For a Democratic candidate, when even House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) isn’t on your side, that should tell you something. But former Congressman Alan Grayson (D-FL) isn’t listening.
Grayson has a $700,000 war chest (plus his own personal wealth) to help him in his bid to slither back into Congress, but he is finding himself with few allies in his own party. The reason? Instead of challenging a sitting Republican, like the 11th congressional district’s Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL), or pursuing an empty seat, like the 12th district being vacated by Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL), Grayson is challenging a Democrat incumbent, Rep. Darren Soto (D-FL), in the 9th.
Grayson previously held the seat but abandoned it to run for Florida’s Senate seat in 2016. He was stomped by Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-FL) in the primary, losing by an crushing 58.9% to 17.7% margin. Soto, who had represented the area in the Florida legislature, won the 2016 Democratic primary and easily won the general for this Democratic-leaning district. Among the Democrats Soto defeated in that primary: Dena Grayson, Grayson’s wife and preferred candidate to succeed him in his seat.
Grayson told reporters that his internal polling showed him performing best in Soto’s district. The decision to target a fellow Democrat — even though Soto is widely viewed as more moderate than Grayson — is not sitting well with the Democratic establishment.
In an interview with the Tampa Bay Times editorial board, Pelosi said that she “would love” to have Grayson back in office, and praised him for being “a very progressive member of Congress,” but still said that she was “sad that Alan chose to come back in that race.”
“I wish he would run in a different seat,” said Pelosi.
She also commented that Soto is Puerto Rican, an asset in a district that is 39% Hispanic. “Darren is there now and is very important to us in terms of generationally and also in terms of issues that relate to Puerto Rico, which are a priority for us to address.”
Soto, as I reported earlier this week, is adamant that he’s a better fit for the district and remains determined to defend his seat. Pelosi has been a prolific fundraiser for the Democrats, so any assistance from her could help Soto narrow the fundraising gap (he currently has a little more than half of Grayson’s cash on hand). At minimum, the fact she seems likely to decline to assist Grayson in this primary is a benefit for Soto.
Other Democratic leaders also seem inclined to either stay on the sidelines or to assist Soto. Part of that is due to the general trend, exhibited by both political parties, to protect incumbents, but the headaches caused by the controversy-plagued Grayson cannot be ignored.
The primary election in Florida will be August 28, 2018. The deadline for candidate qualifying for Congressional candidates is May 4, 2018.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker.
[Cross-posted at The Capitolist.]