Is Rep. Alan Grayson about to shake up the 2016 U.S. Senate race in Florida? He recently staffed up with a formidable campaign team and singled out Rep. Patrick Murphy, a moderate Democrat who's already in the race, in a news release. Recent polls show he could indeed have a shot at challenging Murphy for the Democratic nod to make a run at Marco Rubio's seat. So all signs point to yes.
Here are the facts:
- Grayson brought on Doug Dodson, a longtime and well-known Democratic campaign operative, to work for him. He also brought his finance director from 2014, David Keith, back into the fold. Of course, these men could just work on Grayson's reelection to his House seat, but Dodson tells the Palm Beach Post: “I’m going to work for him no matter what he does," indicating that a Senate race is very much a possibility.
- All Aboard Florida is seeking a Federal Railroad Administration loan, but Rep. Bill Posey (R-Rockledge) introduced an amendment to try to derail that funding. Patrick Murphy was the only Democrat in the House to vote in favor of that amendment, and Grayson took the opportunity to blast him in a news release. "Congressman Patrick Murphy (FL-18) was the lone Democrat to side with Posey and the majority of Republicans who voted to hamper private financing for All Aboard Florida," the release read.
- A new poll out of St. Leo University this week shows that among likely Florida Democratic voters, 27 percent would vote for Murphy in a primary race, while 24 percent would vote for Grayson. That's a pretty slim lead for Murphy, and it's within the 4.5 percent margin of error, meaning the poll shows the two in a statistical tie.
Murphy is the state's most moderate Democratic congressman, and his record has many Florida progressives worried, especially because the Florida Democratic Party has run moderate after moderate in statewide races, only to see each lose.
Grayson is not the most liberal Democratic congressman in the state, but he has certainly gained a large progressive following. The Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida has openly criticized Murphy, and many observers have accused the caucus of doing so because its members hope that Grayson will jump into the race.
In 2008, Grayson won a House seat representing the Orlando area but was defeated by a Republican in 2010. After redistricting, he returned to the House in 2012 and has remained there since.
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He also has a habit of talking like a Daily Kos comments section. He has said the Republicans' preferred health plan is to see people "die quickly," he has compared Dick Cheney to a vampire, and he has called his Republican colleagues "foot-dragging, knuckle-dragging Neanderthals who know nothing but 'no.'" However, Grayson's most outrageous quotes came during his first term, and he has sort of mellowed out since then.
There's also the issue of his divorce, during which he accused his then-wife of bigamy (she had indeed been married when she and Grayson got hitched), and while seeking an annulment, he called her a "gold-digger."
However, despite the controversies, Grayson has remained a shrewd legislator. He's noted for working with libertarian-leaning Republicans to get actual bipartisan results and has been called "the most effective member of the House."