Orlando — Thanks to overwhelming support from a growing Puerto Rican community in Central Florida, Alan Grayson, the pugnacious Jewish Democrat ousted in the Tea Party wave of 2010, is returning to Congress after a historic landslide.
Grayson’s success comes after the 18-point shellacking he took as an incumbent congressman two years ago. This time, he won by a margin of 62% to 38% in a newly drawn Orlando-area district, after a two-year effort to woo Puerto Rican voters.
“Florida’s non-Cuban Hispanic voters — and even an increasing number of Cubans — typically vote Democratic,” said Aubrey Jewett, professor of political science at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. “They supported Alan Grayson’s re-election in large numbers, and seem quite willing to form an alliance with Jewish Democratic candidates.”
At his election night victory party, at a nightclub called Salsa Latina, in Kissimmee, Fla., Grayson, facing an amped crowd of Latinos, seniors and young people on the small dance floor, began his remarks by quoting F. Scott Fitzgerald: “There are no second acts in American lives.”
Grayson smiled and paused a beat for effect. “Clearly, he was wrong,” he declared. The crowd erupted in cheers. A tall, volatile man with thinning hair, Grayson shot to instant celebrity soon after being elected to Congress in 2009 when he charged that the GOP alternative to Obamacare was to avoid getting sick. Beyond that, he warned in a 2009 speech from the floor of the House, “the Republican health care plan is this: Die quickly.”
Grayson’s pugilistic approach to politics earned him a bevy of supporters who loved him for the enemies he made. But the right-wing Tea Party surge of 2010 overwhelmed him in his closely balanced district and sent him to defeat.
His return was a product of cunning, stealth and money.