Mr. Grayson Salsas Back to Washington

Jewish Lawmaker Rides Puerto Rican Support to Orlando Win

Relaxed Race: Rep. Alan Grayson of Florida enjoys a laugh in the closing stages of a landslide comeback to Congress. He won by cultivating massive support from Puerto Rican voters in the Orlando area.
Sarah M. Brown
Relaxed Race: Rep. Alan Grayson of Florida enjoys a laugh in the closing stages of a landslide comeback to Congress. He won by cultivating massive support from Puerto Rican voters in the Orlando area.

By Mark I. Pinsky

Published November 13, 2012, issue of November 23, 2012.
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Out of office for the past two years, Grayson nevertheless remained in the media spotlight through more than a dozen of appearances on MSNBC; an impassioned defense of the Occupy Wall Street movement on HBO’s “Real Time With Bill Maher” and his support for the family of Trayvon Martin, the African American teen who was shot to death in Sanford, Fla., not far from his district. This exposure helped Grayson raise $3.5 million. Grayson enjoyed additional support from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which selected him as one of three “Majority Maker” candidates and poured some $2 million more into advertising for him. Long raised a paltry $91,000.

Grayson’s enduring, grassroots support is undeniable among working- and lower-middle class voters, and among the area’s small trade union movement. Notwithstanding his liberalism on other issues, his strong ties to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and down-the-line support for Israel on the 2008 Gaza War and on Iran, made him a liberal many pro-Israel activists—and donors—could also get behind.

Grayson made relatively few public appearances during the campaign, but at almost every one, someone would wait patiently in line to thank Grayson for using federal pressure to slow down bank foreclosures in the state while he was in Congress. His volunteers made an estimated 200,000 phone calls and walked most neighborhoods in the district.

The candidate’s image among conservatives as an unhinged wild man notwithstanding, Grayson appears to have carefully plotted his political comeback even before he was ousted. In a 2009 interview with this reporter, already aware of the political dangers he faced in his closely balanced district, Grayson was already gaming the race for 2012.

Pointing to a large map of Central Florida, Grayson explained that whatever happened in the upcoming 2010 midterm election, the Republican legislature, in order to preserve area GOP incumbents, would be forced to carve out a new, predominately Democratic district that would include a part of his old district. The seat would be perfect for him in 2012, he said. What he neglected to anticipate was that some in the media and in the Hispanic community would claim that it was designed for a Hispanic.


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