Alan Grayson – Page 3 – 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.

A Patrick Murphy-David Jolly gubernatorial run isn’t the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard, but …

Former U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy seems to be under the mistaken impression that because he was his party’s standard-bearer in the 2016 U.S. Senate race, that he is the party’s leader.

So when the Democrat watched last week’s televised debate among the four announced gubernatorial candidates, Murphy, according to a source very familiar with his thinking about what he may be planning, sized up the field and said, ‘Hey, I can do better than that.’

While there’s no arguing with Murphy’s concept that Andrew Gillum, Gwen Graham, Philip Levine and Chris King looked like, as the Tampa Bay Times’ Tim Nickens observed, they are not ready for prime time or with his conceit that he may be able to do better than that quartet, the possibility of a Patrick Murphy-David Jolly gubernatorial ticket isn’t the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard, but it’s not only implausible, it’s practically insulting.

After putting down Alan Grayson in the Democratic primary in 2016, Murphy ran a lackluster campaign against Marco Rubio, losing worse than he should have.

After redistricting shaded his congressional district more blue than red, Jolly lost a quixotic bid to hang on to a seat that had become decidedly Democratic.

Since those campaigns, Murphy and Jolly have fostered a friendship and have traveled across the U.S. on their tour “Why gridlock rules Washington and how we can solve the crisis.

The duo has become the toast of editorial boards everywhere.

Politicos who yearn for a “third way” in American politics would love to see a Murphy-Jolly ticket, just as they wanted to see a John Kerry-John McCain unity ticket in 2004.

You know who is not clamoring for a Murphy-Jolly ticket? Florida voters, especially Democratic ones. And Murphy will quickly find that out in the polling he has commissioned to gauge his statewide viability.

Oh sure, when asking voters generically about, say, ‘two centrist leaders with experience in government,’ the numbers will be through the roof, but when you ballot-test Murphy-Jolly vs. the field, reality will set in.

What Murphy wants Democratic primary voters to do is pick him, a two-term congressman (hey, that’s twice as long as Graham’s time in D.C.) with a bent for moderation over a field of tried-and-true progressives. Part of his plan is a commitment to name as his running mate a former Republican lawmaker and lobbyist who agrees with very little in the Democratic platform other than Donald Trump is no bueno.

If this weren’t Florida politics, I’d say you were making this all up.

Unfortunately, this is reality and here’s where my words get serious. For one, Murphy’s plan to name Jolly as his running mate should be taken as an insult by true Democrats. They’ve been in the wilderness for more than twenty years, and now, with their first genuine shot of winning back the Governor’s Mansion, Murphy (a former Republican himself) wants to enlist the help of his while male buddy to get the job done. Neither of whom has worked day one in state government.

Democrats should tell him thanks, but no thanks. They should tell Murphy he’s more than welcome to join the Democratic primary, as candidate qualifying doesn’t close for a month. But they should insist he commit to not naming any Republican — be it Jolly or someone else — to the ticket.

I may be down on a Murphy-Jolly ticket, but I do have to give Murphy credit for something. Like John Morgan, he’s helped expose the weaknesses of this Democratic field — that Gillum is too radical, that Graham is over-emotive on the stump and underwhelming on fundraising calls, that Levine is from that foreign land known as Miami-Dade, and that King begins his day reading the Sayfie Review.

All four of these candidates continue to plead to party activists and the media that they are the real deal.

One of the four may eventually become something like the real deal, but because they’re not now, the door is open for one of the most interesting political partnerships since Matt Santos named Arnold Vinik his Secretary of State.

Alan Grayson raises $192K in first quarter, says ‘I am running for Congress’ … somewhere

Democratic former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson said Monday he definitely is running for Congress but insisted he still hasn’t decided where yet, as his campaign reports raising $192,000 in the first quarter of 2018.

“I am running for the U.S. House of Representatives,” Grayson said Monday.

But the decision as to which district, “gets answered during the qualifying period,” he added.

Qualifying for the U.S. House of Representatives ballot opens on April 30 and runs through May 4.

Grayson, who served one term representing Florida’s 10th Congressional District and two representing Florida’s 9th Congressional District in Central Florida, is officially filed to run in Florida’s 11th Congressional District this time. However, he maintains he is just holding a spot for his paperwork, so that he can raise money while assessing his options.

In the latest reports, Grayson’s committee raised $192,018, including $71,358 in contributions so small that they need not be itemized, with a total of more than 5,000 individual donations. The committee also spent $53,567 and entered April with $694,967 in the bank.

The progressive Democratic hardliner pointed out that, thanks in part to redistricting, he has represented constituents now scattered about six different congressional districts, including CD 11, CD 10, and CD 9, as well as Florida’s 6th, 7th, and 8th Congressional Districts.

His last two terms were in CD 9, which now covers south Orange County, Osceola County and eastern Polk County, and now is represented by Democratic U.S. Rep. Darren Soto. Soto’s campaign has been bracing for him to put up a primary challenge.

Grayson’s first term was in CD 10, now covering western Orange County and now represented by Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings.

CD 6, now stretching from south of Jacksonville through Volusia County and into Lake County, is likely to be an open seat as Republican U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis is running for governor.

Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Posey represents CD 8, mostly in Brevard County with a sliver of eastern Orange County.

CD 7, covering Seminole and north and central Orange counties, is now represented by Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy.

CD 11, where Grayson is currently filed, covers northwestern Lake County and west-central Florida stretching to The Villages and Spring Hill and is represented by Republican U.S. Rep. Dan Webster, who beat Grayson in the 2010 election.

Grayson’s wife Dena Grayson, who ran for Congress in CD 9 in 2016, losing the Democratic primary to Soto, also is filed as a candidate in 2018, this time in CD 8. Her campaign did not raise any money in the first quarter of 2018 and finished with about $738 in the bank.

In an unrelated campaign move, Alan Grayson’s campaign appointed his daughter Star Grayson, 19, as treasurer, according to paperwork filed this past weekend.

The Graysons are Windermere-area residents, which is in CD 10. Yet residency has never been a big concern for Alan Grayson.

“The question always is, ‘What do the voters want?’ We’re determining the voters will, and we will act accordingly,” Alan Grayson said.

Darren Soto endorsed by 10 other members of Fla. congressional district

Democratic U.S. Rep. Darren Soto has received endorsements from all ten of the other Democratic members of Congress from Florida, his re-election campaign announced Friday.

The announced endorsements would come as no surprise and seemingly fill no particularly-urgent campaign purpose, since Soto’s only opponent thus far in Florida’s 9th Congressional District is a Republican, St. Cloud businessman Wayne Liebnitzky. However, the announcement may send a discouraging signal toward any potential Democratic primary challengers, notably former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, who’s been mulling a comeback run, possibly against Soto for his old CD 9 seat.

Six of those who endorsed Soto in Friday’s announcement, U.S. Reps. Kathy Castor, Alcee Hastings, Lois Frankel, Ted Deutch, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and Frederica Wilson, all served with Grayson in the 114th Congress, and before. U.S. Reps. Al Lawson, Stephanie Murphy, Val Demings, and Charlie Crist all were first elected with Soto in 2016 to the 115th Congress.

Said Frankel, from West Palm Beach, “Darren Soto is one of the finest new leaders of his generation. He is all that women hope for in a male ally. He supports equal rights for women across the board. He fights for a woman’s right to choose 100 percent of the time. He demands health care for women and families. And he practices what he preaches – he hires women equally, promotes women equally, and pays women equally. And he has the stats to prove it.”

“Darren is not afraid to stand for what’s right. Before Parkland, his community was torn apart by gun violence. And he stood up, he took on the NRA. He will not forget the victims of gun violence when the media moves on. Soto will work day and night until our children our protected from guns,” Frankel added. “Darren succeeds the old fashioned way — through hard work. Darren is a new-generation leader who isn’t afraid to roll up his sleeves and do the work you need to do to succeed. He’s pragmatic, he’s in public service to get stuff done for Florida. He served in the trenches in Tallahassee like I did. He’s seen every dirty trick the Republicans pull, and he has fought them all — without the name-calling and childishness that often consumes Washington.”

Darren Soto gets backing of Congressional Progressive Caucus PAC

Orlando Democratic U.S. Rep. Darren Soto just received the backing of the Congressional Progressive Caucus Political Action Committee, an endorsement he might need as a buffer against a possible primary challenge by a congressman who once was a big voice for that caucus.

“Darren Soto is a fighter for economic justice. He works tirelessly for working Americans, and he always has. He marches for civil rights and civil liberties — for Dreamers, for Muslims, for LGBTQ Americans,” Congressional Progressive Caucus PAC Co-Chair Mark Pocan said in a news release issued by Soto’s re-election campaign. “The struggle for women’s equality has no better friend than Darren. Soto supports healthcare for all, a strong social safety net, and robust protections for workers who want to organize and fight for better wages and working conditions.”

Right now the endorsement appears more as a possible weapon for Soto’s only opponent in Florida’s 9th Congressional District, Republican candidate Wayne Liebnitzky of St. Cloud. Liebnitzky, whom Soto beat in 2016, is campaigning on a firm conservative platform and seeking to characterize Soto as too liberal for the district.

“He has only done what party leader [Nancy] Pelosi directed him to do, instead of taking care of the area,” Liebnitzky said. He added, “I guess I won’t lose any sleep tonight awaiting their endorsement.”

Yet off in the wings is the previous incumbent in the district, former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, who had been one of the most strident progressive Democrats in Congress during his three terms. Grayson reportedly has been talking to Democratic consultants, trying to assemble a team to possibly challenge Soto in a CD 9 primary. In the 2016 primary, Soto took a more moderate overall tack to defeat two Democratic opponents with purely progressive platforms and close ties to Grayson: his wife Dena Grayson, and former aide, Susannah Randolph.

In Congress Soto has striven particularly to be a strong environmental champion. Pocan also praised him for other issues.

“Soto knows we must defend our planet today — or our children will have no tomorrow. He’s not afraid to fight the corporate interests that created the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the Wall Street financial crisis, and the opioid epidemic,” Pocan stated. “Darren knows that hard working Americans are hurt the most when greed runs wild, and he fights for those families with everything he’s got. Darren’s a rising leader with a bright future. The Progressive Caucus stands with Darren because he embodies progressive values — he stands for the people, not for the privileged.”

Darren Soto raises $116 for CD 9 re-election bid

Democratic U.S. Rep. Darren Soto raised $116,652 in the fourth quarter of 2017, helping his re-election campaign in Florida’s 9th Congressional District finish the year with $289,378 in the bank.

The relatively modest totals – compared with other Florida congressional incumbents – are nonetheless overwhelming compared with the only other candidate reporting in the race, Republican Wayne Liebnitzky, who says he is not yet focusing on fundraising, and who has raised only about $650, and finished the year with only about $500 in the bank.

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

If Soto, of Orlando, has need for significantly more money, it might be due to the often-rumored possibility of a primary challenge by the district’s previous representative, former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson of Windermere. Grayson officially filed to run in Florida’s 11th Congressional District last year, but has repeatedly said that filing is only a place-keeper, to keep his options open while he decides whether and where he might pursue another quest for Congress. His fourth-quarter and annual reports have not yet been posted by the Federal Election Commission. He finished the third quarter with about $500,000 in the bank.

Soto’s end-of-the-year statement reports show he raised a total of $400,000 in 2017, and spent $178,000 of that, including about $50,000 in the fourth quarter.

Wayne Liebnitzky qualifies by petition for CD 9 race

Republican Wayne Liebnitzky qualified by petition for this year’s ballot in Florida’s 9th Congressional District Monday.

Liebnitzky of St. Cloud is seeking a rematch with Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Darren Soto of Orlando. Soto beat him 57-43 in 2016.

On Monday the Florida Secretary of State’s Office posted that it had received 120 valid petition signatures for Liebnitzky from Orange County voters, 525 from Polk County, and 4,441 from Osceola County. That gave him 5,086, 18 more than he needed to qualify.

He said Monday he believes he is the first federal candidate to qualify by petition in Florida for this year’s election.

“I have to admit, I feel so relived,” said Liebnitzky, a small business owner who’s been manning a petition booth at events throughout the district for months.

He said he probably submitted more than 7,000 signatures to the three counties supervisors of elections, adding, “I knew I had them in, but sometimes it takes a week or two to get them counted…. I just hate to procrastinate.”

The next step, Liebnitzky said, was to turn all of the face time he had with voters while gathering the signatures into campaign donations and grassroots supporters. He said he has not begun fundraising yet. Through December his campaign reported it had just over $500 cash.

Another Republican, Sean Alan Buchan, a banker for Winter Haven, briefly entered the fray last spring, but last summer he apparently withdrew, reimbursing all his campaign donors, and Buchan has not filed any reports since June 30. He could not be reached Monday.

Soto, a former state senator serving his first term in Congress, reported fairly modest campaign contributions through October, and had about $220,000 in cash on hand. [His December reports still have not been posted by the Federal Election Commission.] No one else has entered the race, but former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson of Orlando, who had held the seat for two terms prior to Soto, has been positioning himself for a possible new run.

David Jolly, Patrick Murphy ready to take their act on the road

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

Alan Grayson taking on Donald Trump

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.

Paulson’s principles: Money, money, money!

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.

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