By Yaël Ossowski | Florida Watchdog
TAMPA — The congressman with a knack for colorful hyperbole and an audible distaste for Republicans is back.
After losing District 8 to Republican Daniel Webster in the 2010 midterm elections, former Democratic U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson now is aiming for the newly configured and Democratic-friendly 9th Congressional District, south of Orlando.
Grayson first came to prominence in the U.S. House floor debates over health-care reform in September 2009. He summarized the Republicans’ plan for health care as “don’t get sick, and if you do get sick, die quickly,” drawing ire from many of his GOP colleagues.
He stoked further controversy when he described the nation’s current health-care regime as a “Holocaust in America,” and described those opposed to President Barack Obama‘s proposed reform as “foot-dragging, knuckle-dragging Neanderthals.”
But his most adversarial language may have occurred throughout his 2010 campaign for re-election against former Florida House Speaker Webster.
In a widely circulated ad, he labeled Webster “Taliban Dan” for certain fundamentalist comments about religion, as well as accused him of dodging the Vietnam War draft by receiving medical deferments, actions which cost Grayson votes and earned him the label of America’s “worst politician” by conservative columnist George Will.
Now, just four months before Election Day and weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court‘s ruling on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Grayson is once again campaigning on the issue which first brought him media stardom in 2009.
“I’m very happy that the people who are sick will be able to see a doctor, and get the help that they need to stay alive,” wrote Grayson in an email to Florida Watchdog, offering his first public reaction to the court’s decision to uphold the constitutionality of the law on June 28. “In our district alone, more than 100,000 people will enjoy health coverage under this law, including more than 50,000 Latinos.”
District 9 voters could hear this message frequently in the run-up to the general election.
The Orlando Sentinel reported last week that Grayson dropped more than $420,000 on campaign advertising on WFTV- Channel 9 alone. This coincides with the $1.8 million committed by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, to be shared with former Orlando Police Chief Val Demmings, running for Grayson’s former seat in the 8th District.
His early campaign ads have focused on embracing the populist rhetoric of the Occupy Wall Street movement, increasing taxes on wealthy individuals and ending the “tsunami” of super political action committee money in election advertising.
In an interview on Current TV’s War Room with John Fugelsang on June 22, Grayson referred to these issues.
“You know, people are fed up with the Republicans. The only things they care about are tax cuts and giving the president a hard time. And I’m talking about tax cuts for the 1 percent. They’re perfectly willing to see tax cuts for the working people disappear as soon as possible. And they just have the wrong priorities. People recognize that more and more,” he said on the program.
“The Republicans have an entirely different agenda, and that’s the fundamental difference. The Republicans care only about what is good for the 1 percent. It really is true … it’s who do you care about. The Democrats, the 99 percent. The Republicans, the 1 percent.”
When he served in the House, Grayson was the 11th richest member of Congress, having made his fortune as the first president of International Discount Telecommunications Corp., an energy and telecommunications firm in Newark, N.J.
Grayson is running unopposed in the Democratic primary, and will face the winner of the four-way GOP primary and businessman Mike Nieves, of Lake Mary, and Roberto Sanchez, of Poinciana, who have filed as independents.
The GOP candidates running for their party’s nomination in the 9th District are talk show host Todd Long, of Orlando; health-care consultant Julius Melendez, of Orlando; businessman Mark Oxner, of Orlando; and former state Rep. John Quinones, R-Kissimmee.
“Instead of trying to redesign America, Congress should be trying to resolve its economic issues and bring prosperity back to its citizens. Balancing the budget for example has no party, unless responsible financial policy is a party, both sides of the isle should concentrate on this first and politics second,” said Melendez, who was the only candidate who responded to Florida Watchdog’s request for comment.