Alan Grayson – Florida Politics

Social Security Group endorses Darren Soto in for re-election

On Thursday, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare endorsed Democratic U.S. Rep. Darren Soto for re-election in Florida’s 9th Congressional District.

“You are a key ally in the effort to serve the needs of seniors and their families. You appreciate that Social Security benefits are modest, on average only $15,456 annually and even lower for women who most often have their working careers interrupted for family caregiving,” committee president Max Richtman said in an endorsement letter.

Richtman later wrote: “There is no membership in the nation more aware or active politically than the men and women who proudly are associated with the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare. National Committee members know they can continue to count on you in the United States House of Representatives!”

Soto is currently in his first term representing CD 9, which covers south-central Orange, Osceola and eastern Polk counties. He faces former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson in what’s shaping up to be a contentious Democratic primary.

From day one, Soto had to fend off attacks from the “congressman with guts,” who is attempting to paint him as an “entirely ineffective” lawmaker while touting himself as a “progressive warrior” and an effective legislator during his three terms in Congress.

Soto has castigated Grayson as a “bully” for his brash and often acerbic style — Grayson, after all, is the Congressman who made a name for himself by saying the Republican health care plan was “Don’t get sick,” and if you do, “die quickly.”

Many groups, including the Human Rights Campaign and Planned Parenthood, have opted to back Soto over Grayson in the primary race, though Grayson this week landed an endorsement from Our Revolution Orlando, a local chapter of Our Revolution, a national group that traces its roots to Democratic U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign operation.

Grayson and Soto have agreed to two debates, the first on Aug. 2 and the second on Aug. 8. The primary election is Aug. 28.

Darren Soto, Alan Grayson set for two CD 9 debates

Democratic U.S. Rep. Darren Soto and former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, Soto’s predecessor and challenger this year, have agreed on two debates and two joint forums in the weeks leading to the Aug. 28 Democratic primary.

Soto’s campaign announced Tuesday it was committing to a Tiger Bay Club of Central Florida Aug. 2 debate and a Spectrum News 13 Aug. 8 debate. The Tiger Bay forum, open only to members of the club, is a noon event. The Spectrum forum is set for 7 p.m. and would broadcast on that cable TV company’s 24-hour news channel.

Also, Soto’s campaign said he would be participating in the upcoming July 16 Polk County Progressive Democratic Caucus candidate forum, and a July 31 forum arranged by several organizations including the League of Women Voters of Florida.

Grayson already has committed to those. Last week he accused Soto of ducking the debates and forums, while Soto’s campaign said, essentially, hold on. The pair also previously both participated in a Polk County Democratic Executive Committee forum in June.

Grayson’s campaign noted Tuesday that Soto did not refer to another potential debate to which Grayson committed, offered by WDBO radio/Cox Media Group.

Soto and Grayson are competing to represent CD 9, which covers south Orange, all of Osceola, and eastern Polk counties. Grayson served the district from 2013-17. Soto succeeded him when Grayson chose to run for the U.S. Senate in 2016. Soto beat his wife Dena Grayson and two others in the Democratic primary before beating Republican Wayne Liebnitzky in the general election.

Liebnitzky again is the Republican candidate this year.

Alan Grayson puts up ‘Dump Trump’ billboard for CD 9 race

If there is any doubt that progressive Democrats are ready to campaign against Trump, Alan Grayson already is doing so — as a primary campaign issue.

The former Democratic congressman seeking to win his seat back in Florida’s 9th Congressional District is putting up billboard’s declaring, in huge writing, “DUMP TRUMP,” as a campaign slogan.

At least one has appeared, on U.S. Highway 27 in Polk County, featuring Grayson’s picture and the message: “VOTE FOR ALAN GRAYSON AUG. 28 PRIMARY.”

Grayson declined to provide any details on the billboard campaign.

It could attract angry Democratic voters in a primary election who might otherwise not be doing much to compare Grayson with his August 28 Democratic primary opponent, incumbent U.S. Rep. Darren Soto.

Soto has been critical of Trump. But Grayson always has been one to weaponize criticism. And he’s been firing at Trump a long time. Last year, back when he was still mulling a run this year, Grayson launched an organization and a website, Lock Him Up Now, dedicated to collecting evidence for a Trump impeachment.

The winner of the Democratic primary goes up against Republican Wayne Liebnitzky, who has been supportive of Trump.

Alan Grayson accuses Darren Soto of ducking debates; Soto says he’ll do them

Saying that several potential debates are under discussion for the two Democrats running in Florida’s 9th Congressional District, former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson is accusing incumbent U.S. Rep. Darren Soto of ducking them Tuesday.

According to the Grayson campaign, multiple media outlets — including Spectrum cable’s Channel 13 News13 and WDBO-FM News Talk Radio — have inquired, with a wide array of times and places, about getting the two Democrats face-to-face. Grayson’s campaign is dubbing Soto “No-Show Soto” for not accepting.

Soto’s campaign denies any ducking and said debates would happen.

“Congressman Soto will do debates and forums,” Harry Kruglik, Soto’s campaign spokesperson, said Tuesday in a written statement. “We’ll be finalizing and releasing the debate and forum schedule next week.”

Grayson held the CD 9 seat for two terms before running for the U.S. Senate in 2016, rather than seeking another term that year. Soto, a former state senator, won in 2016, first defeating Grayson’s wife Dena Grayson and Grayson’s former aide Susannah Randolph in a primary, before dispatching Republican Wayne Liebnitzky in the general election.

Liebnitzky is lined up this year to meet the winner of the August 28 Democratic primary between Soto and Alan Grayson.

CD 9 now covers Osceola County, much of south Orange County, and much of south Polk County.

“It comes as no surprise that ‘No-Show Soto’ is unable to defend his endorsement by the NRA, his two votes against impeachment, his vote to prosecute abortions as murder, or his ‘open-mindedness”’on eliminating Social Security,” Grayson said in a written statement issued by his campaign on Tuesday. “He’s an elephant in donkey’s clothing.”

Grayson has been attacking his Democratic successor, with such references to votes against the interests of progressive Democrats.

Soto has disputed Grayson’s spins on the bills in question, and contended that some date back a decade anyway. Soto was endorsed by the NRA in 2010 when he was in the Florida House of Representatives, and received an “A” grade from the organization, though he has since disavowed any support from the group while pushing for gun control as a congressman.

Grayson once got a “B” from the NRA, Soto’s campaign countered. Grayson also has disavowed the NRA calling it “ruthless” and noting it had run ads against him in a campaign.

Soto also is running up an impressive list of endorsements by progressive groups that had become wary of Grayson, including endorsements from the Human Rights Campaign, Planned Parenthood and Florida Young Democrats, groups that would take issue with the positions Grayson’s campaign cited for Soto.

On Tuesday Soto also rolled out another, the endorsement of the League of Conservation Voters Action Fund, which works to elect candidates who will support sound environmental policies.

Darren Soto picks up Human Rights Campaign endorsement in CD 9 race

The national Human Rights Campaign, the nations’ largest LGBTQ civil rights organization, has endorsed the re-election bid of Democratic U.S. Rep. Darren Soto in Florida’s 9th Congressional District.

The endorsement is part of Soto’s efforts to shore up the progressive wing of the Democratic Party as he prepares for the August 28 Democratic primary showdown with his predecessor in the CD 9 seat, former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson.

The winner faces Saint Cloud Republican Wayne Liebnitzky. CD 9 covers southern Orange, Osceola and eastern Polk counties.

JoDee Winterhof, senior vice president of policy and political affairs for the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement:

“HRC is proud to endorse Darren Soto for re-election to Congress. Darren has been a strong ally to the LGBTQ community throughout his career, including standing up to the Trump administration’s hateful anti-LGBTQ policies and pushing for progress to expand civil rights and protections under law.

“In Central Florida, he brought community leaders together when the Trump administration rescinded protections from transgender students. He has fought for workforce and housing protections, and he supports legislation to make sure our elders get the care and services they need.

“We need Darren Soto in Washington, and we encourage Central Floridians who support LGBTQ rights to support him.”

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.

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