Alan Grayson, a liberal firebrand who ignited controversy during his previous tenure in Congress, has decided to run again for his old seat representing a district in Florida.
His decision sets up a showdown in the Democratic primary with Rep. Darren Soto, the first Florida congressman of Puerto Rican descent, who succeeded Grayson after he made an unsuccessful Senate bid in 2016.
Grayson, an unabashed liberal who once bragged that his supporters would be willing to “crawl naked over hot coals” to vote for him, said in an interview that he’s running again “because it’s what the people want.”
“My support in my old district is still very high,” Grayson said, adding that his polling has shown most people don’t know Soto is the incumbent. “Most people think me or the mayor of Orlando is the incumbent. That kind of shaves off the values of incumbency.”
Grayson, 60, said he plans to highlight ideological divides with Soto on issues such as Social Security, abortion rights and gun safety. And if central Florida voters want to talk about impeaching President Trump, Grayson said he is happy to go there.
“I understand a lot of people think the issue isn’t ripe yet,” Grayson said. “I think it is. . . . I lived through Watergate. This is worse than Watergate.”
To this point, Soto has not joined House liberals in voting to proceed with impeachment.
In the interview, Grayson also said he doesn’t think Soto’s heritage will be a factor.
“We have real problems in our district,” he said. “The last thing on people’s minds when they decide who they want to represent them is where your father was born.”
During his campaign, Grayson said he plans to highlight the difference a congressman can make for his district.
“You can drive around town and see all the things that I got money for,” he said.
Grayson previously served a single term in Congress representing the 9th District, starting in 2009, and then returned in 2013 and served two more.
In 2016, he fell short in his bid to win a U.S. Senate seat, losing to fellow House member Patrick Murphy in the Democratic primary. (Murphy, in turn, lost the general election to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).
Much of the Democratic establishment — including then-Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) — rallied around Grayson’s opponent in the primary. During the race, Grayson faced allegations of domestic abuse, which he strongly denied, and got into an altercation with a Politico reporter.
A report by the Office of Congressional Ethics released that April also found Grayson might have violated congressional rules and federal law by running a hedge fund while he served in Congress — a charge he dismissed as “nonsense.’
Grayson has been mulling a comeback for some time but until Tuesday had not revealed the district in which he would run. Members of Congress are not required to live in the district they represent.
As he has geared up for a run, Grayson has been active on Twitter, touting his commitment to the environment and education, among other things, and firing off some provocative tweets.
“Trump’s Syria policy isn’t ‘locked and loaded’; it’s more like ‘blocked and bloated,’ ” Grayson wrote last month. “‘Blocked’ because, as we found out yesterday, Trump isn’t really willing (or able?) to do anything against Syria’s Big Daddy, Russia.”
The Democratic primary is scheduled for Aug. 28.