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With Alan Grayson mulling Senate run, Democratic Party steps in to back Patrick Murphy

@PatriciaMazzei

Looks like the Democratic Party doesn't want a race on its side for the 2016 U.S. Senate race in Florida.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee on Monday endorsed the candidacy of U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter -- knowing that Rep. Alan Grayson of Orlando is considering a Senate bid of his own.

Montana Sen. Jon Tester, the DSCC chairman, praised Murphy as the party's best shot to win back presidential contender Marco Rubio's seat. Democrats think they can score a swing-state victory in a presidential-election year, when more liberal-leaning voters tend to go to the polls.

"Patrick Murphy is one of our party's most promising rising stars, and his track record of fighting for Florida's working families, seniors, and the environment make him the strongest candidate to win the Florida Senate race and flip this seat," Tester said in a statement.

National Democrats' intervention upset progressive Florida activists, who have questioned Murphy's Democratic bona fides -- he's a former Republican -- and pushed Grayson, a liberal firebrand, to run.

"The idea that a senator from Montana and Wall Street Democrats know better than rank-and-file Florida Democrats is both patronizing and unsurprising," Susan Smith, president of the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida, said in a statement.

"I wish the DSCC would take a page from the Democratic National Committee's playbook. Last week when Bernie Sanders announced he was joining Hillary Clinton in running for president, the DNC wisely welcomed him to the race because they recognize that spirited primary debates are good for our party and our country."

Grayson told a Miami Herald reporter last week that he would "probably" launch his own campaign. In a statement Monday he dismissed the DSCC's endorsement.

"Florida Democratic voters choose our party nominee, not out-of-touch party bosses sipping cognac in a smoke-filled room in Washington, D.C.," he said.

No big-name Republicans have announced their candidacies yet.

--with Nicholas Nehamas

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