Alan Grayson Archives - Florida Politics

Outside groups spent $1.2 million to help Darren Soto defeat Alan Grayson

Eight outside political committees and groups provided almost $1.2 million support to U.S. Rep. Darren Soto‘s defeat of his predecessor former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson in the Aug. 28 Democratic primary for Florida’s 9th Congressional District.

Apparently highlighting the outside help for Soto was the George Sorosbacked Latino Victory Fund, which claimed on primary day that it had pumped more than $500,000 into media buys to support Soto on Spanish-language media.

FEC records of independent expenditures through Election Day do not show that much spending by Latino Victory Fund, but almost, and there may be spending yet to report.

The FEC records also show Latino Victory Fund also was not alone in spending to either support Soto or oppose Grayson, and perhaps not even the most generous toward Soto’s candidacy. FEC records show Latino Victory Fund spending $415,000 through the primary, while Progress Tomorrow Inc. spent $544,000.

There are no FEC records reporting any outside groups making any independent expenditures that supported Grayson or opposed Soto.

Grayson had set up what was to be his big political comeback this year after he unsuccessfully sought the Democratic primary nomination to run for the U.S. Senate in 2016, and lost his congressional seat to Soto by default. But that comeback required him to take out Soto, and Grayson crashed badly, in an election landslide.

The total for outside spending to support Soto or oppose Grayson was $1.18 million, potentially more than Soto might have spent through his own primary campaign fund, though the final numbers are not yet in for his official campaign’s account. Through August 8 his campaign had spent about $886,000. In that Aug. 8 report, the most recent available, Soto had just $251,000 left in the bank.

Grayson had spent $540,000 through Aug. 8.

Soto now faces Republican Wayne Liebnitzky, who has far less money available, only about $29,000 on Aug. 8, heading toward the Nov. 6 election.

For the Aug. 28 Democratic congressional primary outside spending, the FEC reports show:

Latino Victory Fund, described by the Center for Responsive Politics’ website as a hybrid of a political action committee and a super political action committee, largely but not entirely funded by Soros, spent $415,184 on various kinds of advertising, from pushed text messaging to television.

Progress Tomorrow spent $272,000 on digital and mail advertising supporting Soto and another $272,000 on digital and mail advertising attacking Grayson.

The super PAC has a curious combination of resources, according to records made available through All of Progress Tomorrow’s money has been donated by two other PACs. The first is Forward Not Back, whose principal benefactors are New York businessmen Peter May and Nelson Peltz, who each have been big supporters of Democratic candidates, and New York businessman Louis Bacon, who has supported both Democrats and Republicans, including Rudy Giuliani. The other PAC is United Together, principally funded by News Corp. Chairman and Republican rainmaker Rupert Murdoch, and by Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, a big backer of Democrats.

United for Progress, a super PAC entirely funded by Soros, spent $123,000 on radio advertising to support Soto.

Alianza for Progress, a dark-money 501(c) committee that does not have to disclose its donors, reported $41,555 worth of door-to-door canvassing to support Soto.

Organize Now, the progressive 501(c) grassroots group put together by former organizers for Barack Obama, reported $35,062 worth of printing and canvassing efforts to support Soto.

Boricua Vota Inc., an Orlando-based group, reported spending $22,590 on billboards, radio advertising, and event expenses to support Soto.

The Humane Society Legislative Fund provided $1,386 worth of support through a list rental and a text message platform for Soto,

The Center for Popular Democracy Action, a dark-money 501(c), offered $1,411 worth of canvassing labor and transportation to support Soto.

Donna Shalala, Darren Soto, Al Lawson among congressional winners

Donna Shalala, a former secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, will take on Cuban-American broadcast journalist Maria Elvira Salazar in the November general election after both survived crowded primary races Tuesday in a major congressional battleground.

Democrats are expected to bank heavily on Shalala picking up the Miami-Dade County seat of retiring Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, as the Democratic Party seeks to retake control of the U.S. House.

Shalala, also a former University of Miami president, got 32 percent of the vote in a five-way field in Congressional District 27. In the Republican primary, Salazar picked up 41 percent of the vote in a field of nine.

Meanwhile, Democratic incumbents were successful Tuesday, with U.S. Rep. Darren Soto crushing the hopes of former Congressman Alan Grayson, who was trying to recapture the District 9 seat in Central Florida. Also, U.S. Rep. Al Lawson fended off a challenge from former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown in the Democratic primary in Congressional District 5 in North Florida.

The party also again secured three of the state’s 27 seats, with U.S. Rep. Val Demings and U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson both winning primaries and facing no general-election opposition. Congressman Alcee Hastings defeated a primary opponent and now goes up against a write-in candidate in November.

Democrats Lois Frankel and Kathy Castor were the state’s only congressional incumbents who had no opposition this year.

On the Republican side Tuesday, retirements and political aspirations created crowded fields for open seats.

In the District 6 GOP primary to replace Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis in Northeast Florida, Michael Waltz, a businessman and former Army Green Beret from St. Augustine, received 42 percent of the vote to hold off former state Rep. Fred Costello and Palm Coast businessman John Ward.

Waltz now will face former U.S. Ambassador Nancy Soderberg, who handily defeated two opponents in the Democratic primary.

In Congressional District 15, state Rep. Ross Spano defeated four other Republicans seeking to replace retiring Congressman Dennis Ross. Spano received 44 percent of the field to top a field that included former state Rep. Neil Combee of Auburndale.

Spano will face Kristen Carlson, who defeated two Democratic primary opponents in the Republican-leaning district.

Also, state Sen. Greg Steube easily won the Congressional District 17 primary over state Rep. Julio Gonzalez and Bill Akins of Port Charlotte. Steube will now face April Freeman, who received 77 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary in a district that leans heavily Republican.

Two other races that are expected to draw national attention in November were set up as expected Tuesday.

On the Treasure Coast, freshman Congressman Brian Mast had little problem dispatching two Republican primary challengers in District 18. Meanwhile, Lauren Baer, a foreign policy official in the Obama administration whose family owns Baer’s Furniture, won by 20 percentage points over Pam Keith, an attorney who ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 2016.

In Central Florida, freshman Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy got 86 percent of the vote to defeat a Democratic primary challenger and will face state Rep. Mike Miller in November. Miller, R-Winter Park, defeated two primary opponents, scoring 54 percent of the vote.

George Soros-backed Latino PAC: We spent $500K to help Darren Soto

The George Soros-backed Latino Victory Fund declared Tuesday evening that its independent campaign spending to support U.S. Rep. Darren Soto reached $500,000 entering today’s Democratic primary against his challenger former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson in Florida’s 9th Congressional District.

That amount, which Latino Victory Fund described as “an investment,” bought more than 500 television spots that have aired in recent weeks on Spanish-language television stations and networks in Central Florida; commercials on Spanish radio stations; Spanish-language social media; several mailers targeting Hispanic audiences in CD 9; and other campaign advertising and grassroots organizing efforts on Soto’s behalf, the group spelled out in a news release issued Tuesday evening.

The Latino Victory Fund efforts might wind up being an unexpected weapon pushing Soto over the top if he defeats Grayson in Tuesday’s primary, which has been bruising, contentious, and by most accounts, close. The fund’s late-Tuesday announcement spelling out details of efforts on Soto’s behalf certainly suggests that.

Earlier Tuesday, Soto’s staff expressed fresh confidence in his chances to defeat Grayson, the district’s congressman for two terms before Soto, specifically because Soto’s campaign was seeing high turnouts of Hispanic voters, a constituency he identifies with and probably needs to win, but which has been notoriously unreliable in past elections.

When he first was elected to Congress in 2016, Soto became the first member of Congress from Florida who was of Puerto Rican heritage.

CD 9 has Central Florida’s greatest concentration of Hispanic residents, and Puerto Ricans are by far the biggest ethnic group, and growing fast in the past five years. Today the Puerto Rican communities centered in CD 9 are among the largest in the continental United States. Soto has made Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rican communities in Central Florida major focuses.

Latino Victory Fund pointed that out as important for its support for him.

“Darren Soto has fought for Florida families as an effective advocate in Congress. Now it’s our turn to fight for him,” Cristóbal J. Alex, Latino Victory Fund president, stated in the news release. “We were pleased to have managed one of the most sophisticated, multifaceted political programs to defend Darren Soto, the only Puerto Rican member of Congress from Florida, and to have built Latino political power along the way that will have a positive impact beyond today’s election.”

Soto is one of more than 30 Democrats whom Latino Victory Fund is backing in federal and state elections around the nation, including Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who’s running for Congress in Florida’s 26th Congressional District; state Sen. Annette Taddeo, who’s seeking re-election in Senate District 40; state Rep. Janet Cruz, who’s running for the Florida Senate in Senate District 18; and Brendan Ramirez, who’s running in the Democratic primary Tuesday for House District 30.

The political action committee counts Soros, the New  York billionaire who finances Democrats, liberal causes, and political candidates of color across the country, as its biggest single benefactor for the current election cycle, thanks to the $500,000 he has donated to the group in the past year. But he’s not single-handedly carrying the committee, as he has done with other political committees he funded. Latino Victory Fund also lists numerous other five- and six-figure donations from other political committees, labor unions, law firms and individuals, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Beyond the direct political expenditures, Latino Victory Fund is reporting that it invested $50,000 in research into the rapidly changing demographics in Florida, and to engage newly arrived Puerto Ricans, including through polling and focus groups. The organization also hosted a high-profile fundraiser for Soto, offering him a national audience, and played a significant role in obtaining the endorsement, for Soto, from San Juan, Puerto Rico, Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, according to the release.

In Central Florida’s last minute campaigning, Jerry Demings predicting victory

Candidates up at dawn, waving signs on street corners, still planting campaign signs, trying to get through the day to their cheers-or-tears parties tonight.

Primary Election Day.

Orange County could elect a new mayor — and Jerry Demings is predicting a win — and a new chair of the Orange County School Board along with at least four new School Board members, as well as three or four new Orange County commissioners.

Demings’ optimism is matched by confidence from his opponents that Demings won’t get the outright majority of votes he will need to be elected Tuesday. In that scenario, and in similar scenarios for the other multicandidate, nonpartisan races determining Orange County’s leadership, there would be runoff elections on Nov. 6.

This could be the day that U.S. Rep. Darren Soto‘s congressional career ends, or it could be when his Democratic primary rival former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson finds out the times have moved past when his bombastic personality was embraced by Florida’s 9th Congressional District voters.

It will certainly be the day in which Republicans decide who they want, most likley state Rep. Mike Miller or Scott Sturgill, to send to take on incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy in Florida’s 7th Congerssional Distirct; who Florida House District 44 Democratic voters in west Orange County want, former state Sen. Geraldine Thompson or activist Melanie Gold, to send against Republican state Rep. Bobby Olszewski; and who Republican voters want, Mikaela Nix or Stockton Reeves VI, to go up against Democrat Anna Eskamani for the open seat for Florida House District 47.

Also on the line: Republican state Rep. Rene Plasencia‘s re-election bid in the east-Orange and north-Brevard counties’ House District 50 against primary challenger George Collins; northeast Brevard County voters’ choice, Henry Parrish or Tyler Sirois, for a Republican to run for state Rep. Tom Goodson‘s old seat in the Republican-rich House District 51.

That’s why candidates such as Orange County School Board chair candidate Nancy Robbinson, who has been on the board since 2008, was making last-minute runs early Tuesday to pick up and distribute more yards signs as last-minute opportunities arose, in her battle with Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, and educators Robert Prater and Matthew Fitzpatrick.

That’s why Soto is planning an ambitious last-day of campaigning that has 17 stops on his schedule for Tuesday, visiting voting locations in CD 9’s areas in Polk and Osceola counties in a whirlwind of 20-minute visits wih voters, before the day ends with his watch party in Kissimmee.

That’s why he and most other candidates such as Orange County mayoral frontrunner Orange County Sheriff Demings and his opponents Orange County Commissioner Pete Clarke and businessman Rob Panepinto were out waving signs and meeting with voters as the sun rose Tuesday.

Demings tipped his cap to voters but also predicted victory.

“We’ve done what we could do to ensure victory today but the people will decide on who will be the next Orange County Mayor,” Demings said. “Based on immediate feedback we’re receiving from the various polling sites, victory is well at hand.”

But Clarke and Panepinto have their own optimism, not necessarily for a win Tuesday, but for at least not losing on Tuesday.

“We’re sure we’re going to still be standing tonight,” Clarke said. “We’re confident we’ll be there for a run-off. We have a lot of good feeling out there. But we shall see.”

Panepinto said the voters he and his campaign are hearing from are filling him with confidence that the large undecided pool showing up in polls until recently is finally engaging and breaking his way, especially after the debates and the controversy this month about school safety resource officers.

“We’ve seen some momentum our way,” Panepinto said. “The nice thing about a democracy is, everybody gets to vote and the scorecard will come out tonight.”

They shall see tonight, as Clarke and his campaign hold their watch party at the Gallery At Mills Park in Orlando’s Mills 50 District, Demings holds his at the Florida Hotel and Conference Center’s Heroes Ballroom, and Panepinto holds his at The Brewstillery in Winter Park.

Among others, Soto’s party is planned for the Ramada Gateway Hotel in Kissimmee. Miller’s is set for Miller’s Ale House on Lee Road in Winter Park. Robbinson’s will be at the LOCAL Bar & Grill in College Park.

Markets predict Gwen Graham, Ron DeSantis wins on Tuesday

The worlds of gambling addicts and political junkies converge with futures markets like PredictIt or Iowa Electronic Markets, where the game of election prognostication gets serious.

Pollsters put plenty of effort into gauging whom voters will elect, but you have to check these markets for folks with real skin in the game.

Would Gwen Graham be a smarter bet to win the Democratic nomination than Philip Levine?

How wild a bet would it be for Republicans to hold the U.S. House next year?

And where do gambling politicos place their bets when it comes to Florida politics?


A project of the Victoria University of Wellington, PredictIt allows investors to buy shares in political outcomes and converts the results into U.S. cents. Basically, you can invest in an election result where the market sets the odds, and you get $1 once the outcome becomes clear if your bet was right.

Right now, you can still jump into the market for outcomes on the Tuesday primary elections, including major Florida races.

As of Sunday night, the market for the Florida Democratic primary was selling Gwen Graham at 79 cents and Philip Levine at 20, despite many polls showing the two frontrunners neck and neck; Andrew Gillum goes for just a nickel.

On the Republican side, the market gives greater odds for Ron DeSantis at 87 cents, while Adam Putnam sits at 16 cents.

Source: PredictIt

The market for the Democratic primary of Florida’s 5th Congressional District offers good news for incumbent Al Lawson, whose victory is selling at 95 cents.

In the 9th District Democratic fight, incumbent Darren Soto is selling at 92 cents while challenger Alan Grayson trades at 14 cents.

That means Soto is going for almost as much as incumbent Stephanie Murphy, selling for 94 cents in the 7th, where Chardo Richardson has been marked down to 5 cents.

In the 6th District Republican primary, Republican Michael Waltz goes for 85 cents while John Ward goes for 18.

In the 27th District Democratic primary, a Donna Shalala victory goes for 92 cents. On the Republican side, the market sells Maria Salazar at 98 cents and Bruno Barreiro at just 7.


The nonprofit Iowa Electronic Markets, operated by the University of Iowa’s Henry B. Tippie College of Business, remains the only political futures market legally operating in the United States. It creates a futures market on real-world events that operates like a stock market.

This market looks at who will control Congress once the 2018 elections run their course. You can bet, for example, on whether Republicans will hold the majority in the House with 217 seats or more, or bet against that outcome. And you can place a bet on whether the GOP gains seats at all.

A look at the House markets as of Sunday night shows most betting against the Republican House. The last price on the bet of the GOP having a minority sat at 0.73, compared to a 0.131 price on Republicans keeping the chamber and a 0.141 bet on Republicans gaining seats.

But the Senate remains a different story. The last price as of Sunday on Democrats taking the chamber rang in at 0.251, while the price of Republicans barely keeping a majority came in at 0.384 and the possibility of the GOP gaining seats landed at 0.349.

Like stocks, you can also see how the markets change over time. For example, you can see that over the last month, the market on Republicans holding the House plummeted. In the same time, the market on Republicans holding the Senate slightly increased.

Source: Iowa Electronic Markets

Alan Grayson, Darren Soto, Wayne Liebnitzky spread on ICE in ‘Political Salsa’ CD 9 debate

When asked Thursday night about what they want to do with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, the three candidates for Florida’s 9th Congressional District had a wide range of opinions.

Either keep it as is, reform it, or throw it out.

Speaking at one of four debates at the packed Political Salsa hobnob in Orlando, Republican Wayne Liebnitzky defended the embattled federal immigration enforcement agency, its work and officers as necessary and law enforcement doing the best they could with what they have.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Darren Soto talked about law changes necessary to rein in excesses while protecting important work ICE does. And Democratic former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson blasted ICE as a federal agency that “has lost its way.”

“ICE deserves to abolished,” Grayson said. “ICE has become what amounts to an agency of viciousness. I never expected any time in my life to see a federal agency caging children, anywhere in the world. And therefore, ICE has lost its way. We should not have federal agents on the federal payroll, paid by the taxpayers, abusing and brutalizing people because they don’t happen to be Americans. That has to change.”

“I believe the solution is to reform ICE,” said Soto. “The reason that ICE is the way it is is that there aren’t laws that are preventing them from doing the things that they do. That’s why we need a Democratic majority in back in Congress, to make family separation illegal, to make zero-tolerance illegal.

“Keep in mind, they also regulate and protect people who are involved in human sex trafficking and other aspects that are important, that we do support. We do need a culture change there, from the top down,” Soto said. “We also need to make sure they are not going into churches, and they are not going after people who are low priorities.”

“No, I will not vote to abolish ICE,” Liebnitzky said. Later he defended ICE agents as law enforcement officers just following the laws, and getting a bad rap, saying, “They’re doing what they’re told to do, by Congress,” adding that President Donald Trump has asked Congress “over and over to do something, and yet they do nothing.”

Their sparring over ICE was one of the few moments of genuine disagreement in debates between Orange County congressional, mayoral, and sheriff’s candidates. The discussions took place during an event where scores of candidates — including Republican U.S. Senate candidate Gov. Rick Scott and Democratic gubernatorial candidates Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine — worked the floors at Acacia, a gathering point for the area’s Puerto Rican community.

The debates did not bring any of the go-for-the-throat moments seen at earlier debates, particularly between Soto and Grayson, and between Orange County mayoral candidates Sheriff Jerry Demings, Commissioner Pete Clarke, and businessman Rob Panepinto.

Nor were there many moments of new revelation, 11 days before the Aug. 28 elections.

Panepinto had one of the few notable moments to shine when the mayoral candidates answered questions on specifics about what they would do to address Orange County’s affordable housing crisis.

Panepinto declared the county no longer can wait for (or count on) state help, then laid out details of his $20 million-a-year, seven-point plan for the county to promote affordable housing. Demings and Clarke mostly called on the state to do its job, giving generalized answers about looking for possible zoning and permit-processing reforms.

“We’ve been looking to Tallahassee for a long time to solve this problem,” Panepinto said. “Yes, they should fund the Sadowski [Affordable Housing Trust] Fund. Maybe they will. Maybe they won’t. I’ll continue to go up there and fight for it. But I think we owe it to our people to solve the problem here locally.”

Orlando Police Chief John Mina and retired Florida Highway Patrol Chief Joe Lopez, both running for Orange County Sheriff, mostly agreed on many items ranging from their opposition to the sheriff’s office ever actively enforcing federal immigration law, to their commitments to reduce violence against and by law enforcement officers. But they split squarely on their views of red-light cameras.

“I would be in favor of it, as long as the system is run properly and there are many, many checks and balances, and the person has the opportunity to go before a hearing officer and in front of traffic court to fight a red light traffic ticket, which we do in the city of Orlando,” Mina said.

“Very simple: no! I do not support them,” Lopez offered. “I don’t think it works. I think it creates problems,” he said citing studies indicating they increase rear-end traffic accidents.

“It’s a cash cow, that’s all it is,” he added.

Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Miller shared the debate dais with progressive Democratic challenger Chardo Richardson, as incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy and Republican candidates Scott Sturgill and Vennia Francois skipped the event, even though it was held in their district.

Miller and Richardson stood on far opposite sides of the political spectrum. Miller argued for capitalism, low taxes, and freeing up businesses; Richardson, mounting a left-wing (albeit long-shot) Aug. 28 Democratic primary challenge to Murphy, pressed his Democratic socialist platform, including universal Medicare and raising the minimum wage “to a living wage.”

The pair were far enough apart that they offered grace and respect to one another, Richardson expressing appreciation for Miller’s service in Tallahassee, and Miller for Richardson’s service in the U.S. Marines, a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Scott made a late, brief appearance, mostly meeting with a few people in crowded hallways.

The Governor left shortly after being confronted in a corridor by Central Florida progressive political activist and former congressional candidate Susannah Randolph. He was ushered toward the stairwell while she tried to demand an answer on one of her questions.

On the other hand, Scott’s opponent, Democratic U.S. Sen. (and Orlando resident) Bill Nelson, was a no-show.

Levine and Gillum worked the floor of the main room, filled with hundreds of people and scores of candidates for county, state, and federal races packed the auditorium.

Political Salsa was sponsored primarily by the Suarez Group of Cos. and the Puerto Rico Bar Association of Florida, drawing a sizable Hispanic attendance.

The Soto-Grayson-Liebnitzky debate stayed civil, a dramatic departure from previous CD 9 debates where Soto and Grayson trashed each other’s records and called each other names, all but drawing actual blood. The closest to personal attacks came when Liebnitzky chided the two Democrats for talking so much about their records.

They were coming off sounding like their only concerns were themselves, not the district and its residents, he said.

Neither Soto nor Grayson took his bait.

Nurses’ union backs Darren Soto in CD 9 race

Democratic U.S. Rep. Darren Soto has picked up another endorsement from a reliable Democratic ally in his battle with his predecessor former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson for the party primary in Florida’s 9th Congressional District.

National Nurses United, the largest organization of registered nurses in the country, has endorsed Soto, his campaign announced Monday.

In its endorsement letter, the union said Soto “embodies nurses’ values of caring, compassion and community.”

The winner of the Soto-Grayson primary faces Republican Wayne Liebnitzky in the Nov. 6 election. The district covers south Orange County, Osceola County and east Polk County.

“I’m honored to have the support of nurses in our community and nationwide. We must care for the caregivers,” Soto stated in a news release from his campaign. “Nurses, like all workers, deserve wages that can support a family, safe working conditions, and the right to unionize and bargain collectively. Throughout my career, I’ve fought for the working people of Central Florida, and I’m proud to be supported by many unions including the Florida AFL-CIO.”

Alan Grayson’s new ad: ‘Impeach Trump … Grayson will; Soto won’t’

Is this video Alan Grayson‘s latest television commercial … or a trailer for the next Hollywood blockbuster?

Grayson, the Democratic former congressman trying to win his seat back in Florida’s 9th Congressional District, is launching a new television commercial Tuesday that focuses on his commitment to seek President Donald Trump‘s impeachment.

The spot has just the most fleeting of references, a negative one, to Grayson’s Democratic primary rival, U.S. Rep. Darren Soto.

The 30-second video, “When They Break the Law,” plays out like an action movie trailer, with two video sequences of dozens of rapid-fire images, backed by dramatic crescendos of music, seeking the implications that Trump and his team have broken the law, and that Grayson will go after them.

The video opens with the first sequence, quick flashes of stark images of Trump, members of his family, and inner circle blasting onto the screen as the music crescendo climbs toward a bang.

That bang leads to a calmer, bridge moment in the video, starting with text screens that read “When They Break The Law,” “Stand With Grayson,” and “Impeach!!” That’s followed by some old TV footage of Grayson being interviewed by, or talked about by, progressive TV commentators admiring him. Some of that footage is recycled from his previous TV commercials. It includes Grayson declaring, “If we do nothing you can kiss this country goodbye!”

The second crescendo sequence then starts, featuring a mixture of images of all kinds of Democrats’ bugaboos, from Vladimir Putin to ICE agents, and from global warming problems to lines of police in riot gear. Sprinkled in are a few pictures of Democratic protesters and others resisting, and of Grayson looking brave and patriotic. That sequence also includes — so quickly that the messages might be best seen as subliminal — text screens that read, “Impeach Trump,” “Grayson Will,” and “Soto Won’t.”

That sequence draws from one of the points of hot contention in a CD 9 Democratic debate last week at the Tiger Bay Club of Central Florida, in which Grayson said he is ready to pursue impeachment articles against Trump — right now — that Soto twice voted against bills to impeach.

Soto responded that he wants to wait until after Special Council Robert Mueller finishes his investigation, but would be among the first to vote for impeachment if that investigation warrants it.

There were no details provided late Monday by Grayson’s campaign team about what sort of media buy is backing the commercial.


After a heartbreaking Polk County deportation, introspective Darren Soto lays it out at Tiger Bay

Friday should have been a victory lap of sorts for Democratic Congressman Darren Soto — he was still receiving rave reviews from many in the party for his debate with primary challenger former Congressman Alan Grayson, and he had many local accomplishments to tout in his first term in Congress.

But he arrived at the Thursday luncheon of the Polk County Tiger Bay Club tired and introspective. The deportation to Mexico of 20-year Polk County resident Alejandra Juarez earlier in the day and his long fight to prevent it had taken a toll.

After a campaign to get support in Congress and with federal agencies, Soto accompanied the family to the airport in Orlando to say goodbye to the wife of a Marine veteran.

Temo Juarez is a naturalized citizen and Marine veteran who served two deployments to Iraq and Africa. Her two daughters were born in the United States; both are citizens.

“It was highly emotional and (the deportation order) just puzzled minds,” Soto said. “It was a sad morning.”

Alejandra Juarez says goodbye to daughters Pamela, 16, and Estella, 8, as U.S. Rep. Darren Soto looks on.

There are two options, Soto said.

“We are seeking an appeal for reconsideration by the Department of Homeland Security. The second option is if there is a change in Congress,” referring to a possible Democratic majority after the midterm elections in November.

Many Democrats at the luncheon were boisterous that Soto would be the one returned to the seat from Florida’s 9th Congressional District. They viewed the primary debate Wednesday with Grayson as a victory and cited all of his endorsements. The Republican candidate would face an overwhelming “blue wave” regardless of who wins the primary, they said, because of the heavily Democratic registration in the district.

Soto began with a litany of grants and bills he had brought to Polk County in his first term. Part of that legislative recounting to the group may have been to combat Grayson’s campaign ads claiming he brought back more benefits to the district when he was in Congress.

Thirteen of the 17 cities in Polk County is within CD 9, which also includes all of Osceola County and portions of Orange County.

The shopping list was frugal, though widely distributed:

— Money for improvement of the airports in Winter Haven and Lake Wales, along with the Bartow airport which is in his district, but the city is not. “All emerging cities,” he said

— New police cars for Lake Hamilton.

— Additional funds for fighting last year’s wildfires, which he worked with Congressman Dennis Ross a Lakeland Republican,

“These are the day-to-day things done to solve people’s problems,” he said.

He also refuted Grayson’s claims in television ads that he was in Washington when Hurricane Irma hit.

“I was in with my wife in our home in Celebration. I returned before the hurricane and was flying back with (Congresswoman) Val Demings. The plane was almost empty flying into Florida with a hurricane approaching,” he said. “Then I was out to emergency centers.”

An obvious question from a Polk County crowd — What about citrus greening? — put Soto in a nearly professorial role, considering his position on the House Agriculture Committee, where he discusses plant biology, pesticides and grower-developed treatments of trace metals.

It is crucial to solve the disease, Soto said, noting that in a single year citrus production had dropped from a projected 70 million boxes to 30 million boxes — cutting work for many in the large juice production companies.

He praised the research station in Lake Alfred noting that a new gift fruit species, known as Sugar Bell has shown signs of being resistant to the greening disease.

When asked about the dissent and combativeness in Congress, Soto replied that while there are massive differences on large bills, there is bipartisan cooperation on key everyday issues.

“Eighty percent of our bills pass every day,” Soto said. “A few weeks ago, I passed a bill to protect sharks, marlins and swordfish. It passed House and Senate on voice votes … there are hundreds of examples like that.”

On Puerto Rico statehood, he said there likely could be a bill or resolution in the next few months.

Associated Industries endorses Fred Costello, Mike Miller in open-seat congressional races

The Associated Industries of Florida has thrown its backing behind Republican state Rep. Mike Miller‘s bid for Congress in Florida’s 7th Congressional District and former state Rep. Fred Costello‘s bid in Florida’s 6th Congressional District.

Miller’s endorsement may come as a bit of a sting to his Aug. 28 Republican primary opponent Scott Sturgill, who is himself professionally in the manufacturing sector represented by AIF.

Miller is aiming to oust Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy in CD 7, which covers Seminole County and much of north and central Orange County. He first must get past Sturgill in what has been a bruising primary battle. Also in the primaries are Republican Vennia Francois and Democrat Chardo Richardson.

Costello is in a battle with Republicans John Ward and Michael Waltz for the Aug. 28 Republican primary, with another three Democrats vying, and the prospect that the November election could be competitive in a seat Republicans have long held. Incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis is running for governor.

The group also endorsed the re-election bids of Republican U.S. Reps. Matt Gaetz in CD 1; Neal Dunn in CD 2; Ted Yoho in CD 3; John Rutherford in CD 4; Al Lawson in CD 5; Bill Posey in District 8; Dan Webster in CD 11; Gus Bilirakis in CD 12; Vern Buchanan in CD 16; Brian Mast in CD 18; Francis Rooney in CD 19; Maria Diaz-Balart in CD 25; and Carlos Curbelo in CD 26.

And the AIF endorsed two Democrat congressmen seeking re-election: Al Lawson in CD 5, and Darren Soto in CD 9.

“Today, the AIF Board of Directors is proud to release our endorsements for those candidates here in Florida that we believe will best serve Florida businesses and families in the U.S. House of Representatives,” AIF President and Chief Executive Officer Tom Feeney, a former congressman himself. “We believe these individuals are the most qualified candidates in their respective races to take our pro-growth, pro-job and free-enterprise message to Washington to continue to make Florida a top state in the nation to live, work and raise a family.”

The group skipped endorsements in several districts with highly-competitive Republican primaries, and in most districts where incumbent Democratic incumbents are likely to be re-elected. That made the endorsements of Miller, Costello, Soto and Lawson stand out.

Soto’s may in part reflect the strength of AIF’s preference of him over his Aug. 28 Democratic rival, the much more liberal former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, with the recognition that the Republican in the district, Wayne Liebnitzky, would be a long shot against either of them come November. Lawson also has a tough primary battle with former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown, which likely will decide this year’s ultimate winner in that north Florida district.

“We strongly encourage our fellow Floridians to vote to send these candidates to Washington to fight for Florida,” Feeney stated. “Our businesses and families can count on these individuals to foster a business-friendly environment our future generations can rely on.”

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