Orlando Congressman Alan Grayson is often described as a “liberal firebrand” for his passionate and sometimes combative encounters in the media and on Capitol Hill. As part of our series profiling the candidates running for U.S. Senate, WMFE’s Catherine Welch caught up with Grayson on the campaign trail, where she saw a softer side of the outspoken congressman.
Many Floridians, and the rest of the nation, first got to know Alan Grayson in a 2009 House floor speech that went viral on YouTube.
He was speaking about healthcare and said, “Remember, the Republican plan: don’t get sick. And if you do get sick, die quickly.”
More recently he was the subject of an ethics probe about whether he used his name and position in congress to gain investors in his private hedge fund, a congressional no-no.
He defended himself on MSNBC saying, “so what?” to the fact that his name and likeness were associated with the fund.
Grayson blames his democratic primary rival, Patrick Murphy, for the probe and bristles when asked why Democratic leaders, including President Obama, chose not to endorse him, then he shrugs. “The support that matters when you’re running in a democratic election is the support of the voters, and I’ve got it.” Actually Grayson trailed Murphy in the polls from March to June.
Freelance journalist Mark Pinsky, has been reporting on Grayson for the last six years. He said, “My sense is that he’s well known in Central Florida. I don’t think he’s that well known in the panhandle, I don’t think he’s well known South Florida.”
Central Florida voters got to know Grayson when they first sent him to congress in 2008. He lost the seat two years later and returned in 2012. By then he had established himself as a tough-talking liberal media darling. That persona, Pinsky says, is for Grayson supporters outside of Florida, who have donated more than $400,000 to his campaign.
“That is, large numbers of people, maybe in the hundreds of thousands, who see him as their congressman, their representative. And that is where a good deal of his money comes from. I think he speaks to his national base when he goes on national television.”
But on the campaign trail, he’s a different man. At Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, the towering Grayson bent down to talk to a young boy. As he met parishioners he never mentioned he was running for senate. He also didn’t mention it at a stop at a low-income housing complex. Longtime resident Mona Lisa Arnold invited Grayson into her tiny apartment and shared stories of gunfire outside her window.
This toned down persona doesn’t reflect Grayson’s headline-grabbing personal life. Back in May he married a woman running for his congressional seat. And last year his 25-year marriage came to an end when it was annulled after Grayson learned that his ex-wife was married to another man at the time that they wed. Now Lolita Grayson has come forward with allegations that he abused her. Grayson’s lawyers insisted that the claims are false and she is trying to derail his senate campaign.
Freelance journalist Mark Pinsky thinks if that is the case Grayson’s ex-wife has succeeded. “Whether the charges have a basis in fact or not, the fact that they have been reported to police, the fact that there are four of them in two states, I think the damage is done and the damage is probably fatal.”
Since the announcement two of the nation’s largest progressive groups have pulled their support of Grayson.