in the bank.
It is still very early with 19 months to go before the 2018 congressional elections. Some candidates have not announced and still have plenty of time to do so. What we do know, based on past history, is that two-thirds of the delegation face no serious threat. The other third who are in marginal districts or who have angered their constituents are going to raise as much money as they can to retain their seat.
There is one truism in Congress: Every member of Congress thinks they are indispensable.
Darryl Paulson is Emeritus Professor of Government at USF St. Petersburg specializing in Florida politics and elections.
Lolita Carson Grayson, former wife of former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, has opened a GoFundMe account, in part seeking help to pay legal expenses of ongoing litigation battles emanating from their 2015 annulment that she says has left her penniless and on the verge of being evicted.
“I really am in bad shape right now. I went to GoFundMe because I’m totally broke and I’m being evicted,” Lolita Grayson said Thursday.
Her GoFundMe.com page says the legal battles through and beyond their divorce proceedings and annulment have exhausted her finances, and yet she still has legal expenses involved in their fights over the disposition of assets. Those assets include the Dr. Phillips house they had shared in marriage, and where she continues to live. He has filed to have her evicted.
She is seeking to raise $20,000.
Alan Grayson, who left Congress this year after not seeking re-election in Florida’s 9th Congressional District, said Thursday that she had agreed to leave the house at the time of their annulment settlement. He said the two sides worked out a detailed, 30-page agreement called for him to sell it. Grayson said he has waited. And in the meantime, he charged, she has caused extensive damage to the house. “She has been squatting in the house for three and a half years [dating to when they first split.] It has cost me over a quarter-million dollars. According to the terms of the annulment, she has no property rights in the house.”
She challenges the latter point. Alan Grayson said she agreed to give up the house in a settlement agreement but then did not sign it. Whether it is enforceable, he said, will be up to the courts.
She said she does not recall agreeing to move out and give up the house.
The Graysons’ marriage ended after a bitter divorce proceeding led to charges, from him, that she still was married to someone else when they wed in 1990, and had committed bigamy. Lolita Grayson eventually acknowledged a former marriage did not end until two years after her wedding to Alan Grayson. In the spring of 2015, 9th Judicial Circuit Court Judge Bob LeBlanc dissolved the marriage.
Lolita said she continues to fight for marriage property and is seeking help through GoFundMe because, “I am fighting for what is right, for what is the right thing to do.”
Last year Alan Grayson remarried, to the former Dena Minning.
Democrat Anna Eskamani opened a political committee this month which will allow her to raise funds for her campaign in Orlando-based House District 47.
Eskamani sent in the paperwork to open “People Power for Florida” in June and the Florida Division of Elections acknowledged the committee and added it to its database on July 13. The first campaign finance report for the committee, covering all of July, is due Aug. 10.
News of Eskamani opening a political committee was first reported by Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida.
The Orlando Democrat is currently the only candidate running for HD 47, as current Republican Rep. Mike Miller announced in late June that he will leave the seat to run against Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy in Florida’s 7th Congressional District.
Eskamani filed for the seat a few days after Miller’s June 29 announcement, and is so far the only major party candidate running for the seat, which covers part of Orange County, including Winter Park and Belle Isle.
Though her campaign has not yet released its first campaign finance report, it should see a nice boost in August. The Planned Parenthood director of external affairs announced a fundraiser Thursday with many top Florida Democrats on the guest list, including Alan Grayson, Alex Sink, Bob Poe and Steve Schale.
HD 47 has a Democratic lean, with 45,213 registered Democrats, 43,323 registered Republicans and 30,189 voters not registered with either major party. Democrat Beth Tuura ran against Miller last cycle, but fell to 52-47 on Election Day.
Democrat Anna Eskamani‘s House District 47 campaign announced Thursday it will be holding an August fundraiser with co-chairs including Alan Grayson, Alex Sink, Bob Poe, and Steve Schale.
The August 15 fundraiser will be held at The Abbey, a popular downtown Orlando watering hole, especially for Democrats.
Eskamani, a Planned Parenthood director of external affairs and progressive Democratic organizer from Orlando, is first-in seeking to replace Republican state Rep. Mike Miller of Winter Park, who announced last month he’ll run for Congress rather than seek election.
The district serves north and central Orange County, including Winter Park and downtown Orlando.
The Democrat who ran against Miller last year, television producer Beth Tuura, is among the event chairs. Former Congressman Grayson, Former Florida Chief Financial Officer Sink, Democratic fundraiser Poe, Democratic operative Schale, former Orange County Comptroller Martha Haynie, lobbyist Kelly Cohen, and fundraisers Jim Kitchens, Ted Maines, and Jeffrey Miller are among those listed as co-chairs.
“Some say that fundraising during the summer is tough, but with a community like ours, anything is possible,” Eskamani said in a news release.
Alan Grayson said on Tuesday that he is not running for any office in 2018, at least not yet. But there are plenty of people who want him to, as he has racked up several hundred thousand dollars in campaign contributions for a CD 11 bid, a seat currently occupied by Republican Daniel Webster.
The former U.S. Representative has been actively campaigning for Jon Ossoff, the Democrat running in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District through Act Blue, which bills itself as “the online clearinghouse of Democratic action.”
An online ad for Ossoff includes the disclaimer, “Your contribution will be divided evenly between Jon Ossoff and Alan Grayson.” There is a link that says, “click here to allocate amounts differently.”
In an interview Tuesday afternoon, Grayson said repeatedly when he originally told FloridaPolitics last December — that because he continued to receive campaign contributions larger than $5,000 after he lost in the U.S. Senate Primary race last August to Patrick Murphy, he had to legally file to run for office in 2018.
He opted to file to run in Florida’s 11th Congressional District, centered in Lake County, a seat currently held by Republican Daniel Webster, who defeated Grayson in Florida’s 8th Congressional District in 2010.
District 11 is a deep-red, conservative seat, and includes the Villages retirement community, a GOP stronghold. The seat was previously held by Rich Nugent before he announced his retirement last year. Ginny Brown-Waite held the seat before that.
“We passed the $5,000 mark quickly, and I had to file, so we went ahead and filed,” he said. “I haven’t made any decisions about what my plans are to run in Congress, but we filed for a specific district, and what prompted that was simply the legal obligation to do so.”
As a federally registered political action committee, Act Blue serves as a conduit for online contributions to Democratic candidates and committees.
According to the website Open Secrets, a website run by the Center for Responsive Politics. Grayson had raised $437,291 at the end of March, the first quarter of 2017.
Grayson says that every time he ran in Congress, he never decided whether he would run again until the same year as the election, so his decision to hold off on any announcement until 2018 is par for the course. He says his decision to run for the U.S. Senate was a much bigger race, which is why he did announce his candidacy for that seat a year in advance.
“It’s encouraging that I have that kind of support,” he said.
Most of Florida’s members of Congress in hot seats for 2018 elections are off to hot starts in raising money for their re-election campaigns.
Democratic U.S. Reps. Charlie Crist and Stephanie Murphy and Republicans Carlos Curbelo and Brian Mast already have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars each just this year, with Crist, of St. Petersburg, leading all Florida congressional candidates with $720,000 raised, and $146,000 spent on his campaign during its opening months.
All four of them have districts that are within five percentage points of being dead-purple in Republican-Democratic voter registration split, with Curbelo actually in a Democratic-leaning district, according to the latest Palmer Report, which tracks congressional district voter mixes.
With what he had left over from his last campaign, Crist ended the first quarter sitting on $672,000.
Curbelo, of Kendall, nearly kept pace with Crist’s fundraising and tops Crist in net money this year, bringing in $613,000 in the first three months of 2017, and spending just $51,000 of that, according to the latest reports from the Federal Election Commission. He had $605,000 in the bank, including leftovers from his previous run.
Mast of Palm City raised $428,000 in the first three months, and spent $113,000. Murphy of Winter Park raised $286,000 and spent $41,000 through the end of the first quarter. Mast finished the first quarter $819,000 in cash; and Murphy, $256,000.
In other close districts, Republican U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami also is in a Democratic-leaning district, but she announced last month that she is retiring, and her district is swarming with declared and potential candidates. Still, she raised a healthy sum in the first quarter, bringing in $341,000, while spending $92,000 of that. She closed out the first quarter with $315,000 in the bank.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Darren Soto of Orlando holds just a five-point Democratic advantage in his district, but his fundraising was weak in the first quarter. He collected just $41,000 in donations and spent about half of that. Soto had only $50,000 in the bank after the first quarter of 2017.
Likewise, Democratic U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch of Boca Raton has a six-point Democratic advantage, and raised just $51,000, while spending more than twice that much. Yet Deutch had $260,000 in cash, thanks to strong reserves from his previous campaigns.
Republican U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Miami has a four-point Republican advantage, and raised $126,000 and spent $83,000. He had $534,000 in cash.
Republican U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross of Lakeland holds just a six-point Republican voter advantage. He raised $146,000 and spent $56,000. He had $115,000 in the bank.
Among potential challengers, there is Democratic former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson of Windermere. The two-time congressman filed to run in a third district in 2018, that of Republican U.S. Rep. Dan Webster. Grayson reported raising $132,000, yet he spent $152,000, much of it to repay loans he had made to his campaign. At the end of the quarter, Grayson’s campaign had no money left.
It remains unclear if and where Grayson intends to ultimately run, because when he first filed he said he was leaving all options open, including not running. He first represented Florida’s 10th Congressional District, before losing it to Webster in 2010. He re-emerged to win Florida’s 9th Congressional district in 2012, but did not seek re-election last year because of an ill-fated attempt to run for Florida’s U.S. Senate seat. CD 10 is now held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings, who may be unbeatable, and CD 9 is held by Soto. In Webster’s 11th Congressional District, Webster has a 15-point advantage in voter registration.
Webster, of Clermont, raised $105,000 and spent $56,000, and finished the quarter with $75,000 cash in hand.
Among other incumbents who have voter-mix safety or relative safety in their districts, Republican U.S. Rep. Vernon Buchanan of Longboat Key raised $395,000, Democratic U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston raised $287,000, Democratic U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach raised $206,000, Republican U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakus of Palm Harbor raised $148,000, Republican U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz of Fort Walton Beach raised $121,000, and U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn of Panama City raised $114,000.
No other incumbent topped $75,000.
Virtually none of the other challengers reported raising even $5,000 in the first quarter.
Then there is Cliff Stearns, the Republican 12-term former congressman who left after losing a primary to U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho in 2012, after redistricting. Stearns has not filed to run for anything since, but his old campaign remains in operation and reported raising $57,000 in investment earnings in the first three months of 2017. That was more income than 10 Florida incumbent members of Congress were able to raise in the quarter. On March 31, Stearns’ campaign committee had $1.5 million in the bank.
Pam Keith has formed an exploratory committee to consider facing Brian Mast in Florida’s 18th Congressional District next year.
Keith, who received over 15 percent of the vote in last summer’s Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, made the announcement at the Palm Beach County Democratic Executive Committee meeting Thursday night, just hours after Mast voted with the majority of his fellow Republicans for the American Health Care Act.
“The response has been phenomenal,” Keith said Friday to FloridaPolitics.com. “People love that I am a veteran and feel that this helps to neutralize a lot of what Brian emphasized in his campaign.”
Taking 15.4 percent of the Democratic vote for Senate last year, Keith nearly eclipsed Alan Grayson — a well-known and better-funded candidate — who received only 17.7 percent.
Mast’s predecessor, former Congressman Patrick Murphy, won the Democratic nomination in August before losing to Marco Rubio in the general election.
Keith wanted to wait longer before making the announcement, but said Mast’s vote in support of the AHCA “really pushed me to get out there and test the waters.”
A former Judge Advocate General of the U.S. Navy, Keith made her first run for public office with a 2016 Senate bid.
After Mast voted Thursday for the AHCA, the Palm City Republican immediately came under fire from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
“Make no mistake about it: Mast must face the music, look his constituents in the eye, and answer for the mess they created,” said DCCC Chairman Ben Ray Lujan, a congressman from New Mexico. “There is no question that this bill will cause incredible pain for hardworking Americans, particularly those fighting to make ends meet, and this vote will haunt Mast through Election Day.”
Speaking on the House floor, Mast said Thursday that he has a pre-existing condition — he lost his legs in a bomb attack while serving the U.S. Army in Afghanistan — adding he was the “staunchest advocate for people out there that have pre-existing conditions.”
Keith believes her politics line up “very well” in the swing district, where “people know how much I am willing to work hard on the ground for each vote.”
For those watching to see how Rep. John Rutherford will function in Congress, the Jacksonville freshman congressman may have passed his first test.
Rutherford opposed Monday’s move by House Republicans to eviscerate the independent Office of Congressional Ethics.
That move has already been reversed, vindicating Rutherford’s position.
Rutherford committed to working across the aisle during a primary campaign full of pitched partisan rhetoric, and maintained that position through the November election.
And that commitment to bipartisan solutions animated his opposition to the offensive against OCE, as Rutherford believed that any reform should be a bipartisan effort of the House Ethics Committee.
Rutherford wasn’t the only Florida Republican opposed to the move; as Mitch Perry reported, Rep. Dennis Ross likewise opposed the move … one that was questioned by President-elect Donald Trump on Twitter Tuesday morning.
Florida Democrats urged Republicans to stand and be counted regarding their position on this matter.
“Floridians deserve to know which of their Republican members of Congress voted to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics last night,” said spokesman Max Steele. “If they would like to offer any justification whatsoever for why they feel there should be no ethics oversight for members of Congress, we’re all ears. After turning a blind eye to Trump’s historic corruption and conflicts of interest, it’s no wonder Republicans want a piece of the action.”
While some Florida Republicans did vote to “gut” the office, Rutherford was not one of them.
As Matt Dixon noted on Twitter, OCE oversight factored into Florida politics very recently, with high-profile inquiries from the office into the affairs of Democrats Alan Grayson and Corrine Brown.
For now, at least, the OCE appears safe from “reform.”