Five Democratic candidates for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Marco Rubio appear on Florida Democrats’ primary ballot. They are Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente, Alan Grayson, Pam Keith, Reginald Luster and Patrick Murphy.
In this post, I’ll first take a look at the money, then tell you a bit about the candidates and share the strategy I used to decide who to recommend.
As I described in my post about the Republican Senate candidates, a look at the money reported by the candidates to the Federal Election Commission tells a great deal about the state of the race. Through June 30:
Based on their contributions, spending, cash-on-hand and lack of name recognition, I don’t think Keith or Luster have any chance against the other candidates.
De La Fuente is a mystery. His campaign is essentially self-funded with $6 million in personal loans and has far outspent his competitors – and yet I’ve never heard of him. I don’t think he has a chance either.
So before doing any other research, I have narrowed my likely choices from five candidates to two. With that, let’s look at all five, in alphabetical order.
|“Rocky” De La Fuente|
Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente, age 61, describes himself as “an extremely successful entrepreneur [who] has created thousands of jobs across the nation and throughout Central and South America, and [who] can be counted upon to do the same for Florida.”
Born in California and educated in Mexico and the U.S., De La Fuente appears to have earned his fortune in car dealerships, financial services and real estate development. As a 2016 Democratic candidate for President, he accused DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz on Facebook of blocking him from participating in debates. A resident of Orlando, he filed to run for Senate in June 2016.
Alan Grayson, age 58, is a three-term U.S. Representativewho says he is “looking forward to bringing his political, legal, and business experience to the U.S. Senate.” He announced his intention to run in July 2015.
Grayson earned his B.A. in economics, Master’s of Public Policy, and J.D. degrees from Harvard University. After law school, he spent two years (1984–85) at the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, where he clerked for future Supreme Court justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia, and five years (1986–1990) at the D.C. law firm of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson, specializing in contract law. In the early ’90s, he helped co-found the telecom/internet company IDT Corporation, where he reportedly made his fortune.
In 1991, he founded the law firm Grayson & Kubli, PC (1991–2008), where, he says, “I specialized in whistleblower fraud cases aimed at Iraq War contractors. I am the only attorney to have successfully brought a fraud case to trial against those who illegally profited from the war in Iraq.”
Grayson sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee (including the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee and the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee), and on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee (including the Environment and the Oversight Subcommittees). He is Ranking Member of the Science Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy. More here.
The top three issue areas in which he has sponsored bills (2013 – present) are Taxation (32%), Economics and Public Finance (28%), and Armed Forces and National Security (13%), according to GovTrack.
Grayson has been called “a firebrand liberal” “dogged by ethics complaints over an offshore hedge fund he managed” and charges that he withheld information from his annual financial disclosure reports and used his office and official resources for unofficial purposes, including his Senate campaign. Grayson “waved off” the House Ethics Committee report, “arguing that the findings mean he’s practically in the clear,” said POLITICO.
More recently, he has been accused of domestic abuse by an ex-wife, as a result of which, POLITICO reports, several staffers resigned and “a chorus of Democrats called on him to quit the race, including the party’s future Senate leader,” Sen. Chuck Schumer. Grayson has vehemently denied the claims of his ex-wife.
There is no “endorsements” tab on Grayson’s website. He recently lost the endorsements of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy for America, high-profile progressive groups. And last week, MoveOn.org said, “We are not in a position to fully investigate these claims but take them very seriously…. In light of this disturbing news, we have decided not to issue any endorsement in this race at this time.”
Pam Keith, a Miami resident, is a former labor attorney and naval officer. The daughter of a U.S. Foreign Service officer, she was born in Turkey and spent most of her early years abroad. She earned Bachelor’s (1990) and Master’s (1992) degrees in rhetoric and communications from the University of California, and a J.D. (1995) from Boston College Law School. After law school, she served for four years in the U.S. Navy as a Judge Advocate (Chief Lawyer), then became a labor attorney, working with nationally-known law firms including Morgan Lewis and Jones Day in Washington, D.C. In 2011, she was recruited to join Florida Power & Light Co. / NextEra Energy, Inc. as Senior Labor and Employment Counsel. She left that position in August 2014 to run for the U.S. Senate.
Her candidacy has gotten little traction, and she rarely breaks into double-digits in the polls. With less than $2,500 in the bank on June 30, it’s hard to imagine she has much of a chance.
Reginald Luster is a former assistant U.S. attorney and founder/owner of Reginald Luster, P.A, a civil law firm in Jacksonville, FL, and Radiant Lands Corporation, a real estate investment and management corporation. He has a B.A. in history (1985) and a J.D. (1987) from Florida State University.
Patrick Murphy, age 33, has represented for Florida’s 18th congressional district since 2013. He describes himself as “a CPA and businessman who grew frustrated with the dysfunction in Washington and decided to take action.” He is a native of the Florida Keys. According to his website, “After graduating from the University of Miami with majors in accounting and finance, Patrick went on to work as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) for Deloitte and Touche, auditing Fortune 500 companies, before establishing his own environmental cleanup business.”
This description of his pre-Congress work experience and college degree has been the target of GOP attacks, and subsequent defense by President Obama. (See GOP hits Murphy in Florida Senate race, and Obama hits back.)
Murphy lives in Jupiter, FL, and filed to run for Senate in November 2015.
Murphy sits on the House Financial Services Committee (including the Capital Markets and Government Sponsored Enterprises Subcommittee and the Monetary Policy and Trade Subcommittee), and on the House Intelligence Committee (including the Department of Defense Intelligence and Overhead Architecture Subcommittee and the National Security Agency and Cybersecurity Subcommittee). More here.
The top four issue areas in which he has sponsored bills (2013 – present) are Taxation (26%), Government Operations and Politics (23%), Social Welfare (11%) and Armed Forces and National Security (11%), according to GovTrack.
He is ranked fifth most progressive among the 27-member Florida Delegation and 69th most progressive of the 192 House Democrats. See GovTrack’s complete Legislative Report Card on Murphy here.
As mentioned above, Murphy is being attacked for misrepresenting his background. A web ad by a PAC supporting Rubio’s campaign says Murphy “isn’t who he says he is.” The Murphy campaign has “pushed back.” PolitiFact Florida “found that Murphy’s description of his past employment is based on actual circumstances, but at times he omits a full explanation.”
A win in Florida could help shift the Senate back to Democratic control, and Party leaders early on thought Murphy, a moderate, had a better chance than “firebrand” Grayson of beating any of the Republicans expected to run.
Murphy has been endorsed by President Obama, Vice President Biden, 11 U.S. Senators (including Chuck Schumer, Harry Reid and Tim Kaine) and dozens of Congressmen. He has also been endorsed by numerous unions and groups, including the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the Florida Education Association (FEA), the Florida Police Benevolent Association (PBA) and NARAL Pro-Choice America, and there is an extensive list of state legislative and local endorsements.
I suspect that Murphy’s strong support and standing in the polls led to Republican Party pressure on Marco Rubio to reverse his earlier pledge not to run. “The decision instantly transform[ed] an already competitive race and improv[ed] Republicans’ chances of maintaining the Senate majority,” wrote PowerPost.
Murphy’s website is murphyforflorida.com, his Facebook page is here and he’s on Twitter @PatrickMurphyFL. The TV commerical in which President Obama endorses Murphy is here. The Wikepedia page on him is here.
The most current RealClearPolitics average of Florida Senate Democratic Primary polls, taken between March 2 and June 27, shows Murphy with 29.3%, Grayson with 21.0%, Keith with 6.5%, and Other/Undecided with 43.2%.
More recently, a StPetePolls.org poll on August 2 of 1,807 likely voters showed Murphy with 44.7%, Grayson with 20.1%, Keith with 7.2% and Other/Undecided with 27.9%.
Not only is Murphy the likely winner in the Democratic Primary, he also seems to have the best chance of beating Rubio in November, according to the most recent RCP averages – although the win itself is not likely:
|RealClearPolitics Florida Senate Match-Ups as of 8/6/16|
I’m a pragmatic primary voter. Like the Democratic Party leaders who anointed Murphy, I would like to see control of the Senate go to the Democrats. I am not particularly bothered by the charges that Murphy inflated his resume. And if the more-liberal Bernie Sanders couldn’t beat the more-moderate Hillary Clinton in the Presidential Preference Primary in March, why expect Grayson to beat Murphy in November?
Murphy is the Senate Primary candidate with the best chance of the five candidates of beating Rubio. That’s why I recommend a vote for Patrick Murphy in the August primary.
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