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Too Liberal, Divisive to Win Senate Seat? Grayson Says No

AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File

Democratic U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson entered the race to replace Sen. Marco Rubio on Thursday with some points he wants to make for the people who think he's an inflammatory, Republican-hating liberal who's too divisive to win a statewide election.

First, he said he is more successful than anyone else in Congress at working across political aisles to pass legislation.

Second, he said Florida Democrats are unsuccessful at the polls because there haven't been any real Democrats to inspire them to vote, and he's a real Democrat.

Third, he has an enormous donor base and can reach more people through social media than any other candidate, Republican or Democrat.

"There is a Grayson movement. There are over 100,000 people who have contributed to our campaign," Grayson said. "I saw from the opposing campaign that they bragged about the fact that they had 3,000 contributors in their last quarter. We have 3,000 contributors in single 24-hour periods."

Democratic Party leaders in Florida and Washington have concerns that Grayson is too outspoken and liberal to win the general election for the seat Rubio is giving up to run for president.

"In the 47 years I've been in Florida, I honestly don't remember the last time a liberal was elected statewide," said Broward County Democratic Party Chairman Mitch Ceasar. "History has not been kind to Democratic liberals in Florida."

Many party leaders have coalesced around U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, a 32-year-old former Republican who is running as a moderate and is seen as a stronger general election candidate. The primary is expected to be contentious, especially because Grayson is known for over-the-top attacks on opponents: he once compared a Republican opponent with conservative Christian views to being like a member of the Taliban.

"It certainly makes for a bitter contest and shows a little bit less unity," Ceasar said. "Unpredictable makes it interesting, but not necessarily always good."

Grayson, 57, doesn't listen to party leaders. Sometimes he even criticizes them, saying, like Republicans, they do nothing to help the middle class and seniors. His listed his highest priorities as helping seniors put more money in their pockets through changes in Social Security and Medicare and reversing the decline in middle-class income.

But can someone who calls Republicans the White Christian Party with a platform of hate and fear win in a state that tends to be more moderate? Grayson said those remarks don't apply to Republicans who helped him get 31 amendments passed in the House and language from 12 of his bills signed into law.

"Those are people with whom I'm aligned, those are my allies, those are people who are helping me to carry the banner of justice, equality and peace," Grayson said. "There's enough common ground so that when I'm trying to accomplish good things for people, we can find enough Republican allies to get these things done."

As far as being too progressive, Grayson said Democrats have failed at the polls in Florida because they keep nominating people who don't inspire the Democratic base to vote.

"The black vote, the Hispanic vote, the Jewish vote, the gay vote, the liberal vote, the labor vote - these are all blocs that have seen me accomplish concrete things to the benefit of those groups. These are my supporters," Grayson said. "I suppose that Patrick has the support of all the Democrats who gave $2,300 to Mitt Romney, because he's one of them."

The donation to Romney was in 2007, before Murphy switched parties.

Murphy issued a statement shortly after Grayson's announcement.

"I look forward to a clean, honest discussion of the issues in this primary. I have built a strong record of working together to get things done, while remaining true to core Democratic principles," he said.

What he can look forward to is Grayson being outspoken.

"Whatever it is that Patrick Murphy is selling, Democrats in Florida are not buying it," Grayson said. "He was a Republican until a month before he decided to run for the House of Representatives

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