Rep. Alan GraysonAlan Mark GraysonDeSantis tops Crist, Fried in poll of Florida governor race Florida Rep. Val Demings officially enters Senate race against Rubio Demings raises Democrats' hopes in uphill fight to defeat Rubio MORE (D-Fla.) is talking like a man who will run for Senate in 2016.
In an interview with The Hill on Tuesday, Grayson said he’s thinking about running. The often-controversial Democrat spoke at length about why he’d begin a potential Senate race in position of strength, whether he’s going up against Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioSenate GOP campaign arm outraises Democratic counterpart in September House passes bills to secure telecommunications infrastructure Senators call for answers from US firm over reported use of forced Uyghur labor in China MORE (R-Fla.) or not.
“We have some very substantial advantages,” Grayson said in an interview with The Hill on Tuesday. “I have over 100,000 individual contributors. No one else on the House Democratic side has anything like that. We have raised as much as $5 million in an individual cycle for a House seat; again there’s nobody [who has done that].”
Grayson indicated that the only thing that might keep him from running is if Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, enters the fray.
“She’s the head of the national party, extremely well-known and well-regarded,” Grayson said. “She’s got an enormous base of support, not just in South Florida but around the country.”
Grayson won his first term in office in 2008 in Florida’s competitive 8th District but lost his reelection bid to Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.), a Tea Party candidate, in the 2010 GOP wave. In 2012, Grayson ran and won in the newly drawn 9th District, which was more favorable to Democrats.
Both then and now, he is known as a liberal firebrand who had a penchant for generating controversial headlines.
Grayson has said that the Republican healthcare plan is to “don’t get sick” but to “die quickly” if you do. He’s said that he has trouble listening to former Vice President Dick Cheney when he speaks because of “the blood that drips from his lips when he’s talking.” And he’s called Republicans “foot-dragging, knuckle-dragging Neanderthals.”
This has helped raise Grayson’s profile — and raise him lots of cash — which he says will be another asset to him if he seeks a seat in the Senate.
“I have national name recognition,” Grayson continued. “If you Google my name you get more hits than any other House member among the Democrats other than Nancy Pelosi and John Conyers, so in that sense, I’m the third best-known House Democrat. I have national support, and that’s something that’s unusual when you’re talking about any Senate candidate.”
But that’s a double-edged sword, as Grayson’s contentious relationship with his estranged wife has also made national headlines.
Last year, he sought an annulment from his wife of nearly 24 years on the basis of bigamy. He also accused her of defamation after she alleged he abused her.
Later in the year, Lolita Grayson said the Florida Democrat stopped supporting her and their four kids, leaving them to live in a mold-ridden house. He has contended that he continues to provide for them.
Grayson isn’t the only Democrat in Florida with eyes on a potential Senate seat in 2016. Reps. Patrick Murphy and Gwen Graham are frequently mentioned as potential new faces for a party that has an otherwise thin bench.
When asked about these two potential candidates, Grayson insinuated that Democrats need to run a more accomplished candidate with a lengthier record. He said he has passed 31 amendments in the past two years and that 15 of his bills were incorporated into laws that were signed by President Obama.
“There’s a real dramatic difference between myself and other candidates in terms of actual accomplishments,” he said. “I’m not going to single out anybody in particular, but the fact is, I’m not just a progressive Democrat, but a progressive Democrat who has demonstrated how to get things done in a difficult political environment here. Slate magazine called me the most effective member of Congress, and that puts me in a fundamentally different position than other potential candidates, whether we’re talking about Patrick or Gwen.”
Rubio, who’s up for reelection in 2016, has said he won’t run simultaneously for the Senate and presidency, and he’s instructed his staff to move forward as if he’s seeking the White House.
Still, Rubio doesn’t have to commit to a Senate run until May 2016, giving him plenty of time to test presidential waters and potentially determine that seeking reelection to his current seat is the more appealing option.
Grayson says that, if Rubio runs for reelection to the Senate, he’s vulnerable anyway.
“Of course [Rubio is] vulnerable,” Grayson said. “Frankly, he’s done a snow job on Hispanics in Florida. Hispanics in Florida are starting to recognize that’s the case. When you actually inform Hispanics about Rubio’s actual positions on the issues, his statements, what he supports, what he doesn’t support, then the Hispanic vote drops down to close to nothing, which is an important block.”
Grayson says he’s uniquely qualified to take that argument to voters in Florida.
“My district is … almost 40 percent Hispanic, and time after time, I win 80 percent of the Hispanic vote,” he said. “I’ve shown that I can carry Hispanics like no one else in Central Florida, Democratic or Republican.”
— This post was updated at 6:14 p.m.