August 10, 2016

With few public events, Patrick Murphy under fire for avoiding voters

Senate 2016-Florida (2)


Democrat Patrick Murphy talks often about needing to introduce himself to Florida voters. To illustrate his efforts, the U.S. Senate candidate has, for months, claimed an aggressive campaign schedule — “dozens and dozens” of events from Key West to Pensacola in the past year.

But this summer, the Jupiter congressman has actually had relatively few public campaign stops — prompting opponents to accuse him of hiding from voters with less than three weeks to go before the Aug. 30 primary and as mail-in ballots are already being cast.

Based on media reports, campaign announcements and social media posts by Murphy, the Herald/Times identified just 14 campaign events Murphy has made publicly known between June 1 and Aug. 9. More than half of those were since July 25, the week of the Democratic National Convention when Murphy ramped up his campaign.

By comparison, Republican Marco Rubio has had at least 23 public events since July 18, and Democrat Alan Grayson has had at least 27 campaign stops since July 3.

More here.

Photo credit: AP

August 06, 2016

Alan Grayson urges Zika funding during Miami Gardens town hall


via @harrisalexc

During a South Florida town hall stop Saturday, U.S. Senate candidate Alan Grayson called for Republicans to pass President Barack Obama’s $1.1 billion Zika bill before the virus spreads further.

“This is not just a problem for today or a problem for tomorrow,” Grayson told the crowd of around 60, “it’s a problem for the next 80 years.”

The rest of the event was filled with questions from a friendly audience whose main quarrel with Grayson was that he didn’t fight back against attacks hard enough.

One audience member brought up the allegations of spousal abuse leveled against Grayson recently, which he called “nonsense dredged up from literally 20 years ago.”

Full story here.

Patrick Murphy won't commit to town-hall meetings


While Democratic U.S. Senate candidate and U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson plans to host a town-hall meeting in Miami Dade County on Saturday afternoon, his main primary opponent, Patrick Murphy, won't commit to holding any for his campaign.

"We've been doing all sorts of events, as you've seen here," Murphy said Friday afternoon -- following a private fundraiser and an unannounced campaign stop with Vice President Joe Biden at a small, local restaurant, which was largely occupied by invited guests and Democratic supporters of Murphy's.

"I've been doing dozens and dozens of events around the state, all sorts of sizes, meeting as many people as humanly possible," said Murphy, a two-term congressman from Jupiter, who's the front-runner in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate and the party establishment's favored choice.

When pressed on whether town-hall meetings, specifically, were in his plans, Murphy said: "Call them whatever you want. We meet people all the time, doing events, going to restaurants like this. I'm running a grassroots campaign, going left to right, up and down from Key West to Pensacola, meeting people."

Murphy offered a similar non-committal answer to a Times reporter on Thursday -- a day after Murphy backed out of the only scheduled debate with Grayson ahead of the Aug. 30 primary. (Murphy said he didn't want to give Grayson a platform for his campaign, because Grayson's ex-wife recently accused him of domestic abuse during their 25-year marriage that was annulled last year.)

Aside from the Biden events, Murphy's campaign announced just two events this week, both on Thursday: a press conference in Tampa announcing the endorsement of U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor and an Orlando press conference with a parent of a Pulse shooting victim to criticize Republican incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio over gun control reform.

Town-hall meetings typically involve an elected official or politician interacting directly with their constituents by taking their questions and providing answers in a public setting with an audience.

Grayson is from Orlando. His event on Saturday begins at 4 p.m. at the Stadium Hotel in Miami Gardens. The topic is on the Zika virus -- for which Miami is Ground Zero for the first local transmissions in the U.S. -- and what Grayson calls "the wholly inadequate public health response from the federal government and state of Florida."

Photo credit: Walter Michot / Miami Herald

August 04, 2016

Poll: Rubio leads Grayson, Murphy by wide margins



A new poll out by Suffolk University's Political Research Center today shows Republican incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio up by at least 13 percentage points on either of his likely Democratic opponents in November's election for Florida's U.S. Senate seat.

In a match-up against Democratic U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, Rubio leads 45 percent to Grayson's 31 percent, with about 22 percent undecided and 2 percent who didn't answer. Against Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, Rubio's lead narrows by 1 percentage point; he led 46 percent to Murphy's 33 percent, with about 19 percent undecided and 2 percent who didn't answer.

Suffolk University surveyed 500 likely Florida voters by telephone between Aug. 1-3. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

Florida's U.S. Senate race has garnerned national attention and millions of dollars in political spending because the election could decide which party controls the chamber next year.

The university's polling results further solidify Rubio's status as the front-runner in the Senate race, especially within his own party primary.

Of the 165 people polled who planned to vote in the upcoming Republican primary, 62 percent said they would vote for or were leaning toward Rubio, while his main challenger Carlos Beruff got 12 percent support. About 24 percent remained undecided and 1 percent didn't answer. Lesser-known candidates Dwight Mark Anthony Young and Ernie Rivera got 1 percent and 0 percent support in the poll, respectively.

In the Democratic primary, "undecided" was in the lead -- as it has been in many polls for months -- followed by Murphy.

About 40 percent of the 168 likely Democratic primary voters surveyed said they didn't know yet who they'd vote for -- even as some ballots have been mailed out already and there's less than a month until the election.

Murphy got about 36 percent support, followed by Grayson with 17 percent. Pam Keith received about 2 percent support, while newer candidates Reginald Luster and "Rocky" Roque De La Fuente were tied with around 1 percent support. (Two percent of respondents didn't answer.)

Both the Democratic and Republican primaries for Florida's U.S. Senate race are Aug. 30. The winners will face each other in the November election.

Photo credit: Alan Diaz / AP

August 03, 2016

Alan Grayson pushes back against abuse allegations

Grayson wpb 1

An embattled U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson met with reporters Wednesday in South Florida to fight back against allegations by his ex-wife that he abused her repeatedly.

When asked if he would provide explanations of the four times his ex-wife, Lolita Grayson, contacted the police between 1994 and 2014 to claim he abused her, Grayson said he couldn’t describe what happened except for in the most recent incident.

“The police didn’t contact me with regard to the ones in Virginia, and with regard to the one here three years ago the short answer is she attacked me — the video taken at time demonstrated that, as did her own 911 call.”

Grayson met with a handful of reporters at Dontee’s diner in West Palm Beach, where he took questions for about an hour. It was his first sit-down interview in South Florida — a Democratic-rich territory he needs in the primary — since the allegations broke. Grayson, of Orlando, is in a competitive Democratic primary battle against U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter for the Senate seat held by incumbent Republican Marco Rubio.

Keep reading here


Patrick Murphy won't debate Alan Grayson



The only debate in Florida's contentious Democratic primary race for U.S. Senate is cancelled.

In a surprise move, Democrat Patrick Murphy -- the leading contender in the race -- reneged this afternoon on a scheduled debate next week against fellow U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson and Murphy rejected his primary opponents' pleas for more debates ahead of the Aug. 30 election.

The reason?

Murphy, a congressman from Jupiter, says allegations Grayson abused his ex-wife have "disqualified" Grayson from public service, and Murphy doesn't want to debate Grayson because of it.

"I cannot in good conscience give him a platform to promote himself and his campaign. As a result, I will not participate in any forums or debates with Alan Grayson," Murphy said in a statement this afternoon.

The statement was timed for release to coincide with a press conference Grayson and Pam Keith, a third Democrat in the race, had planned to hold in West Palm Beach to call on Murphy to agree to more debates.

More here.


MoveOn won't endorse in Florida's Democratic U.S. Senate primary

062116_grayson presser5@ByKristenMClark Political Action, a nationally known progressive organization, is withholding an endorsement in Florida's competitive Democratic primary for U.S. Senate in light of allegations that one candidate, Democratic U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, abused his ex-wife.

The organization sent an email to its members Friday afternoon, notifying them of its decision.

The group had previously launched an online poll to solicit its members' feedback on whom MoveOn should endorse in the race: Grayson, fellow U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, or Pam Keith, a Miami labor attorney and former naval officer. (The poll was still live, as of this morning.)

"We recently asked your help in deciding which candidate MoveOn should endorse in the race for U.S. Senate in Florida. Since then, new and serious allegations of domestic abuse have emerged about one of the candidates, Representative Alan Grayson," read the email, a copy of which was obtained by the Herald/Times. "We are not in a position to fully investigate these claims but take them very seriously. Violence against women is never acceptable. In light of this disturbing news, we have decided not to issue any endorsement in this race at this time."

"We urge local authorities to act swiftly and to fully investigate these allegations," continued the email, which was signed by the group's leaders including executive director Ilya Sheyman.

Grayson has vehemently denied the claims by his ex-wife, Lolita Grayson. Their marriage was annulled last year. His campaign declined to comment about MoveOn's email.

MoveOn spokesman Brian Stewart confirmed the authenticity of the email to the Herald/Times and said, "I can't say what the outcome of an endorsement would have been" had the Grayson allegations not surfaced.

The group's online poll originally told members: "Any candidate who receives more than 50% of the votes cast will win the endorsement. If no one receives more than 50%, MoveOn won't endorse a candidate."

Grayson, known for being a liberal firebrand, recently lost endorsements from two other high-profile progressive groups (the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy for America) after the abuse allegations came to light last week.

MoveOn's survey did not include lesser-known Democratic candidates Reginald Luster and "Rocky" Roque De La Fuente, who will also be on the Aug. 30 primary ballot.

Photo credit: Democratic U.S. Senate candidate and U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, of Orlando, speaks to reporters in Tallahassee in late June. Kristen M. Clark / Herald/Times Tallahassee bureau

July 27, 2016

Not much love at Florida delegation breakfast for U.S. Senate candidates


PHILADELPHIA -- Neither of Republican Marco Rubio's chief Democratic rivals for U.S. Senate is getting much love among Florida delegates to the Democratic National Convention.

Only a single single speaker at the delegation's Wednesday morning breakfast mentioned U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy.

"Patrick Murphy will make a great U.S. senator," declared U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch of Boca Raton.

"Alan Grayson!" yelled a handful of fans of Murphy's top opponent.

Murphy, of Jupiter, has been plagued by résumé-inflation woes. Grayson, of Orlando, has become consumed by scandals, most recently over domestic-abuse allegations from his ex-wife.

It's not that Democrats don't want to defeat Rubio (or his primary rival, Carlos Beruff, who wasn't mentioned). Speaker after speaker at the breakfast, including Hillary Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook, highlighted the importance of flipping Rubio's U.S. Senate seat. But their comments were mostly generic.

Somewhere, Rubio is smiling.

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Pam Keith: 'It's a farce to call this process a primary'


Democrat Pam Keith doesn't mince words when expressing her frustration at how she feels the Democratic primary election is playing out in Florida's U.S. Senate race.

"It’s a farce to call this process a primary. It’s not; it was always intended to be a coronation," Keith said during a visit with the Miami Herald's editorial board on Tuesday.

Keith, a labor attorney and former naval officer who lives in Miami, has been campaigning for U.S. Senate longer than any other candidate this cycle. But she's struggled to raise campaign funds and gain widespread name recognition, as Democratic congressmen Patrick Murphy and Alan Grayson have crowded the spotlight.

The "coronation" Keith spoke of is in reference to Murphy, the Democratic establishment's hand-picked candidate who has received all the high-profile endorsements and fundraising support that comes with that status. That includes the backing of the Democratic Party's top two figureheads: President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.

"The party decided who their candidate was going to be long before 2016," Keith said. "They decided they were going to coronate Patrick Murphy from the word 'go,' and they have given him every conceivable advantage."

She added: "When the party’s machinery fund-raises for one candidate and not the others, that’s not a primary. When the party’s machinery leans on politicians to endorse their guy, that is not a primary."

Grayson, a progressive firebrand, has also spoken with frustration at the Democratic establishment's embrace of Murphy.

For his part, Murphy has touted the Obama-Biden endorsement proudly, capitalizing on it further with Obama appearing for him in his first TV ad. Both Biden and Obama have also campaigned for Murphy in Florida, and Biden is set to return for a third visit in early August.

Keith has been campaigning full-time for about 20 months, and she's presenting herself as the alternative option for Democrats who might not want to back either Murphy or Grayson. Both have demonstrated notable flaws and vulnerabilities: Murphy has been criticized for inflating his experience and credentials, and Grayson has battled, first, an ongoing congressional ethics investigation and, now this week, allegations by his ex-wife of prior domestic abuse. 

Although both Murphy and Grayson have experience in Congress, Keith -- a political newcomer -- says "just because they’ve been there doesn’t mean they’ve done a good job."

"The question you ought to be asking yourself is who speaks to my priorities and issues in a way that makes me feel, 'she gets it' -– because when you’re in Congress, you have a limited number of hours to do what you’re going to do and you develop a record about how you use those hours," Keith said.

"Now there are some who use those hours to grandstand and rabble-rouse and irritate their colleagues. There are others who use that time to ensure that their father’s interests get full airing. If you think that’s great, right on! That’s not how I’m going to use my hours," she said, without mentioning Grayson or Murphy by name but clearly referencing each of them, respectively.

Later Tuesday, Keith also criticized an Orlando TV station for excluding her from what is likely to be the only Democratic debate ahead of the Aug. 30 primary. She accused WFTV Channel 9 of "blatant racism and sexism" for its decision to hold only a "one-on-one" debate between the two congressmen; the station said only Murphy and Grayson met its threshold to participate (by polling at 15 percent or higher).

Photo credit: Pam Keith U.S. Senate campaign

July 26, 2016

Murphy-Grayson debate set to air Aug. 12


A Democratic primary debate between U.S. Senate candidates Alan Grayson and Patrick Murphy is officially on.

WFTV Channel 9 in Orlando made its announcement late Monday, confirming news that first broke last week.

The two congressmen will participate in what the station is billing as "an exclusive one-on-one debate," which will air at 7 p.m. on Aug. 12. It will be broadcast on WFTV Channel 9 in Orlando and also be streamed online at

"The race for the U.S. Senate seat in Florida will be one of the most watched in the country. This is an important opportunity for our viewers to hear directly from the leading Democratic candidates on where they stand on the key issues facing our region, our country and the world,” said Paul Curran, vice president and general manager of WFTV Channel 9 and WRDQ TV-27.

"Our expectation is that both candidates will use this forum to better educate the voting public on their vision for the future," Curran added in his statement.

News anchor Greg Warmoth will moderate the debate, which the station said will include questions on national security, national and state economic issues, Florida's environment and gridlock in Washington, D.C.

It's expected to be the only debate between Grayson and Murphy, who thus far haven't been able to agree on any other joint appearance ahead of the Aug. 30 primary.

The three other Democratic U.S. Senate candidates who qualified for the primary ballot -- Pam Keith, Reginald Luster and "Rocky" Roque De La Fuente -- were not invited to participate in WFTV's debate.

The station told the Herald/Times in a statement that participation was "predicated on each candidate's respective position in the polls."

"The threshold we used for our debate was 15 percent or higher. While there are many candidates for the Democratic Senate seat, only two meet that threshold:  Rep. Patrick Murphy and Rep. Alan Grayson," the station said.

Luster and De La Fuente joined the race only last month in time to qualify for the ballot and haven't been included in any statewide polls. Keith has been campaigning for about 20 months, longer than any other candidate from either major party, but most polls haven't included her. In News 13 / Bay News 9 polls in March and in June, Keith got 11 percent and 10 percent support, respectively.

WFTV Channel 9 said it plans to open its studios "in the weeks ahead for all candidates on both the Democratic and Republican sides to communicate their stance on the issues to the people of Central Florida.  We look forward to having them into our studios to tape these 3-minute segments."

No debates have been announced for the Republican candidates, incumbent Marco Rubio and challenger Carlos Beruff.