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Valleri Crabtree ‘shows up’

Members of the Polk County Democratic Executive Committee waited anxiously through their two-hour meeting Monday night in Bartow for Dr. Dena Minning Grayson, a candidate for Florida’s 9th Congressional District.

She never showed in what later was discovered to have been a miscommunication by the party leadership.

But Valleri Crabtree of Kissimmee, the former Osceola Democratic Party chair and candidate for the same post, was present.

“Crabtree shows up,” the 59-year old attorney and professor shouted from the back of the room.

The phrase has been her battle cry during the Democratic primary race for the congressional district that contains parts of Orange and Polk Counties and all of Osceola County.

It is also her hashtag for tweets.

The Democratic Primary field for the 9th Congressional District is a crowded one. The winner is very likely to win the general election because of the massive Democratic voting majority.

In addition to Crabtree and Grayson, who is the wife of Rep. Alan Grayson whose seat she is seeking as he runs for the U.S. Senate, two other more well-known candidates are in the race: state Sen. Darren Soto and Susannah Randolph, Alan Grayson’s former district director, both of Orlando.

Dr. Grayson, 45, is a physician and medical researcher. She had entered the race last year as Dena Minning, but she and the congressman were married Memorial Day weekend in Melbourne where she has lived and worked.

Grayson, Randolph and Soto each are either near or above $500,000 in campaign contributions with Crabtree far behind.

“I’m one of the people. We can relate. I probably won’t spend more than $60,000 in the campaign, but Crabtree shows up,” she added again noting that other candidates, who had other appointments, had sent their campaign managers to the executive committee meeting.

Her pledge to show up at every possible campaign event in the far-flung 9th Congressional District has consumed a great deal of her time and energy, she said.

“But I am an integral part of this district,” she said, in an interview following the meeting.

She favors term limits for Congress and wants live streaming of meetings between members of Congress and lobbyists, she said.

“There is also a lack of programs for substance abuse and mental health care for the general public,” she said.

Covering a gamut of issues, she said that the federal government should be responsible for all care and treatment of military veterans.

“We shouldn’t have to have Wounded Warriors and other private groups caring for our veterans; that is the obligation of the federal government,” Crabtree said.

Written By

Former Ledger of Lakeland columnist Bill Rufty is Central Florida political correspondent for SaintPetersBlog and Florida Politics. Rufty had been with the Ledger from 1985-2015, where, as political editor, he covered a wide range of beats, including local and state politics, the Lakeland City Commission, and the Florida Legislature. Ledger editor Lenore Devore said about Rufty’s 30-year career: “[He is] a man full of knowledge, a polling expert and a war history buff … who has a steel trap in his brain, remembering details most of us have long since forgotten.”

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