Alan Grayson – Florida Politics

Court orders new hearing in Alan Grayson property dispute with ex-wife

An appeals court Friday ordered a new hearing in a property dispute between former Democratic U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson and his ex-wife.

A panel of the 5th District Court of Appeal sided with Lolita Carson-Grayson, who argued that her due-process rights had been violated. The issue stemmed from a decision by an Orange County circuit judge to grant requests by Alan Grayson to transfer Carson-Grayson’s interest in property to him, according to the appeals-court ruling.

The circuit judge’s decision came during a hearing June 22, 2017, that had been noticed as a scheduling conference, which Carson-Grayson did not attend.

“The court’s failure to provide Ms. Carson-Grayson with any notice that the merits of the motions would be determined at the June 22 hearing requires reversal and a new hearing,” said Friday’s three-page ruling, written by appeals-court Judge Richard Orfinger and joined by judges Thomas Sawaya and James Edwards.

The property issue is part of a long-running legal battle that has involved an annulment of the couple’s marriage.

Grayson recently announced that he will challenge Democratic U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, of Orlando, this year for a Central Florida congressional seat.

Grayson was first elected to Congress in 2008, but he lost his seat to former state House Speaker Daniel Webster, a Republican, in 2010. Grayson returned to Congress in 2012 and won re-election to his seat in 2014, before making an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate in 2016.

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Darren Soto picks up Emgage Muslim group endorsement in CD9 race

Orlando U.S. Rep. Darren Soto has picked up the endorsement of a national Muslim civil rights group in his quest for re-election, announcing Thursday that the Emgage PAC is backing him because of his efforts on behalf of Muslims caught up in the White House’s Muslim policies.

“On the first day of President [Donald] Trump’s hateful, useless Muslim ban, friends and family of Muslims in Central Florida called Congressman Soto because their loved ones were being held at the Orlando Airport. Soto rushed down there and was able to help them re-enter our country even as others were being turned away at airports around the country,” his campaign stated in a news release. “Since then, Soto has worked with Emgage to fight the Muslim ban and other discrimination and helped gain approval to build a Muslim American Community Center in Orlando.”

Emgage (formerly EmergeUSA) is a national organization, which Soto’s campaign says has a strong Central Florida presence, dedicated to increasing the civic engagement of Muslim Americans. The organization strives to “build the political awareness and capacity of Muslim Americans to engage on key policy issues,” according to its website.

The endorsement continues the Soto campaign’s efforts to build up backing from progressive and Civil Rights leaders, including that last week of U.S. Rep. John Lewis, as a potential political firewall against the Democratic primary challenge being brought by his predecessor, former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, who has some national backing as a progressive bulldog.

The winner of the August 28 Democratic primary will face Saint Cloud businessman Wayne Liebnitzky.

“Soto is proud to stand with Muslim Americans, and all Americans who believe that a welcoming, inclusive culture is what truly makes America great,” the Soto campaign release stated.

Alan Grayson up with TV ad featuring Martin Sheen, Michael Moore

In his two tenures as a progressive bulldog in the U.S. House of Representatives Alan Grayson made a few high-profile friends and now he’s featuring them in a new TV commercial, the first in the Democratic primary battle for Florida’s 9th Congressional District.

The new ad “Progressive Warrior,” which begins airing Wednesday in the Orlando TV market, features actor Martin Sheen, documentary movie maker Michael Moore, and political commentators Chris Hayes and Ed Schultz, among others, extolling Grayson for courage, leadership, and effectiveness in Congress.

“Alan Grayson is undoubtedly, the progressive warrior,” Schultz declares from some past broadcast of his MSNBC show, as pictures of Grayson and short clips of video roll out.

Grayson is battling with Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Darren Soto of Orlando, who took the CD 9 seat in 2016, defeating Grayson’s wife Dena Grayson in the Democratic primary as Alan Grayson was losing the Democratic primary for Florida’s U.S. Senate seat held by Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio. This year’s August 28 Democratic primary winner takes on Republican Wayne Liebnitzky of Saint Cloud in November.

CD 9 covers Osceola County, east Polk County, and south Orange County.

The Grayson campaign did not provide details for how much it is spending or how long or how often the spot will air. Early filings with the Federal Communication Commission show that the campaign has paid $1,334 to reserve 39 spots on WESH TV Channel 4 in Orlando through the end of May. Wednesday morning there were not yet any contracts posted on the FCC site involving other TV stations.

“People have told me, over and over again, that I’m saying what they’re thinking but nobody else is saying,” the Grayson says at one point in the commercial.

That’s followed by Sheen, the liberal activist actor who played the president in the “West Wing” series in the 2000s, saying, “We need that kid of courage and leadership.”

Moore, the liberal activist film producer, then offers, “Stands up for what he believes in, stands up for the rest of us, isn’t afraid to speak his mind.”

Grayson also makes, in the 30-second spot, his frequent statement that he has passed more legislation, largely through amendments, than any other member of Congress. A news release announcing the commercial states he passed 121 pieces of legislation in four years, under Republican leadership.

Alan Grayson: Things like SunRail money aren’t being brought home anymore

With SunRail holding an open house for its soon-to-open Poinciana commuter rail station, former U.S. Rep. and current congressional candidate Alan Grayson is declaring it an example of things Central Florida was able to get while he was in Congress and isn’t getting anymore.

Grayson is challenging his successor U.S. Rep. Darren Soto in the August 28 Democratic primary this year seeking to return to Congress, where he sat from 2009-’10 and again from 2013-’16. The winner will face Republican Wayne Liebnitzky in the November election.

The SunRail stations opening this summer in Meadow Woods, at Tupperware, in downtown Kissimmee and in Poinciana wouldn’t be there were it not for his efforts to get the money out of the U.S. Department of Transportation in 2013, Grayson said in an interview with FloridaPolitics.

That kind of federal money has stopped coming home to Central Florida, he added, indirectly criticizing Soto, but not naming him.

“Right now nobody is actively working to solve these problems. Most you hear is they are either ignored or they are whining without any constructive action to solve them,” Grayson charged.

Soto’s campaign spokesperson Harry Kruglik disputed Grayson’s comments, insisting that Grayson did not have the impact he claims on the original funding, that Soto was instrumental in getting state funding for that section of SunRail, and that Soto has is now working on getting funding for the next phase of SunRail.

Saturday’s SunRail open house at the Poinciana SunRail station is set for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. It is the first of four open houses the commuter rail agency has scheduled in coming weeks. The actual train is set to begin rolling down those tracks, connecting those stations to the line now running from Sand Lake Road to DeBary, in “mid-2018.”

Grayson said he, with assistance from Republican U.S. Rep. John Mica, secured the $80 million that the federal government gave SunRail for the rail leg connecting Sand Lake through to Poinciana.

Grayson said he met with Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in 2013 and explained that the first, north, leg of SunRail principally serves primarily middle-class, affluent and largely white areas of Central Florida, while the proposed south leg would begin to bring in lower-income and minority riders, principally Hispanic. Grayson said he also pointed out that the north leg essentially paralleled a major transportation artery, I-4, while the southern leg veered into areas that do not have any good north-south highways, Kissimmee and Poinciana.

Grayson said Foxx bought in on the plan based on those arguments, and the money appeared in President Barack Obama’s next budget.

“Everyone knows Former Reps John Mica and Corrine Brown as chair and ranking member on Transportation Committee did most of the work to bring back the SunRail funding,” Kruglik argued. “In contrast, Congressman Soto was recognized by the Orlando Sentinel and other news outlets for his work in the Florida House bringing Republicans and Democrats together for key policy and funding matters on the state level to make Sunrail happen.

Grayson charged that he’s not seeing that kind of activity by the congressional delegation since he and Mica (they were bipartisan rivals who worked together) left office. Grayson ran for the U.S. Senate in 2016 and lost in the primary. Mica lost his seat to Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy.

And charged that the region’s transportation network is lagging now as a result, with no major new projects emerging with funding, other than the toll roads.

“As far as I know, nobody is making the effort to bring in that kind of money,” Grayson said. “The way that you do that is engage, the way I did, sit down with the secretary face-to-face. I did that over and over again.

Darren Soto picks up endorsement from U.S. Rep. John Lewis

Orlando U.S. Rep. Darren Soto has picked up the endorsement of fellow Democratic congressman and civil rights legend John Lewis of Georgia in Soto’s re-election bid.

The endorsement gives Soto another notch in the progressive-Democrat belt he’s seeking to fashion for his August 28 primary bout with his predecessor in Florida’s 9th Congressional District, former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, a nationally-recognized leader of progressive Democratic politics.

In a statement issued by Soto’s re-election campaign, Lewis called Soto “a champion of Civil Rights and progressive values,  fighting to preserve Social Security and Medicare, standing up for affordable education, and protecting the environment.”

“Darren Soto is exactly the kind of leader we need in our country today. He brings a passion for fairness, justice, and equality for all. Against a tide of hatred, Darren knows that only love can save our country,” Lewis said in the statement.

CD 9 covers Osceola County, south Orange County and east Polk County. The winner of the Soto-Grayson primary will face Republican businessman Wayne Liebnitzky.

Lewis was one of the leaders of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, and has served in Congress since 1987. He called Soto a “rising star.”

“He’s working to build the beloved community and give truth to America’s founding credo that out of many, we are one,” Lewis added. “Soto stands with the people of every race, religion, and creed in this country who need someone to speak up for them, so I am proud to stand with Darren. He has my full support and I hope the people of Central Florida will send him back to Congress, because we need him.”

Planned Parenthood backs Darren Soto in CD 9 primary

Another major progressive politics organization, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, has given its endorsement to Democratic U.S. Rep. Darren Soto over his predecessor Democratic former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson who is trying to challenge him from the progressive wing in this year’s primary.

Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the political action arm of Planned Parenthood, noted that Soto has long held the organization’s highest rating. In a press release issued by Soto’s re-election campaign, the fund called Soto, “a strong supporter of women’s health,” adding that it is confident he “will continue to be a dedicated advocate for Planned Parenthood health centers and the people they serve.”

Soto and Grayson square off August 28 in the Democratic primary for CD 9, which covers south Orange County, Osceola County, and east Polk County. The winner gets Republican St. Cloud businessman Wayne Liebnitzky in the general election.

Soto’s campaign contends that he has fought for reproductive rights for years, noting that he supported the opening of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Kissimmee, is a member of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus, and, while in the Florida Senate, led the charge against a 24-hour waiting period law, helping get it declared unconstitutional. He also was outspoken in defending Planned Parenthood against Republican attacks.

Grayson was involved in many of those stances as well, and had received Planned Parenthood Action Fund endorsements in the past.

Darren Soto announces 20 local endorsements in CD 9 race

U.S. Rep. Darren Soto‘s re-election campaign announced 20 endorsements from local elected officials in his battle with former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson for the Democratic primary in Florida’s 9th Congressional District.

The endorsements came from state Sen. Victor Torres; state Reps. John Cortes, Amy Mercado, Carlos Guillermo Smith and Kamia Brown; Kissimmee Mayor José Alvarez; Lake Wales Mayor Eugene Fultz; Osceola Sheriff Russell Gibson; Orange County Commissioner Emily Bonilla; Osceola County Commissioners Brandon Arrington and Cheryl Grieb; Orlando City Commissioner Sam Ings; Kissimmee City Commissioner Angela Eady; Haines City Commissioners Morris West and Horace West; Winter Haven City Commissioner Nat Birdsong; Lake Wales City Commissioners Curtis Gibson and Tonya Stewart; Osceola School Board Member Kelvin Soto; and Orange Soil and Water Conservation Board Chairman Eric Rollings.

Soto’s campaign noted that they join the previous endorsements by every Democratic member of Florida’s congressional delegation, announced earlier.

CD 9 covers Osceola County, south Orange County, and East Polk County.

“I have known Congressman Darren Soto since his first run for office during a special election for a House seat. As a matter of fact, my grandchildren were volunteers in that first campaign. We’ve worked together since, for our respective communities in central Florida. I have children and grandchildren living here. It is important to me to have good, honorable role models for them, like Congressman Darren Soto,” Torres stated in a news release from Soto’s campaign.

“No one has worked harder for union members, students, seniors and now all the climate evacuees that have blessed central Florida with their arrival than Congressman Darren Soto. As a retired police officer and former marine myself, l can tell you that Darren vehemently supports veterans and first responders. Darren lives and works in central Florida, and when he is not in Washington, DC fighting for us he is in his district standing with us!

“Darren gets it!”

Alan Grayson gets backing of Blue America PAC in CD 9 Democratic race

Former Congressman Alan Grayson has garnered the backing of Blue America PAC in his challenge to U.S. Rep. Darren Soto in Florida’s 9th Congressional District Democratic primary battle.

The national progressive organization dedicated to replacing “to replace the bipartisan Conservative Consensus in Congress with a strong and activated progressive movement,” endorsed Grayson while blasting the elections of “more Blue Dogs and New Dems from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party.”

Soto, who succeeded Grayson in 2016 after beating his wife Dena Grayson in the Democratic primary while Alan Grayson ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate, is a member of the New Democrats Coalition, but is not a member of the Blue Dog Democrats Coalition. He also has been pushing his own progressive Democratic chops, and has announced several endorsements by progressives and progressive groups, including the Congressional Progressive Caucus, of which he is a member.

Grayson was a leader of that caucus and is running as he always has, as an unabashed progressive Democrat.

The winner of the primary will face Republican businessman Wayne Liebnitzky in the general election. Soto beat Liebnitzky in 2016.

“I’m running for Congress because our progressive goals — justice, equality and peace — need a champion in Congress,” Grayson stated in a Blue America PAC statement issued by his campaign. “Think about it. Who can you think of, in the U.S. House of Representatives, whom you would call a champion for progress? On a good day, one or two or three of them. On a bad day, none.

“We need someone in Congress who actually knows how to get things done. And I passed 121 pieces of legislation — more than anyone else — even when the Republicans were in charge,” he added.

Blue America PAC blasted Soto, calling him, “a bump on a log New Dem who slithered out of the state legislature.”

Grayson, the PAC stated, is “better than your garden variety bump on a log congressmember — making people’s lives better, not just a career in self-service.”

Darren Soto versus Alan Grayson showdown set

The Democratic primary showdown between U.S. Rep. Darren Soto and his predecessor Alan Grayson officially became a two-man battle Friday afternoon as ballot qualifying closed for Florida’s 7th Congressional District.

The winner will be met by Republican candidate Wayne Liebnitzky, who drew no Republican primary challengers between him and the November general election.

Soto, completing his first term representing CD 9, covering Osceola County, south Orange County, and eastern Polk County, is an Orlando lawyer and former Florida state representative and state senator.

Grayson, who served CD 9 for two terms and CD 10 for one term, is an Orlando lawyer who took the past couple years off from politics after losing the Democratic primary for Florida’s U.S. Senate race in 2016.

Their battle for the August 28 Democratic primary is expected to be a bruising, marquee contest.

Liebnitzky, a St. Cloud businessman, lost the 2016 general election to Soto.

He is the only candidate of the three who qualified for the ballot this time by petition, turning in more than 5,000 certified signatures. Soto and Grayson sent in $10,440 checks.

Another Republican had filed, but Sean Buchan stepped out of the race months ago without formally withdrawing and did not qualify for the ballot.

Darren Soto calls for election battle about ‘respect and dignity’

Digging in for a potentially bruising primary battle, Democratic U.S. Rep. Darren Soto kicked off his 2018 re-election campaign Thursday with a rally at which he called for an election about “respect and dignity… humility and service.”

The call appeared as a response to Tuesday’s news that Soto now faces his predecessor Democratic former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson in a primary battle for Florida’s 9th Congressional District. Grayson already has shown his fighting form, attacking Soto’s record and commitment to progressive causes.

“People are sick of nasty politics and I plan to rise above it once again,” Soto said, without mentioning Grayson by name. “As First Lady Michelle Obama once famously said, ‘when they go low, we go high.'”

The reference could only be to Grayson, as the only Republican in the field, Saint Cloud businessman Wayne Liebnitzky has largely refrained from attacking Soto, except on policy debates.

In a 12-minute speech in Kissimmee with a handful of supporters beside him, including state Sen. Victor Torres and state Rep. John Cortes, who both represent Kissimmee, Soto laid out some of his positions, efforts, and accomplishments on issues ranging from Puerto Rico relief and recovery to Social Security. Some of the statements sounded, in part, like rebuttals to Grayson’s opening criticisms on Tuesday.

Yet Soto’s speech also was offered as an affirmation of the freshman congressman’s first 16 months in office.

And he pledged a positive campaign and called for a united Democratic party.

“Like in 2016 we face another major Democratic primary,” said Soto, who beat Grayson’s wife Dena Grayson, among other Democrats, in the 2016 primary. “And it has already become nasty. As with back then, I will continue to run a positive and inspiring campaign. We’ll focus on the issues that matter to us as Democrats.”

Soto highlighted his efforts to help with hurricane relief in both Florida and Puerto Rico, and a whole host of progressive policies from supporting labor unions to supporting the gay community, from advocating to reinstate the assault weapons ban to sponsorship of a sexual harassment bill, and from opposing the Republican tax reform bill, to opposing President Donald Trump‘s wall.

In particular, Soto focused on his environmental record, noting he is the only Florida member of Congress with a 100 percent rating from the League of Conservation Voters, saying, “many of you know I am thrilled to lead the charge for the Florida delegation to keep oil drilling off our shores, to protect our waters and beaches, to save the Everglades, and to protect critical wildlife corridors.”

Afterwords, speaking with the press, Soto took issue with one of Grayson’s points of criticism, when the former congressman accused Soto of ignoring the call by House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi to vote against a funding bill unless the Republicans agreed to extend the DREAMers Act. Soto maintained that he always has been a strong supporter of that act, and still intends to pursue “a clean bill” providing legal status to young, undocumented immigrants. But he noted that the funding bill he voted for included money for Puerto Rico and Florida hurricane relief. The bill passed.

“Grayson attacked me for that. That’s a key difference. I’m willing to cross the aisle for the betterment of our state, along with half the Democrats, and half the Republicans,” Soto said. “And I stand in favor of Puerto Rico, and he obviously stands against the disaster relief.”

Soto also disputed Grayson’s claim that he has accomplished nothing. Soto offered he was behind numerous bills and amendments that have been approved.

“This is a diverse district. It’s Democratic leaning but not overwhelmingly so. So while I will continue to fight for progressive values, and I got the endorsement of my peers in and in the progressive caucus as a result, it also takes reaching across the aisle to work on issues that matter to the district, like disaster relief, like citrus greening, like protecting our environment,” Soto said. “We passed dozens of amendments.”

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