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Alan Grayson launches new TV ad in CD 9 race

Former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson has launched a second television commercial in his battle for the Democratic primary nomination to return to Congress again in Florida’s 9th Congressional District.

The new 30-second spot starts with a quick visit to Grayson’s roots, as he talks about “growing up in the tenements in the Bronx, surrounded by people who are different from me, and each other.”

“I’m proud to be one of the leading champions for equality of all kinds: social, political, economic and personal. This ad explains why,” Grayson said in a statement released by his campaign.

As images flow past of Bronx tenements, multiracial children playing, and then Grayson as an adult, he says that upbringing helped establish his appreciation of diversity and his beliefs in equality, respect and justice.

Grayson is trying to win back his old seat representing CD 9 and faces his successor, U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, in the August 28 Democratic primary. The winner would face Republican businessman Wayne Liebnitzky in November.

“People of different races, different languages, different religions, and I learned from that, that our differences are not something to overcome, but something to cherish,” Grayson says in the commercial. “And with so much in common as human beings, we all deserve equality, dignity and respect.” He concludes the commercial by declaring it to be a message of “justice, equality and peace.”

The ad is Grayson’s second TV commercial, following Progressive Warrior,” which kicked off his campaign last month, showing national progressive leaders extolling his first three terms in Congress, from 2009-’10 representing Florida’s 8th Congressional District, and from 2013-’16 representing CD 9.

Soto’s campaign has not yet launched any television advertising.

Darren Soto picks up nods from fire fighters, police unions

Democratic U.S. Rep. Darren Soto has received the endorsements of two first-responders unions, for firefighters and law-enforcement officers, his campaign announced Tuesday.

The Orlando Professional Fire Fighters International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1365 and the Central Florida Police Benevolent Association have each endorsed Congressman Darren Soto for re-election in Florida’s 9th Congressional District.

Soto faces a tough primary battle against his predecessor, former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, who’s seeking to take back the seat he held from 2013-’16. They face off in the August 28 Democratic primary, with the winner going on to face Saint Cloud businessman Wayne Liebnitzky in the November election.

The district covers south Orange County, Osceola County, and east  Polk County.

“Law enforcement officers in Central Florida have no better friend than Darren,” Central Florida PBA Political Director Ron Beardslee stated in a news release issued by Soto’s re-election campaign. “He understands what it takes to protect and serve the people, and he fights to get us what we need. Whether it’s getting us funding for our officers and staff, equipment to do the job, or keeping guns away from dangerous people, Soto has our back. And we’ll have his. The Central Florida PBA is proud to endorse Congressman Darren Soto for re-election.”

In the same release, Fire Fighters Local 1365 President Ronald Glass called Soto, “an experienced public servant with a clear vision for the needs of Firefighters and the citizens of Orlando alike.” In Tallahassee, Soto advocated for the families of fallen firefighters, passing legislation to provide a death benefit and health insurance to those families when their loved one died in a training exercise.

Darren Soto gets Joe Biden’s backing in CD 9 race

Former Vice President Joe Biden has endorsed Democratic U.S. Rep. Darren Soto in his re-election campaign, giving the freshman congressman another big backer from the Democratic establishment for his primary fight with his predecessor, former U.S. Alan Grayson.

In a statement released by Soto’s re-election campaign Tuesday, Biden, the presumed front-runner among Democrats considering running for president in 2020, praised Soto’s legislative efforts but also compared him with himself, reflecting on his image as a former working-class guy who never forgot his roots.

“Darren grew up in a neighborhood like I did, where a job was about a lot more than a paycheck,” Biden stated in the news release. “He knows that to have a strong economy we must strengthen and grow the middle class and that is why I am a proud to support Darren Soto, a proven progressive, for re-election.”

Soto grew in a small town in New Jersey as his father worked and went to night school. Grayson also emerged from a working class background.

Soto faces Grayson, who held the seat from 2013-’16, in the August 28 Democratic primary. The winner takes on Saint Cloud businessman Wayne Liebnitzky in November. They’re all running in Florida’s 9th Congressional District, covering southern Orange County, Osceola County, and eastern Polk County.

“Darren Soto is a highly effective legislator who keeps his head down, works hard, and delivers for his constituents. Central Floridians couldn’t have a better person representing them in Congress,” Biden stated. “Darren helped President [Barack] Obama and I get elected twice and now he is working to protect the progress we made and help build upon it. We need Darren in Congress to keep our kids safe from guns; defend Social Security, Medicare, and Obamacare; protect our environment; and fight for our values.

“Darren grew up in a neighborhood like I did, where a job was about a lot more than a paycheck. He knows that to have a strong economy we must strengthen and grow the middle class and that is why I am a proud to support Darren Soto, a proven progressive, for re-election,” Biden added.

Three Central Florida congressional candidates top $1 million in net worths

The latest personal finance reports for candidates running for Congress in Central Florida find the Florida’s 7th Congressional District race includes two candidates with net worths of more than $1 million, incumbent Democrat U.S Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park and Republican challenger Scott Sturgill of Sanford.

They and Democratic former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, who this year is seeking to win back his seat in Florida’s 9th Congressional District, are the only clear millionaires among the dozen candidates running in Orlando’s four congressional races, according to personal financial disclosures on file at the U.S. House of Representatives Clerk’s office.

Incumbent U.S. Reps. Val Demings and Darren Soto, both Orlando Democrats, have filed for deadline extensions and have not yet filed their financial disclosures. U.S. Rep. Bill Posey, a Rockledge Republican, has filed but his report has not yet been posted. Likewise, Republican CD 7 candidate Vennia Francois sought an extension, while Republican CD 9 candidate Wayne Liebnitzky filed a waiver, indicating he has not yet crossed the campaign finance threshold that would require a personal financial disclosure report. None of them had reported topping $1 million in minimum net worth in previous years.

Murphy, including assets and income from her husband, Winter Park businessman Sean Murphy, reported the net worth for the couple at between $2.2 million and $6.6 million.

Sturgill reported assets of between $1.6 million and $6.4 million and did not report any liabilities.

State Rep. Mike Miller, battling Sturgill and Francois for the August 28 Republican primary nomination in CD 7, covering Seminole County and north and central Orange County, reported a net worth that could be as high as $1 million, but that would assume almost all of his assets at maximum levels and liabilities at minimum levels.

Congressional financial disclosure reports require candidates and members to provide only ballpark ranges on the values of their assets and liabilities, and of earned income. The official forms offer check boxes for such ranges as $50,001-through-$100,000, $100,001-through-$250,000, etc. While sometimes the candidates volunteer more specific figures, usually their net worths can only be estimated as somewhere within broad ranges, based on those reports.

U.S. Rep. Murphy’s and husband Sean Murphy’s income last year was anywhere from $644,000 to $4.3 million, based on the ranges in the boxes she checked, and including her $174,000 salary as a member of Congress.

Much of the Murphys’ income derives from real estate development investments that appear, based on the projects’ names, to be located in the rapidly-growing northeast corridor of the San Antonio, Texas, metropolitan area. She reported at least $300,000 in income, and as much as $3 million, from those investments last year, all in her husband’s name. She also reported additional real estate development investments that appear to be in other parts of Texas and in the Waterford area of Orlando, though they’re generating far less income.

She also reported his receipt of at least $100,000 from a holding company associated with his family’s investments in the Full Sail University family of companies in Orlando.

Sturgill’s primary assets and sources of income are in his companies, the Barfield-Sturgill Ventures Inc., a holding company for his first-responders’ equipment company Durable Safety Products; and the DSP Partners LLC holding company. His assets in the former are worth between $1 million and $5 million; in the latter, $500,001 to $1 million.

Those two companies and his wife’s salary combined to provide the Sturgills with about $300,000 in income last year.

Miller’s reported assets, ranging between $318,000 and $1.3 million total, were all in various investment funds. He also reported a mortgage, a car loan, and a student loan as liabilities.

CD 7 Democratic challenger Chardo Richardson listed less than $18,000 in assets, student loans as his only liabilities, and an income of $33,750.

Grayson, who is running against Soto in the Democratic primary for CD 9, covering south Orange County, Osceola County, and east Polk County, reported a net worth that appears far lower than what had been reported in previous financial disclosures. His 2018 report shows his net worth ranging from $3.8 million to $13.9 million. Previous campaign finance reports had shown his net worth with a minimum of $13.9 million as recently as 2014.

Most of Grayson’s money was reported invested in various investment funds, including as much as $1.1 million combined in three of the Sibylline Funds that he had founded. He originally had named those funds after himself, a matter which had led to controversy during his 2016 failed run for the U.S. Senate, and which forced him to rename them after the mythological Greek profit Sibyl.

Grayson reported an income last year of between $1 million and $2 million from wife Dena Grayson’s pharmaceutical research firm MedExpert Consulting, and Velocity Daily Inv ETF.

Wade Darius, a Democrat challenging Demings in the Democratic primary in Florida’s 10th Congressional District, covering west Orange County, reported only a small balance in a 401K program as an asset, and student loans as his only liabilities.

He listed a combined income of about $190,000 from his salary with SunTrust Mortgage, earned income from his Team Darius Homes, and business income from E-Source Tax Express.

Democrat Sanjay Patel, who is running against Posey in Florida’s 8th Congressional District, covering the Space Coast and east Orange County, reported assets between $348,000 and $896,000, including investments in NetFlix and Starbucks, and money held by various investment funds. The only liability he reported was a student loan, of as much as $50,000. He reported income, derived from early distributions from his investments, of about $55,000 last year.

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.

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