Alan Grayson – Page 7 – Florida Politics

Tom Jackson: Maybe if we thought of primaries as playoffs …

The impression I get is people have the wrong idea about primary elections. To apply a sports analogy, people — I’d call them voters, except they’re plainly not — think of primaries as the exhibition season.

This is not without solid foundation. I mean, they do sort of look like the preseason. Starry-eyed unknowns hoping to take down the veteran; once-storied hotshots looking for one last hurrah. (I’m looking at you, Jim Norman.)

And the way we treat it, it’s like the Grapefruit League and NFL preseason rolled into one: fun to talk about, but if we miss it, meh, there’s always the Big One in November.

Even the name we give it sounds lightweight: the primaries, suggesting nothing more than a scrimmage among unknowns. It’s the I’ll-get-around-to-it-unless-something-else-comes-up election, and, given the usual turnouts, something usually does.

Hillsborough County’s elections Supervisor Craig Latimer is pretty fired up that about 104,000 ballots have been cast by mail (76,687) and at early voting precincts (27,667). But even if that number doubles come Tuesday’s Election Day — a stretch, with storms anticipated — it’ll mean only slightly more than a quarter of the county’s eligible voters will have bothered.

In the greater Tampa Bay area, early and mail turnout has been slightly better in Pinellas (19.5 percent) and Manatee (16.6 percent), but it’s worse in Pasco (11 percent) and Polk (9.9 percent).

At least those elections supervisors are reporting numbers. With a website that gives every sign of not having been updated in a month and is otherwise practically indecipherable, how Sarasota County is doing is anybody’s guess.

Moreover, given the number of studies that suggest early and mail balloting do not expand voter participation, but merely front-load it with those who’d otherwise show up on Election Day, it’s fair to predict — for all the hype about how this year is changing the very nature of elections — that nothing, really, is different.

Maybe we’re distracted by the approach of Labor Day. Or settling back into the school routine.

Maybe it’s the candidates, although the race for U.S. Senate scarcely lacks for intrigue, Republicans presenting “Liddle” Marco Rubio versus Carlos “Mini-Donald” Beruff and Democrats countering with Patrick “Never Mind My Resume” Murphy and Alan “I’ll Say Anything” Grayson.

Who wouldn’t want to help decide those? Answer: Close to 75 percent of us. Did I mention Labor Day?

Or maybe it’s a marketing problem.

Maybe if we called this first round something packing a little more brinksmanship, it would better stir the public’s passions. Like, say, “the semifinals.” Or, borrowing from professional sports, which have their conference or league championships, suppose we called them the “Party Championships,” and capitalized them.

Gives you a tingle, right? Makes you feel something important is at stake? Sort of makes you want to throw down? Heck, yeah.

In fact, in most cases, the party championship — excuse me, the Party Championship — is precisely what we’re deciding. What self-respecting major-party member couldn’t get charged up about that?

Add contests for circuit and county judges and the interesting, to say the least, primary election placement of a state constitutional amendment regarding the tax treatment of solar arrays on homesteaded property, and, folks, we don’t just have a major-party playoff happening Tuesday.

We have a playoff with the equivalent of a pregame tailgate party.

And if all that is insufficient motivation, remember this: If you skip out, you’re ceding influence to people who will vote.

Like me.

Mitch Perry Report for 8.30.16 — Election Day questions

Primary Election Day is here, finally, for those of us who care. Because that isn’t close to the majority of registered voters in Florida.

Going into today, the turnout by percentage via early and absentee voting here in Hillsborough County where I’m located was lower than it turned out to be in 2012, which Congresswoman Kathy Castor says is disappointing.

We’re talking below 20 percent, folks. Whether that percentage might increase if the election weren’t held in the last week of August is something really not worth contemplating, since tradition has kept it at this time for, well, ever since I came to this state back in 2000. Then again, we still had runoff primary elections in the state at that time.

So, what will I be looking at tonight? In my neighborhood of V.M. Ybor in Tampa, there are open seats for the House (between Sean Shaw, Dianne Hart, and Walter Smith) and Senate (Ed Narain, Augie Ribeiro, Darryl Rouson, and Betty Reed). Both are too close to call in my opinion at this time.

The House District 68 seat is up for grabs as well between Ben Diamond and Eric Lynn.

I suppose the most competitive congressional race in the Tampa Bay area is probably in CD 11, where first-time Republican candidate Justin Grabelle will try to defeat Daniel Webster, a well-known name in Florida Republican politics who has never run in the district, which encompasses Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Marion, and Sumter counties.

But there isn’t any drama in our U.S. Senate races. The Alan GraysonPatrick Murphy matchup had the potential to be one of the greats, but it’s devolved. Will underdog Pam Keith get into the high single digits after her endorsement from the Miami Herald?

At least Murphy is talking substance as he likely moves on the general. Yesterday, in Tampa, he told me he’ll push for a public option to be added to the Affordable Care Act if elected in November. He has to win tonight first, though.

And tonight we have the Pat FrankKevin Beckner campaign mercifully comes to an end. Despite criticism for running what has been dubbed by some as a negative campaign, Beckner says he has no regrets.

Victory seems assured for Debbie Wasserman Schultz in her bid for re-election against Tim Canova in Florida’s 23rd Congressional District, but by what margin? Does she win by double digits, and if so, how much?

Stay tuned to this site later tonight, where we’ll have complete coverage throughout the state of the primary results.

Alan Grayson looms large in race to succeed him in U.S. House

Even though he’s not running for re-election, U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson has very personal connections to the campaign in his Florida district.

His new wife is facing off against his former district director for the Democratic nomination in the 9th Congressional District at the end of the month, and they also face a state senator and a party activist.

Whoever wins the Democratic primary faces the winner of the Republican contest between the vice mayor of the city of Kissimmee and a businessman-engineer in the Democratic-leaning district. Incumbents seeking higher office and recent redistricting have prompted Florida’s most active congressional campaign in several seasons.

The district covers the southern half of the Orlando metro area and farming areas to the south and west. More than two-fifths of registered voters are Democrats, less than a third are Republicans and more than a quarter have no party affiliation.

Grayson isn’t running for re-election, instead seeking the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate. Grayson remains popular in the district with his shoot-from-the-hip brand of liberalism, though he has been mired in a messy separation from the mother of his children and was the subject of a House Ethics Committee probe.

For the most part, the Democratic candidates have very little ideological differences, though state Sen. Darren Soto is considered slightly more conservative.

Susannah Randolph had worked as Grayson’s district director in Orlando before deciding to run for the seat. She is half of a local political power couple – her husband, Scott, is a tax collector and former state lawmaker. Randolph has worked for progressive advocacy groups ACORN and Florida Watch Action, and is backed by several unions. She says raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour is a priority.

“I’ve worked in a congressional office and know how government can work for people,” Randolph said at a recent candidates’ forum.

Grayson’s wife since May, Dr. Dena Minning Grayson, a biomedical researcher, has been using her husband’s surname and his image, including in a TV commercial in which he stands next to her at the end.

The redistricting increased the proportion of registered voters in the district who are Hispanic from about a quarter to almost a third, but Soto is the only Hispanic Democratic candidate. He says he’s hoping to be the first Puerto Rican candidate from Florida, which has become the top destination for Puerto Ricans leaving the island amid an economic crisis.

Since the Pulse nightclub shooting, Soto has championed state legislation to prohibit the sale of weapons, without a background check, to people who have been put on no-fly or watch lists. Soto and other lawmakers have unsuccessfully tried to get the Florida Legislature to convene a special session on the matter.

The fourth Democratic candidate, lawyer and college instructor Valleri Crabtree, has been active in Democratic politics in Osceola County for the past decade, serving as chairwoman of the local Democratic Party executive committee.

On the Republican side, Wanda Rentas, who works for the South Florida Water Management District, is the first Latina commissioner for Kissimmee. She was raised in Puerto Rico and has sold herself as an everywoman who understands problems facing working families.

St. Cloud businessman Wayne Liebnitsky also is running for the GOP nomination.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Marco Rubio, Patrick Murphy look confident before Florida’s Senate primary

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio and Democratic Congressman Patrick Murphy are campaigning as if Tuesday’s primary was already over and they won their parties’ nominations for U.S. Senate.

And it may be for good reason. Rubio’s main challenger, Carlos Beruff, appeared to throw in the towel, essentially shutting down the campaign he’d sunk $8 million of his own money into. And Murphy’s main challenger, U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, has been damaged by ethics and domestic abuse allegations, leaving Murphy to focus on Rubio.

That leaves congressional races as some of the more exciting to watch during Tuesday’s primary, the first since court-mandated redistricting undid advantages for some incumbents and prompting one of the liveliest campaigns in many seasons. Congresswoman and former Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is receiving an unexpectedly strong challenge from a Bernie Sanders-backed political novice.

Voters will also decide whether to amend the state constitution to allow a property tax break to promote solar power. And many of the state’s congressional primaries almost certainly assure the victor will be elected in November because of the political makeup of the district.

Republican primaries to replace retiring GOP Congressmen Jeff Miller, Ander Crenshaw, Curt Clawson and Richard Nugent will likely decide who is sent to Washington in November. The same goes for the Republican primary to replace Democratic U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, who is exploring a run for governor after her district was redrawn in a way that favors the GOP. Democratic primaries to replace Grayson and Murphy will also likely choose the next members of Congress in those districts.

Still, the Senate race is the main event, and one that took several twists along the way. Rubio wasn’t even supposed to be on the ballot, declaring he’d run for president instead of seeking a second term. Rubio dropped out of the presidential race when Donald Trump trounced him in Florida, but he still said he was done with the Senate. Then, two days before the deadline to get on the ballot, he changed his mind, chasing all Republicans but Beruff out of the race.

The Democratic primary pits former Republican and party establishment favorite Murphy against Grayson, a fiery liberal whose outspoken candor makes him unelectable in the minds of party leaders. Despite voting with Republicans far more often than Grayson, Murphy is backed by President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid. Grayson has run a maverick campaign, condemning his party’s leaders and saying Murphy will be a puppet for leadership and special interests.

With comfortable leads in the polls, Rubio and Murphy took a similar strategy: Ignore the primary opposition. Both declined to debate their opponents, choosing instead to attack each other.

Rubio said he didn’t debate Beruff because there wasn’t enough time.

“He didn’t really seem that interested in debates not that long ago,” Rubio said in the days leading up to the primary. And when asked about the primary, Rubio turned the subject to Murphy, saying, “I take every race seriously. I’ll have more events today than Patrick Murphy will have all week.”

Rubio’s campaign has been issuing near-daily attacks on Murphy while virtually ignoring Grayson.

It was clear, though, that Beruff wanted a debate, particularly investing so much money trying to build his name recognition. He repeatedly criticized Rubio for not agree to an exchange, saying he should “man up” and calling him a coward.

Murphy called off the only debate schedule with Grayson after the mother of Grayson’s children said he abused her over the two decades they lived together, an accusation he has denied. Instead, Murphy focused nearly all is attention on Rubio. Murphy’s second ad of the campaign, released four weeks before the primary, attacks Rubio for missing votes while running for president.

During a phone interview, Murphy said Rubio is more concerned about his political ambition.

“He constantly says ‘I’m in this for Florida,’ but he’s clearly not running for Senate for Florida. He’s never been there for Florida; he’s never been there for a local issue; he’s never shown up for work. He’s in this for himself,” Murphy said.

It’s a similar message Grayson has made about Murphy, that there is no substance behind the candidate. Grayson repeatedly points out that Murphy was a Republican until he decided to run for Congress. He has voted with Republicans on bills that would have weakened Obama’s health care overhaul and he supported a committee to investigate Hillary Clinton’s handling of the attacks that killed four Americans at a compound in Benghazi, Libya.

“They’re desperately trying to take this empty suit and make him into a plausible candidate for U.S. Senator and they’re failing,” Grayson said.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Marco Rubio makes final swing through Florida ahead of primary

Marco Rubio looked to define his opponent Monday, telling Southwest Florida voters there will be a clear contrast come Election Day.

“The Democrats will have a primary tomorrow, and we’ll see who their choice is,” said Rubio during a stop at the Cape Coral Military Museum. “I can tell you who the Democratic choice is … it’s a congressman from Palm Beach named Patrick Murphy. If he is their nominee, I look forward to the choice voters have.”

Rubio made no mention of his own primary challenge during his remarks Monday morning. Instead he used the speech as a chance to highlight the differences between himself and Murphy, and encourage voters to get to the polls come November.

Rubio faces Carlos Beruff, a Manatee County homebuilder, in Tuesday’s Republican primary. He is largely expected to win the primary, and recent polls show Rubio leads Beruff by double digits.

“We’re very confident. Obviously we worked very hard and we feel good about tomorrow, and we’ll see what voters decide,” he told reporters. “But no matter what, we got to win in November — and that’s true across the ballot, so I thought today was a good day to kind of focus on November and what’s at stake.”

And what’s at stake, Rubio told the crowd, is the future of the country. The Miami Republican said Murphy has a “sense of entitlement.”

“The U.S. Senate seat doesn’t belong to the people who want to buy it, it belongs to the people of the state,” said Rubio. “I’m running for re-election, and I have to earn the right to continue to represent you. And that’s what I intend to do.”

The stop in Southwest Florida was the first of four campaign stops Monday. He was also scheduled to attend events in Bay County and Pensacola, before ending his day in Miami. He was joined by Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, who ended his own U.S. Senate bid when Rubio jumped into the race.

Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, a Fort Myers Republican and a member of Rubio’s Southwest Florida grassroots leadership team, introduced Rubio, saying she was supporting him because “of who he is and where he came from.”

“He’ll tell you the story … about his father who is the bartender and his mother who was a maid. It really is that simple — when you come from nothing you know what it is to push, to work, to ask people to believe in you to achieve your own maximum potential,” she said. “He thinks of the least among us, to make sure … those that want to realize the American dream can do it here in an environment that wants them to be successful.”

Patrick Murphy says he’ll push for public option to be added to ACA if elected to the Senate

Patrick Murphy says if he is elected to the U.S. Senate in November, he’ll push to provide a public option to the Affordable Care Act.

“At least in rural areas, where you don’t have much competition,” the Jupiter representative and Senate Democratic hopeful said on while making a campaign stop on Monday morning in West Tampa. He said that would be an added option for people on the ACA, “and beyond that, to make sure that there is competition ultimately.”

Passed six years ago, the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) still divides the country and the Congress. Most Republicans continue to call for repealing the entire measure, though they rarely have provided a viable alternative. Democrats have stood by it for the most part, but even some of the law’s biggest supporters say it needs an overhaul.

Earlier this month, health care giant Aetna announced it had lost more than $400 million on Obamacare policies since the insurance exchanges were set up in 2014, and was going to pull out of most of them, including in Florida. That followed similar announcements made by United Healthcare and Humana.

Which means fewer choices for those on the ACA. Lack of competition means higher premiums and/or lower benefits. A public option would be a federal option open to anyone on the individual market, and Murphy said he’d push for it if elected in November. Hillary Clinton has made similar comments on the campaign trail.

“The key is like any issue — it’s acknowledging that there are some things that are working, and that some things that need to be fixed,” Murphy said. “No legislation that is passed — or rarely I should say — is perfect, and you have to evolve with the times to see what’s actually working. Unfortunately, in Washington you have a group of people that basically want to shut down the government … they say throw the whole thing and start over, without offering solutions to it.”

Murphy was in the Tampa Bay area for the third straight Monday leading into Tuesday’s primary election, where he’s facing Congressman Alan Grayson and retired Navy JAG officer Pam Keith for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate. However, Murphy never talks about his fellow Democrats on the campaign trail, instead looking ahead to a November matchup against incumbent GOP Sen. Marco Rubio.

Murphy appeared shortly before 9 a.m. at the West Tampa Sandwich Shop, a traditional stop for Democrats running for office to make an appearance at (Barack Obama was there in September of 2012). He was joined by state Rep. Janet Cruz, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Tampa City Councilman Guido Maniscalco, and Hillsborough County Commission hopeful Pat Kemp, among others. Murphy spent time speaking to other “regular voters” who had assembled at the table, which gave him the opportunity to discuss his plans for immigration, health care and the economy. And diss Rubio.

“Climate change — I believe it’s happening, I believe it’s real, I believe we have to get off this addiction to fossil fuels; Sen. Marco Rubio denies it’s happening,” he said while speaking to reporters after spending more than half an hour sitting at a table and talking about some of the issues he’s running on.

“It’s like infrastructure. I believe we need to make the investments. He doesn’t believe in that. I want to pass comprehensive immigration reform. He does not want to do that. He wants to support Donald Trump, who wants to build a wall, and deport 11 million people the first day. Sen. Rubio has completely lost sight of his values and his morals, because he’s so worried about running for president again.”

“Patrick Murphy promised voters that Obamacare’s state exchanges would bring down costs and create more competition, but Floridians are finding that the exact opposite has happened,” said Rubio spokesman Michael Ahrens. “Obamacare has left them with fewer health care options and skyrocketing premiums they can’t afford, yet Patrick Murphy’s answer is to expand the program and make things worse for Florida’s families. Marco will keep fighting for a patient-centered alternative that improves choices for consumers, costs Floridians less, and helps everyone get the coverage they need.”

Following his West Tampa appearance, Murphy was scheduled to make campaign stops in Orlando and Miami. His campaign announced he will be spending election night in Palm Beach Gardens.

 

Mitch Perry Report for 8.29.16 — Colin Kaepernick says he can take the heat for speaking out

The National Football League concluded its third and most interesting weekend of pre-season games last night, and while there are stories galore about what’s happening on the gridiron (Denver sacking Mark SanchezTony Romo out for a few months with another injury, Jameis Winston looking quite impressive with the Tampa Bay Bucs against the lowly Cleveland Browns), the big story was out of Santa Clara, where 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the national anthem before their game against Green Bay on Friday night, the third time he’s done so this exhibition season, but the first time anybody noticed.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick said. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

He spoke with the media yesterday about why he did what he did, and he’s absolutely NOT backing down (you can read that entire transcript here).

Kaepernick is the first high-profile professional athlete in America who has refused to stand for the anthem since Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf did so in 1996 — an action which got him suspended by the NBA. The NFL has said they won’t do that.

Naturally, this has created a firestorm, with a lot of folks bashing the 28-year-old athlete, who surely knew that would be the case. One of the more interesting comments about this came from Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, 28, who, it’s been reported, has often spoken about race relations during his eight-year career. He said the national conversation would devolve around Kaepernick, and not the issues he wants to bring to the fore.

“It’s not going to be about the lives that have been lost across the country, the injustices that are being done to minorities all across this country; that’s what’s not going to be in the headlines. It’s going to be about him,” Jenkins said. “It’s a tough situation, but at the same time, if you’ve got something that you’re passionate about and that’s your way of expressing it, you’ve got all the right to do it. I’m a guy of conviction, I speak out on things I see. So I can’t really look at what he’s doing and tell him he’s wrong.”

It is going to be about him, and since he makes millions of dollars playing in the NFL, plenty of it that commentary will be along the lines that he should shut up and be grateful for getting the opportunity to play in the pros.

“I think there’s a lot of consequences that come along with this,” Kaepernick admitted yesterday. “There’s a lot of people that don’t want to have this conversation, they’re scared they might lose their job or they might not get the endorsements, they might not be treated the same way … At this point, I’ve been blessed to be able to get this far and have the privilege of being in the NFL and making the kind of money I make and enjoy luxuries like that … But I can’t look in the mirror and see other people dying in the street that should have the same opportunities that I’ve had and say, ‘You know what; I can live with myself.’ Because I can’t if I just watch.”

This takes guts, whether you’re with him or against him. Not being said at all was that he looked extremely rusty against the Packers, though it was his first game in nearly 300 days after battling injuries a year ago. People praised Muhammed Ali when he passed away for being an athlete who used his powerful platform to talk about social change — forgotten was how scorned he was by large segments of (white) America when he did so.

And note this — Kap has issues with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

“I mean, we have a presidential candidate who’s deleted emails and done things illegally and is a presidential candidate,” he said of the former first lady and secretary of state. “That doesn’t make sense to me, because if that was any other person, you’d be in prison.”

In other news, a day before the primary election in Florida….

Win or lose, Augie Ribeiro has helped make a few political consultants wealthier in the last month, as the SD 19 candidate has now spent more than $672,000 in his quest to go the Florida state Senate.

Darryl Rouson and Alan Grayson made beautiful music together late last week in Tampa.

Clearwater state senator and incoming appropriations chairman Jack Latvala called out local Republicans for having “their head in the sand” when it came to stepping up on supporting mass transit in the Tampa Bay area.

The cantankerous Republican also said come hell or high water, he’ll be voting for Donald Trump in November, in part because of his feelings about Hillary Clinton following his viewing of the film, “13 Hours.”

Polling recap: U.S. Senate primaries are anything but close races

The primary is Tuesday, but if the polls are any indication, the U.S. Senate primaries may already be over.

Polls released this week showed Democrat Patrick Murphy and Republican Marco Rubio were blowing their opponents out of the water. Both are leading their opponents by double-digits, and both men appear to be focused primarily on their likely November showdown.

“This election is incredibly important. I’ll do my part. I’ll work harder than anyone in this race, and harder than I ever have before,” said Rubio during a swing through Southwest Florida earlier this week. “But if people don’t turn out and vote … it won’t count in November.”

Rubio has led in the polls since jumping into the race in June. He faces Carlos Beruff, a Manatee County homebuilder, in Tuesday’s Republican primary.

Associated Industries of Florida conducted one of the first polls after Rubio jumped into the race in June. The poll of 750 likely voters showed Rubio was leading the pack with 71 percent of the vote. That poll found Beruff was polling at 7 percent.

Beruff gained ground in the months that followed, but not much.

A Mason-Dixon Polling & Research poll released this week showed Rubio held a 39-point lead over Beruff. The poll of 400 likely Republican voters showed Rubio led Beruff, 61 percent to 22 percent.

Those numbers were similar to ones released Tuesday by the Saint Leo University Polling Institute. The online poll, conducted from Aug. 14-18, found 68 percent of Republicans backed Rubio. The survey found 14 percent of Republicans polled picked Beruff.

“It doesn’t seem like Carlos Beruff will be able to surprise Marco Rubio the way Rubio overtook former Governor Charlie Crist in 2010,” said Frank Orlando, the director of Saint Leo University Polling Institute, in a statement. “Rubio is winning handily across all demographics.”

And a Florida Chamber Polling Institute survey found Rubio would beat Rubio 68 percent to 19 percent. Ten percent of Republican voters polled said they were undecided.

The race between Murphy and Alan Grayson doesn’t appear to be much closer.

The Mason-Dixon poll found Murphy led Grayson by 33 points. According to the poll, 55 percent of Democrats backed Murphy, while 22 percent said they were supporting Grayson.

Saint Leo University also looked at the Democratic race, and found Murphy had a 30-point lead over Grayson. Nearly 48 percent of respondents said they were backing Murphy, while 17 percent picked Grayson.

It’s a similar margin as what the Florida Chamber found in its survey. In that poll, Murphy was beating Grayson 40 to 11 percent. Thirty-eight percent of respondents said they were still undecided.

The primary may be a breeze, but current polling shows the general election will be anything but. The polls show the general election will be a close race, with the Saint Leo University poll showing Rubio leads Murphy 46 percent to 38 percent. Nearly 16 percent of respondents said they were unsure.

In the Mason-Dixon poll, Rubio led Murphy by 3 points — 46 to 43 percent.

Darryl Rouson and Alan Grayson team up in Tampa to say they both speak ‘truth to power’

Alan Grayson and Darryl Rouson teamed up Thursday night to try to win support in their respective campaigns while speaking in northwest Hillsborough County.

“I am honored to be here today to introduce a man who from Day 1 in Washington D.C. has taken the tea party agenda to the stage, and has whooped them every time he got a chance to do so,” Rouson said in introducing Grayson to a crowd of 20 people who gathered at the Upper Tampa Bay Regional Public Library in Westchase Thursday night. “He’s been the most vociferous and committed opponent of the conservative Republican agenda that has hurt working-class families.”

Rouson said that, like himself, Grayson had become a “top target of the right-wing and big money interests that are scared to death of what he represents: And what he represents is speaking truth to power.”

Rouson, who has served for the past eight years as a state representative, is attempting to win the state Senate District 19 seat based in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties. He’s running in the Democratic primary against Ed Narain, Betty Reed, and Augie Ribeiro.

Grayson returned the compliment, saying, “What we desperately need now is people in public office who are unbought and unbiased. Who don’t owe anything to anybody but the people. And Darryl reflects that.”

The Orlando Congressman — trying desperately to pull out what at this stage would be considered an upset victory over Patrick Murphy in Tuesday’s Democratic U.S. Senate primary, went on to say “you won’t find a better champion for the environment anywhere in Tallahassee. You won’t find a better champion for women’s rights. You won’t find a better champion for what the middle class in America actually needs today. And you won’t find a better champion who is willing to speak truth to power. There’s an old saying that it’s necessary to speak truth to power even if it makes you quake inside. Well, it’s actually Republicans who quake inside when it’s Darryl saying those words.”

Grayson went on to boast about how he’s raised most of his campaign contributions from small donors, and that distinguishes him from the other members of Congress who beg for campaign contributions for hours every day.

“What we represent — Darryl and I — is an alternative paradigm to that; the idea is very simple. If you do good things for people, then they will show you their support.”

The two spent about an hour at the event before traveling to Pinellas County to attend the Pinellas County Democratic Executive Committee meeting.

 

Holly Fussell’s accusations affected Alan Grayson’s campaign

Political operative Holly Fussell‘s internet accusations — that Democratic congressional candidate Susannah Randolph had once ignored complaints of staff sexual harassment — has echoed into the campaign of Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alan Grayson.

Brook Hines said Thursday she resigned last week as U.S. Rep. Grayson’s U.S. Senate campaign deputy communications director because she was ethically too uncomfortable with the appearance raised when a former Grayson staffer and trusted associate, Fussell, published her assertions, which could harm Randolph’s campaign and help her opponent, Grayson’s wife Dena Grayson.

Both Randolph and Dena Grayson are among four Democrats battling in next Tuesday’s Democratic primary, vying to replace Rep. Grayson. A recent St. Pete Polls survey showed Dena Grayson with a slim lead on Randolph heading into Tuesday’s Democratic primary.

Earlier this month Fussell, a former staffer to Grayson, published a Facebook post and then a blog item slamming Randolph, claiming she looked the other way for months in 2014 as Fussell complained to her about sexual harassment. In a follow-up post last week, Fussell alleged the man eventually raped her. The exchange was reported earlier Thursday on FloridaPolitics.com, based on comments Fussell sent detailing her assertions.

Through her staff, Randolph denied Fussell’s assertions, and Thursday issued a statement saying she was saddened by Fussell’s story of sexual assault and harassment, saying she first heard about it last week.

It also appeared, based on Randolph’s and Fussell’s employment histories, that Randolph was never a supervisor of Fussell or the man during the period Fussell alleged sexual harassment.

Hines said Thursday she was troubled the attacks on Randolph were coming from a woman who had, until late July, been Alan Grayson’s U.S. Senate campaign digital director.

“I resigned my position as deputy communications director of the Alan Grayson for Senate Campaign after the second posting by Ms. Fussell,” Hines wrote in a statement to FlordiaPolitics.com.

“I believe the campaign of allegations actions by Alan’s long-time digital director against Susannah Randolph, a candidate competing against his new wife in the District 9 Congressional race, carry an implicit taint of political motivation,” she continued. “And while I am not aware of the congressman explicitly encouraging Ms. Fussell in her accusations, I think it’s problematic for a candidate whose own campaign has been marred by accusations regarding his treatment of women to countenance these attacks from someone associated with his campaign against another woman who is also a political opponent of his wife.”

[Alan Grayson’s campaign was hurt in late July by reports that his ex-wife had accused him of domestic violence, reports he strongly denied. Similar, but differently dated reports had appeared two years ago during their divorce proceedings. He also strongly denied those at the time.]

Hines also told FloridaPolitics.com that she believes the man Fussell has accused of raping her — Fussell has not publicly identified the man — worked with Fussell for at least a couple of months this spring on Alan Grayson’s campaign. Yet Fussell targeted her public attacks only on Randolph for employing the man, but never wrote a critical word about Alan Grayson for also employing him.

Other sources also told FloridaPolitics.com the man who is the target of Fussell’s rape allegations worked for the Alan Grayson campaign this spring.

Hines said she is confident Alan Grayson had been aware of Fussell’s allegations for months before Fussell published her Facebook and blog posts this month.

Fussell, who communicated with FloridaPolitics.com Wednesday and earlier Thursday, did not respond to inquiries about Hines’ statements. In her earlier statements she insisted she sought the advice of no one other than her therapist before publishing her posts. She said she published when she was finally emotionally ready to talk about it, and that happened to be this month.

She also wrote, in answering questions, that she decided to come out with criticisms of what she saw as Randolph’s tolerance of the man, “when I saw that my rapist’s name was on Susannah’s campaign finance report.”

The man’s name apparently should also appear on Alan Grayson’s campaign finance reports. That is if, as Hines and other source said, he was fully employed in a high-level staff position on the campaign at least through much of the spring. Fussell would have already known that, because she, too, had a high-level staff position on the campaign throughout that period.

But Fussell, who works out of Washington, D.C., did not mention that in her posts criticizing Randolph.

[There appeared to be an oddity with Alan Grayson’s finance reports covering the spring, filed July 15. They do not list any expenditures — no pay to any staff members or payments to any contractors, not even payments for utility bills.]

The campaign of Dena Grayson said she never discussed Fussell’s allegations with her.

Alan Grayson’s campaign manager, Michael Ceraso, said the campaign and Grayson also did not consult with Fussell in advance of her posts.

“Never once did we try to coerce or do any sort of thing to encourage Holly to publish this on social media,” he said. “She did it all on her own.”

He also released a statement to FloridaPolitics.com calling for sensitivity to be paid to the victim of alleged rape and sexual harassment.

“The political feud between the Grayson and Randolph campaigns has reinforced the harsh reality that women are too often marginalized or even worse, victim-blamed for stepping forward after surviving sexual assault,” he stated. “Regardless of the facts or the timing, victims should be believed and protected when they share their experiences, without fear of reprisal. The Grayson campaign stands by this and all survivors of sexual assault who are brave enough to come forward.”

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