Former Rep. Grayson to challenge Soto for congressional seat

Former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson is seeking to return to Congress, qualifying Tuesday to challenge a Democratic incumbent in an Orlando-area seat.

Grayson, a 60-year-old Harvard-educated lawyer, is challenging U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, a 40-year-old lawyer who served more than nine years in the Florida Legislature before his election to the Congressional District 9 seat in 2016.

Soto defeated Grayson’s wife, Dena Mining Grayson, in a four-way Democratic primary in 2016 in the district, which includes a portion of Orlando, Kissimmee and northeastern Polk County.

In a fundraising appeal, Grayson’s wife said Grayson, who left his former congressional seat to make an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate in 2016, would push for the impeachment of President Donald Trump, the expansion of Medicare and gun-reform legislation. Hillary Clinton carried District 9 by a margin of 55 percent to 42 percent over Trump in the 2016 presidential election.

Through March 31, federal elections records show Grayson had $695,000 in cash on hand, while Soto had $365,000. Also qualifying for the race Tuesday was Republican Wayne Liebnitzky.

Grayson was first elected to Congress in 2008, but he lost his seat to former state House Speaker Daniel Webster, a Republican, in 2010. Grayson returned to Congress in 2012 and won re-election to his seat in 2014, before making his Senate bid, where he lost the Democratic primary to former U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy.

Grayson formally launched his comeback attempt on the second day of a qualifying period in Florida for federal offices.

Also Tuesday, Gov. Rick Scott filed paperwork qualifying for his challenge of U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, the Democratic incumbent who qualified on Monday. Scott drew a Republican primary challenger in Rocky De La Fuente, who ran for the U.S. Senate as a Democrat in 2016 and later appeared on the presidential ballot as a Reform Party candidate.

Meanwhile, in Congressional District 17, state Rep. Julio Gonzalez, R-Venice, qualified for the Republican primary where he will face state Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota. The seat is open after incumbent Republican Tom Rooney announced he would not seek re-election.

In North Florida, U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, a Tallahassee Democrat, qualified for re-election in Congressional District 5, which stretches from the Tallahassee area east to Jacksonville. Lawson, a former state senator, is expected to be challenged by former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown in the Democratic primary.

As of Tuesday evening, 22 of the 23 congressional incumbents seeking re-election had qualified for the 2018 ballot. Four seats are open, and Webster had yet to file his paperwork.

Federal and judicial candidates have until noon Friday to qualify for their races. Candidates for state offices, including governor, Cabinet posts and the state Legislature, will qualify for their races from June 18 to June 22.


Information provided by The News Service of Florida