Florida’s 10th Congressional District has become a generational battleground between Democrats touting the security of the present, the hope of the future, and experience of the past.
In a crowded field of 10 vying in Tuesday’s Democratic Primary Election, state Sen. Randolph Bracy, 45, progressive organizer Maxwell Alejandro Frost, 25, and former three-term U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, 64, have all but broken from the pack.
CD 10, an open district spanning much of northern Orange County, is much different from the district Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings has represented for the past six years. Thanks to redistricting, CD 10 is far more diverse.
It starts with the predominantly Black neighborhoods of Orlando’s and Orange County’s west side that had dominated Demings’ constituency. It takes in the mostly affluent, largely white and openly progressive communities around downtown Orlando and into Winter Park.
CD 10 then spans the largely Hispanic, working-class neighborhoods on the east side, before taking in another enclave of young progressives around the University of Central Florida.
There is a big Republican Primary Election field in CD 10 too, led by Thuy Lowe, Willie Montague and Cal Wimbish. But the Republican Primary Election winner will face long odds in the General Election. In redistricting, CD 10 was given all the blue neighborhoods of Orange County that had been cut from the neighboring Florida’s 7th Congressional District, so that CD 7 could be turned red. CD 10 now may be an even safer Democratic stronghold than before.
Bracy began as the Democrats’ clear front-runner, with 10 years in the Legislature including the past six in the Senate; broad name recognition; a generally positive, moderate, work-across-aisles image; and a family with a long history of revered civil rights leadership on Orlando’s west side.
Yet Bracy’s campaign has appeared, as compared to Frost’s or Grayson’s, lackadaisical and unfocused. He’s run on his legislative record, which, as a Democrat in a Republican-dominated Legislature, was less than ambitious. He’s called numerous press conferences to make proposals more suited for the state government job he’s leaving. And he’s been careful to discuss federal issues in safe, generic terms like equal rights and reproductive health care.
By contrast, Frost burst onto the scene megaphone-loud, unabashedly progressive and full of youthful energy, making himself omnipresent at Democrats’ gatherings. He has all but swept progressives’ endorsements, and attracted more than $1 million in outside groups’ spending to back him. For his own campaign, Frost fired up one of the most robust congressional fundraising operations found anywhere in Florida.
Frost has pushed all the Democratic issues with strong rhetoric, from gun control to labor unions, and from abortion access rights to the Green New Deal. His themes of bold, new and now emphasize his youthfulness to a young constituency. Schooled in the Democratic activists’ grassroots trenches, Frost declared himself to have been political leader for over 10 years, which would date to when he was 15.
Grayson was once known as one of the liberal lions of Congress, formerly a popular guest on national, liberal cable talk shows. Now, he has reinvented himself as the wise old hand, whose successful congressional record — which ended in 2017 — of passing more legislation than anyone during his tenure shows he knows how to get things done in Washington better than his rivals. And he’s turned his focus largely to kitchen table issues — easing high taxes, high tolls and high rents — plus his agenda from 10 years ago.
Various parts of the new CD 10 from downtown Orlando eastward to UCF were parts of Grayson’s old congressional districts. He knows those areas well, and he’s still well known. That’s not always positive for him. The old, blustery Grayson was never the easiest of political partners, and much of the local Democratic establishment turned on him long ago. Since his last election victory in 2014, he’s lost badly a couple of times.
In June, Grayson was one of several CD 10 late arrivals, who also included another former member of Congress, U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown. If there is evidence that this time Grayson’s new approach has shaken up the field — and the others haven’t — it’s that Frost’s campaign now is putting out attack ads against Grayson, paired with those against Bracy, as if those are the two rivals Frost needs to redefine.
If there is a viable alternative to that trio, it may be the Rev. Terence Gray, 58. He’s a longtime pastor and Orlando civic leader, campaigning as a humble public servant who listens and cares. Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Orange County Sheriff John Mina agree. They’ve both endorsed Gray over Bracy, Grayson and Frost. So have Orlando City Commissioners Bakari Burns and Regina Hill.
On the Republican side, all the candidates have been running on a pro-Donald Trump, anti-Joe Biden, anti-woke, anti-communism platform. Lowe, a businesswoman, and Montague, a nonprofit executive, have both run for CD 10 before. Wimbish is a retired Army office. Also in the field are perennial candidate Lateresa Jones, Tuan Le and Peter Weed.