Alan Grayson, Debbie Wasserman Schultz Draw GOP Foes Seeking Opportunities
Around the State
The two Democratic members of the Florida congressional delegation who should expect fierce Republican opposition in 2014 are Joe Garcia and Patrick Murphy. But Republicans across the country would love to see two more Florida Democrats in safer seats, Alan Grayson and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, go down next year.
Despite only serving in his second term, Grayson has become nationally prominent with his unapologetic liberalism and no-holds-barred attacks against Republicans. His style came back to haunt Grayson in 2010 when he ran for a second term and tried to portray Republican opponent Dan Webster’s Christianity as fanatical. Central Florida voters didn’t buy it and they threw Grayson out in a landslide.
But Republicans have high hopes next year despite the strong Democrat trend in the district. Jorge Bonilla, Carol Platt and Peter Vivaldi are already off and running. Bonilla and Vivaldi hope Hispanic voters will back them over Grayson while Platt hopes her longtime Osceola County connections will help her win Democrats there.
On paper, it looks like a blowout and Grayson is stronger here than he was in his old seat. But Republicans hope the GOP faithful will come out during the off-year election while Democrats stay home, much like what happened in 2010. If that happens, Republicans have a chance but the sizable Democrat advantage in registration makes it an uphill battle.
Bonilla, Platt and Vivaldi do have an advantage if they can harness it. Grayson’s high profile is a double edged sword. While it helps Grayson raise money from liberals across the nation, it also ensures conservatives all around the country would be more than happy to reach into their wallets and help throw him out. The question is if the Republicans running against Grayson will be able to tap into it.
During her two campaigns against Wasserman Schultz, Republican Karen Harrington was able to raise her own profile and draw support through her opponent. Wasserman Schultz remains at the head of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and a target for Republicans. But Harrington did better in 2010 than she did in 2012 and Wasserman Schultz’s district is even more of a Democrat citadel than Grayson’s.
Harrington decided the third time wasn’t the charm but Juan Eliel Garcia, Mike Giallombardo and Joe Kaufman are already running for the Republican nomination to challenge Wasserman Schultz. They have the same opportunity to raise cash as the Republicans running against Grayson.
Wasserman Schultz, though, is much safer than Grayson. She’s a more polished politician and doesn’t rush in chin first the way that Grayson does. With a much stronger Democratic lean in her district in the equation, Wasserman Schultz appears much safer than Grayson does.
The various Republican hopefuls can make a lot of noise and raise a lot of cash. But their political prospects remain grim. Whoever runs against Grayson would have a shot, if admittedly a long one. It would take a perfect storm to defeat Wasserman Schultz. Both Democrats should be secure in 2014 even with Republicans raising money based on their opponents’ high profiles.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis exclusively for Sunshine State News.