With U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., launching a bid for the U.S. Senate on Thursday, the race to replace him is already taking shape. Grayson is running for the Democratic nomination for the Senate seat held by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who is running for president and has said he will not seek a second Senate term.
On the Democratic side, Florida Sen. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, told the Orlando Sentinel that he will enter the race.
"I'm planning on running for the Congress and I'll be filing next week," Soto told the Sentinel.
But Soto, who has been backed by parts of the business community, including the Florida Chamber of Commerce, during his legislative bids, can expect a tough challenge from the left in the Democratic primary. Susannah Randolph, the wife of former state Rep. Scott Randolph and a liberal activist who worked for controversial left-wing group ACORN before going to work for Grayson, is expected to run for the Democratic nomination as well. So is former state Rep. Ricardo Rangel. Attorney and college instructor Valleri Crabtree is already running for the Democratic nomination. There has also been speculation that Dena Minning, Grayson’s girlfriend, could also run in the Democratic nomination.
On the Republican side, state Rep. Mike La Rosa, R-St. Cloud, announced on Thursday that he is exploring running for Grayson’s seat despite the district leaning Democratic. La Rosa was first elected to the Florida House in 2012 and served as part of the leadership as deputy majority whip. He currently is the vice chairman of the Regulatory Affairs Committee and the Economic Development and Tourism Subcommittee.
“As a family man and a small-business owner here in the 9th Congressional District, I know firsthand that the people of this district have had failed representation on the federal level under Alan Grayson,” La Rosa said on Thursday before turning his fire toward the new Senate candidate.
“Alan Grayson's disruptive style hurt people, hurt families and resulted in failed leadership for our area," La Rosa said. “Grayson will not be missed. As someone who also represents many of the people of the 9th District, over the next several weeks I will pray with my family, and discuss with my supporters, the possibility of running for this open seat. As I have in the state Legislature, I want to represent the good people of Osceola and Orange County with a middle-of-the-road approach and fairness for all the people who deserve much better than Grayson and his failed representation.”
La Rosa would not have an open shot at the nomination. Wayne Liebnitzky, an engineer who served in the Navy, is already running for the Republican nod.
Marko Milakovich, a businessman who ran with no party affiliation in 2014, is also running again.
Despite 2014 being a good year for Republicans, Grayson beat GOP challenger Carol Platt, 54 percent to 43 percent, while Milakovic pulled 3 percent. In 2012, Grayson, who had lost his congressional seat in 2010, bounced back to win a new seat after redistricting, burying Republican Todd Long 62.5 percent to 37.5 percent.
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