March 03, 2016

Obama-Biden endorsement in U.S. Senate race fractures Florida Democrats

@ByKristenMClark

A division of the Florida Democratic Party is upset that President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have chimed in on the contentious party primary in the state's U.S. Senate race.

Obama and Biden on Wednesday endorsed U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, over fellow U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando, further fortifying Murphy's status as the establishment pick.

But progressive Democrats have passionately backed Grayson and the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida -- an official subsection of the state party -- doesn't think it's appropriate for the national party's figureheads to take sides.

"As someone who worked hard to help President Obama win Florida in 2008 and 2012, I am profoundly saddened and disappointed by his apparent lack of trust in Florida Democrats to choose our own U.S. Senate nominee," caucus president Susan Smith said in a statement this morning.

Smith pointed to Grayson's favorable polling. She also criticized Murphy's congressional record and the fact that he was previously a Republican before running for office.

"As much as it breaks my heart to see President Obama attempt to put his thumb on the scale for Patrick Murphy, it's even more worrisome that the president seems to have done so with bad information," Smith said. "I hope the President will read up on Murphy's real record and reconsider his decision to throw the weight of the White House behind someone who will do Wall Street's bidding."

The Florida Democratic Party doesn't endorse in primaries before the qualifying deadline and has no plans to endorse a candidate. 

Executive director Scott Arceneaux told the Herald/Times that the state party is "deeply disappointed in the Progressive Caucus’ statement."

"To use this statement to imply the President and Vice President of the United States are misinformed or unable to thoughtfully arrive at conclusions that differ from the Progressive Caucus’ view is as disturbing as their decision to attack a Democratic member of Florida’s congressional delegation," Arceneaux said in a statement.

He added, “We are a big tent party with diverse views and should be able to disagree without being disagreeable. The Florida Democratic Party welcomes the input of President Obama and Vice President Biden in our races.”

Also Wednesday, Obama and Biden endorsed former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland in that state's party primary for the U.S. Senate. Murphy and Strickland were the first Senate candidates Obama and Biden have endorsed this cycle.

March 02, 2016

Barack Obama, Joe Biden endorse Patrick Murphy in Florida's U.S. Senate race; Republicans go on the attack

Patrickmurphy03wmm

@ByKristenMClark

Adding to his lengthy -- and growing -- list of establishment endorsements, U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy just landed the two biggest names possible for a Democrat: Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

The president and vice president of the United States are backing Murphy in his bid for Marco Rubio's U.S. Senate seat, Murphy's campaign announced this morning.

And Biden will campaign with Murphy on March 28, the campaign said. Specific details haven't been released yet.

In statements provided by the campaign, both Obama and Biden heaped praise on Murphy, a congressman from Jupiter, for his work supporting the middle-class and a host of other issues.

"Patrick has been a tireless champion for middle-class families and a defender of the economic progress that American workers and businesses have made," Obama said in the statement. "In Congress, he's fought to strengthen Medicare and Social Security, reform our criminal justice system, and protect a woman's right to choose. Floridians can count on Patrick Murphy to stand up for them every day as their next Senator."

Biden added, "Patrick Murphy has the progressive values, the work ethic and the youthful energy the U.S. Senate needs. He'll work tirelessly to bring people together to make a difference for Florida's middle class."

The endorsements -- including that compliment -- weren't well-received by Murphy's primary opponent, fellow U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson. The Orlando congressman is a proud and passionate progressive, who's banking on progressives' support to beat Murphy in Florida's Democratic primary in August.

Grayson's campaign said in a statement that Obama's and Biden's endorsements smack of "a last-ditch effort by the D.C. Establishment to try to blunt our large and growing command of the race."

Continue reading "Barack Obama, Joe Biden endorse Patrick Murphy in Florida's U.S. Senate race; Republicans go on the attack" »

March 01, 2016

Jolly, Grayson agree to one-on-one debates in U.S. Senate race; other contenders not invited

@ByKristenMClark

Self-declaring as the "clear front-runners" in Florida's contentious U.S. Senate race, Democrat Alan Grayson and Republican David Jolly say they have agreed to a series of head-to-head debates between this month and the November election.

The congressmen's joint announcement capitalizes on the latest Public Policy Polling poll, released earlier today, which found Jolly and Grayson each with more than 25 percent of likely voters' support and with double-digit leads in their respective party primaries.

Grayson told the Herald/Times that none of the other contenders -- Democrat Patrick Murphy and Republicans Ron DeSantis, Carlos Lopez-Cantera, Carlos Beruff and Todd Wilcox -- was invited because, he said, "nobody else is really in contention."

"We're both polling with double-digit leads and that's been consistent," Grayson said.

However, the PPP poll was far from a decisive declaration of the race. In both the Republican and Democratic contests, almost half of voters polled remain "undecided" -- a consistent theme in other polls on the race for Marco Rubio's open U.S. Senate seat.

The crowded field has meant all of the candidates, particularly on the Republican side, have struggled to stand out.

Grayson said he invited Jolly to do the debates; he said the congressman from Indian Shores "well and ably represents the Republican point of view."

They want the match-ups to be "genuine debates on the major issues of the day" akin to the Lincoln-Douglas debates, Grayson said.

Jolly said the debates will provide the opportunity "to contrast our differing views for the future of Florida and the country."

Continue reading "Jolly, Grayson agree to one-on-one debates in U.S. Senate race; other contenders not invited" »

Rick Scott isn't picking a side in Florida U.S. Senate race that includes his No. 2

via @TMarreroTimes

Gov. Rick Scott is keeping the door shut on an endorsement of his lieutenant governor, who is running in a crowded U.S. Senate race that got a little more crowded this week with the addition of another key ally of the governor’s. 

Carlos Beruff, a wealthy Manatee County developer with Miami roots who served on Scott’s transition team and chaired his Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding, officially announced his candidacy Monday. Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera has been in the race since July. 

Tuesday, Scott said he has no plans to make an endorsement in a contest that also includes U.S. Reps. David Jolly and Ron DeSantis

“I am not endorsing in the Senate race,” Scott told reporters after a reporter asked if he would consider endorsing Beruff. “There’s a lot of good candidates running. My lieutenant governor’s in that race. Carlos Beruff, I think, entered just in the last couple of days. He was the chairman of my hospital and health care commission and did a good job. My lieutenant governor’s done a great job.”

Scott made the comments after a medal ceremony for veterans in Pinellas Park.

Public Policy Polling’s latest survey found that Lopez-Cantera is trailing both Jolly and DeSantis.

February 29, 2016

After online poll, Alan Grayson endorses Bernie Sanders for president

Bernie Sanders - Cropped

@ByKristenMClark

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate and current U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson endorsed Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign this morning, citing the results of a recent online survey Grayson launched to get public input on his decision.

Grayson had, for months, been coy about choosing officially between Sanders and Hillary Clinton, although in November he agreed to join Clinton's Florida Leadership Council.

He started an online poll earlier this month, asking supporters to help him decide to whom he should give his endorsement and "superdelegate" vote. As a Democratic member of Congress, Grayson is able to cast a ballot at the Democratic National Convention this summer for whomever he chooses.

Grayson's Senate campaign said Monday that more than 376,000 people nationwide participated in his poll, and 86 percent wanted Sanders as the Democratic candidate for president over Clinton.

Sanders, like Grayson, has strong support among progressive Democrats.

"I’ve devoted my political life to bringing the virtues of justice, equality and peace to as many people as possible," Grayson said, "and Bernie’s presidential campaign has drawn millions of people into a movement that’s grounded in those same shared ideals." 

In his announcement, Grayson heralded his decision to host an online poll as "a bold move to give power to the people."

However, as he sought supporters' opinions on the presidential race, Grayson's campaign used the opportunity to collect information from them. The poll required participants to provide a first name, email address and zip code -- while also asking supporters why they like their chosen candidate.

Grayson said he and Sanders are the only two members of Congress to raise most of their campaign donations from small-dollar donors. But unlike Sanders' surprising fundraising haul, Grayson has struggled to mount a successful fundraising challenge to his primary opponent, fellow U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter.

Grayson also pointed out that "Bernie has defied The Establishment and monied classes who control our rigged political system" -- a message that the firebrand Grayson has echoed in his U.S. Senate bid.

“Bernie Sanders and I share a goal of building a grassroots movement of people who want to take back our country from the billionaires and the multinational corporations,” Grayson said. “We want to make elections into something different:  Not the lesser of two evils, but the greater good." 

Murphy -- who has earned a swarm of endorsements from the Democratic establishment -- backed Clinton shortly after she announced her presidential campaign.

Photo credit: Alan Grayson's U.S. Senate campaign

National women's rights group backs Patrick Murphy in Florida's U.S. Senate race

Patrickmurphy03wmm

@ByKristenMClark

U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy has picked up another significant national endorsement in his bid for Marco Rubio's U.S. Senate seat.

NARAL Pro-Choice America announced this morning that they are backing the Jupiter Democrat over his primary opponent, fellow U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando.

The endorsement is a big get for Murphy's campaign, because one of Grayson's major platforms is women's rights issues.

"Patrick Murphy has consistently fought to defend and expand Americans’ reproductive freedom and we are proud to stand with him in his race for U.S. Senate," Sasha Bruce, a senior vice president with NARAL Pro-Choice America, said in a statement provided by Murphy's campaign.

Bruce called Murphy a "champion" and said he was "fearless in going up against the anti-choice majority in Congress and pushing back against the Republican-led smear campaign targeting Planned Parenthood and other health care providers."

Murphy said he'll be the fighter that he says Florida women need in the U.S. Senate.
 
"While my GOP opponents stand with Marco Rubio’s extreme opposition to ban all abortions with no exceptions for cases of rape or incest, I will never back down when it comes to protecting women's healthcare and the right to choose," Murphy said.

Grayson and Murphy are duking it out ahead of the August Democratic primary.

The endorsement from the national women's rights group comes a week after Politico Florida reported that Grayson, as a lawyer, represented a company in the mid-1990s that was accused of discriminating against a pregnant worker.

Five candidates are running in the Republican primary: U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach, U.S. Rep. David Jolly of Indian Shores, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera of Miami, Orlando businessman Todd Wilcox and Bradenton home-builder Carlos Beruff.

Photo credit: Walter Michot / Miami Herald

February 26, 2016

Alan Grayson says he's raising money despite Patrick Murphy's 'incessant cow-pie flinging'

@ByKristenMClark

U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson rejects any suggestion that his U.S. Senate campaign has suffered blows from recent weeks of bad press and calls by leaders of his own party to drop out.

The Orlando congressman's campaign sent out a statement Thursday afternoon boasting of "a deluge of donations" from his small-donor, progressive following.

The campaign said Grayson will soon "eclipse $1 million" raised from small donors online since Grayson entered the race last summer. The campaign said about $68,000 was raised Wednesday alone; about $48,000 of that isn't immediate cash, but "in monthly donations by preauthorized credit card."

The claim could not be independently verified, because federal campaigns report their finances every three months. (The next disclosure is due April 15 for the period between January and March.)

Grayson's campaign said his supporters "rallied against the smear tactics" of his opponent, fellow U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter.

Murphy's campaign has been quick to highlight Grayson's negative headlines and sent an email blast this week, in which U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid campaigned on Murphy's behalf.

Reid renewed his call for Grayson to end his campaign because of allegations Grayson used his role as a congressman to advance hedge funds he managed. Because of the hedge funds, Grayson is the subject of a congressional ethics investigation

But emphasizing Grayson's recent fundraising figures, Grayson campaign spokesman David Damron said, "The Murphy campaign’s incessant cow-pie flinging has obviously backfired."

Murphy campaign spokeswoman Galia Slayen said Grayson's insults are "just another desperate attempt" to distract from his various controversies of late, which also included a Bloomberg report on Grayson's children profiting from investments in a company that allegedly uses African slave labor.

Murphy campaign manager Josh Wolf also had this to say on Twitter (which references a Herald/Times story last fall):

While Grayson's campaign crows over his reported campaign income, he still has a far hill to climb to even come close to the amount of money Murphy has pulled in thanks to the wealthy Democratic establishment.

For the most recent three-month filing period, which ended Dec. 31, Murphy raised $1.46 million, leaving him with nearly $4.3 million in the bank to spend heading into 2016. That latter figure was more than 20 times the amount Grayson reported to have.

According to his last FEC report, Grayson entered 2016 with $212,000 in the bank, after having raised $484,200 in donations in the last three months of 2015.

February 23, 2016

In email blast, Harry Reid campaigns for Patrick Murphy

@ByKristenMClark

Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, the top Democrat in the U.S. Senate, today began campaigning for Patrick Murphy in Florida's contentious U.S. Senate race and is doubling-down on his call for Murphy's Democratic opponent Alan Grayson to drop out.

Murphy and Grayson, both Florida congressmen, are competing in the August Democratic primary, and Reid has essentially endorsed Murphy. His political committee previously donated to Murphy and today Reid had this to say:

"We need strong leaders in the Senate -- middle class champions dedicated to working hard and getting things done. People like Patrick Murphy," Reid wrote in a campaign email sent out by Murphy's team this afternoon.

He added in reference to Grayson: "What we DON'T need is a disgraceful hedge fund manager masquerading as a 'progressive.'"

Grayson has been under fire -- and is the subject of a congressional ethics investigation -- for his management of hedge funds that were previously based in the Cayman Islands.

Reid two weeks ago issued a statement from his Senate office calling on Grayson to end his bid for Marco Rubio's Senate seat. In the Murphy campaign's email blast today, Reid repeated his statement and urged Murphy supporters to sign an online petition calling on Grayson to drop out of the race.

Grayson's campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

February 19, 2016

Bloomberg reports Alan Grayson's family "profited from 'pariah state' gold mine"

U.S. Senate candidate and current U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando, has made headlines this past week because of mounting controversy and criticism over a once-offshore hedge fund he has managed.

Bloomberg Politics is out today with a new report, this time about investments Grayson's children made. The news organization reports Grayson's children previously invested in -- and profited from -- a company that operates a mine in Eritrea, an African country that is accused of using slave labor.

From Bloomberg Politics:

Representative Alan Grayson holds an unusual position as a member of the U.S. Congress, an active investor and manager of a hedge fund.

Now that the wealthy Florida Democrat is running for the Senate seat being vacated by Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio, his investments are becoming a more prominent liability.

Last year, Grayson, who was first elected to Congress in 2008, made a passionate speech denouncing trade with dictatorships or countries that employ forced labor.

But weeks earlier, his family cashed in a long-held investment in a mining company that derives its revenue almost entirely from Eritrea, an east African country labeled "a pariah state" by Human Rights Watch in part for its system of forced labor in service of a government that hasn’t held an election since 1991. Grayson said he wasn’t aware of the 2013 report criticizing the company.

The Democratic leader in the Senate, Harry Reid of Nevada, has already called on Grayson to drop out of the race, charging that he used his role as a member of Congress to promote his own hedge fund and saying he appeared to have "no moral compass." 

Grayson, 57, is running against fellow Florida Democratic Representative Patrick Murphy, with a primary set for Aug. 30. On Sunday, Murphy also said Grayson should close his hedge fund and even resign if allegations made in the New York Times and the Tampa Bay Times were proved true that his roles as a member of Congress and hedge fund manager had become intertwined. Grayson has denied using his office for personal gain.

Asked last week about the investment in Nevsun Resources Ltd., Grayson says he wasn’t aware of concerns expressed by human rights groups about Nevsun’s mining operations in Eritrea before the stock was sold last year.

Full story here.

UPDATE: 9:55 a.m.

Murphy's campaign released a statement this morning calling on Grayson to donate to charity the profits his family made off its investments in Nevsun.

"Hedge fund manager Alan Grayson profited off of a company accused of using slave labor on a massive scale, and then sponsored legislation condemning those same practices. That kind of shameless hypocrisy is exactly what Floridians hate about Washington," Murphy campaign manager Josh Wolf said. "If Congressman Grayson still knows how to do the right thing, he should donate to charity every penny of his profit from the suffering of innocent people." 

Bloomberg Politics reported that Grayson said he "didn’t know" and "couldn’t have known" about this specific investment.

"If I had known, then I would have divested," Grayson told Bloomberg Politics. "I did actually divest, but I didn’t know when I divested, nor would I have any reason to know that, given the fact that literally thousands of different investments are involved, given the fact that nobody brought it to my attention until I’m in the midst of a competitive campaign."

February 16, 2016

Alan Grayson wants Obama to make recess appointment to fill Scalia's SCOTUS seat

@ByKristenMClark

In keeping with a campaign to brand himself as an anti-establishment candidate in the Democratic primary for Florida's U.S. Senate race, U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson has his own ideas on how President Barack Obama should fill Antonin Scalia's seat on the U.S. Supreme Court in the wake of the justice's death on Saturday.

Most Republicans -- including candidates for Florida's seat -- say either that Obama should not bother nominating someone during his final year in office or, that if Obama does, the Senate should block any attempt to confirm that nominee. Meanwhile, most Democrats argue it's the president's duty to nominate and the Senate's obligation to consider a nominee regardless of how much time is left in Obama's term.

But Grayson, D-Orlando, said in a campaign statement Monday evening he supports what would be an unconventional and highly controversial approach: Bypass the Senate's Republican majority altogether by appointing someone this week while the chamber isn't in session.

And he has a name in mind: U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who -- like Grayson -- is a staunch progressive.

“She’s earned it, and she deserves it,” Grayson said. “And she’ll be so, so good at it.”

Obama was already quick to say over the weekend that he had no intention of making a recess appointment to the country's top bench.

But Grayson wrote in a column for The Huffington Post that if Obama took action now, "Justice Warren could take office immediately. The obstructionists in the GOP couldn't do anything about it."

He argued that if Obama delayed and later offered her up as a nominee, Warren might be more easily confirmed by the Senate because she's "one of their own."

"Would obstructionists in the Senate filibuster an Elizabeth Warren appointment, or vote against her? Maybe. But that seems like poor form against one of their own, for a place as clubby as the U.S. Senate," Grayson wrote.

While Grayson says Warren is "eminently qualified" to be a jurist -- because of nearly two decades' experience as a Harvard law professor and her "tireless and effective" work as a U.S. senator -- she's not among any of the short-lists of nominees Obama is said to be considering.

Grayson is in a contentious Democratic primary against U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, in the race to replace Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate. Murphy has the backing of the party establishment (including many sitting Democratic U.S. senators), while many progressives support Grayson.

Warren hasn't endorsed either candidate in the race.