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Democratic Party Braces for Florida Primary Battle

U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson
Evan Vucci
U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson

Central Florida congressman Alan Grayson has gained national notoriety for his comments on the House floor, claiming that the only healthcare plan being offered by Republicans is to "hurry up and die."

Grayson, D-Orlando, doesn’t regret that comment or other remarks that have gotten him in trouble with the media and Democratic Party leaders. 

“It’s interesting that honest is misperceived as inflammatory,” Grayson says. 

Grayson says he's a proud progressive and he’s got a fundraising network around the nation because of the headlines he’s been able to grab. He says that leaves him well situated to win the Democratic primary. 

“I’m the only candidate that has any statewide base, in fact, a national base. So I think that objective observers would have to include that that makes me a very strong candidate for November,” Grayson says. 

U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy
Credit Courtesy of Friends of Patrick Murphy
Courtesy of Friends of Patrick Murphy
U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy

Grayson’s opponent is 32-year-old South Florida Congressman Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, who is serving his second term. Murphy says Grayson’s tone is counterproductive. 

“It’s really the rhetoric, the name calling, the finger pointing that got me into politics in the first place. And some of the things he’s said historically and continues to say about his colleagues and others, I personally don’t think it’s the way to get things done,” Murphy says. 

Murphy is from the more moderate wing of the Democratic Party. He has support from party leaders who think a moderate has a better chance of winning the open seat. 

“I consider myself fiscally responsible and socially progressive. I realized very early on that I was never going to make everybody happy. My family, like a lot of families, has some Republicans, some Democrats, some Independents and some people who don’t follow politics at all,” Murphy says. 

The battle between moderate and progressive ideas is testing the Democratic Party nationwide and it’s no different in Florida. Grayson says his brand of liberal populism is what is needed to excite the Democratic base across the state during the general election. 

“Right wing Democratic candidates statewide have lost time after time after time for a quarter of a century now. The only Democratic candidate who has won twice statewide in the last six years is Barack Obama who is perceived in Florida quite clearly as a liberal,” Grayson says. 

Before Murphy ran for office he was a Republican -- even donating to Mitt Romney -- which could come back to bite him in this primary. Geoffrey Skelley is a campaign analyst at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. He says Murphy is trying to ward off that attack by tacking left. 

“Though Murphy has on some recent votes moved, and obviously calculated all this, and has voted more left leaning than perhaps he did previously,” Skelley says. 

Both Murphy and Grayson have fundraised successfully, Skelley says, which could create for a contentious primary. 

“There’s definitely the potential for this primary to get really ugly,” Skelley says. 

But Skelley says the three-way race on the Republican side of the aisle could bode well for the Democratic Party in Florida. 

“On the flip side, Republicans have an even more crowded primary, so there’s the potential on their side to also see a lot of money thrown around in the primary. So perhaps in terms of handicapping going into the fall or weakening Democrats, I think both parties may have some issues with that,” Skelley says. 

As the race for Florida’s Senate seat heats up, brace yourself for a slew of nasty attack ads, which are likely to cause Democratic Party leaders to squirm as two of their own battle it out for all to see.

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Matt Laslo
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