TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – It has been a rough week for Congressman Alan Grayson in his bid for the U.S. Senate.
While thousands of Democrats rallied in Philadelphia during the party convention, Grayson was trying to fend off domestic-abuse allegations by his ex-wife.
A Politico story about the allegations appeared to rock Grayson’s campaign, leading, for example, to two progressive groups withdrawing their endorsements of Grayson, a longtime favorite of liberals. Democracy for America and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee said in a joint release the decision was a first for both groups.
If a positive could be taken from Grayson’s camp, it was that the groups didn’t shift their support to Congressman Patrick Murphy, a Jupiter Democrat running against Grayson in the Aug. 30 Senate primary. Even before the allegations, Murphy had the support of the White House and many state and national Democratic leaders.
“Unfortunately, this deeply disappointing revelation (about Grayson) means progressives have no great options in the Florida race for Senate,” the joint release from the leaders of Democracy for America and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee said.
When endorsing Grayson in March, they had called him “one of our boldest and most reliable allies.”
Grayson’s ex-wife, Lolita, provided Politico two decades of records to help craft a narrative alleging domestic abuse. Alan Grayson’s attorney, Mark NeJame, told WFME in Orlando that the allegations, released “on the eve of an election” were “politically motivated.”
After the allegations emerged, Grayson drew more attention because of a videotaped run-in with a Politico reporter following a Politico-hosted event Tuesday in Philadelphia.
The reporter, Edward-Isaac Dovere, had tried to stop Grayson in an attempt to get a comment on the ex-wife’s allegations.
In one video, Grayson — as he attempted to exit the event — told the reporter, “You’re getting in my way, my friend. You’re assaulting a member of Congress.”
As a number of reporters taped the encounter, Grayson threatened to hand video to Capitol police.
When asked if he was going to accuse a reporter of assault for asking a question, Grayson responded: “No, not for asking me questions, but for getting in my face and being a fool and pushing me as I am trying to leave this event.”
Grayson spokesman David Damron later released a statement contending the reporter had been advised to contact the congressman’s staff for comment.
“The congressman had told the reporter earlier that he needed to contact his staff for comment, and then the reporter went and came back to confront him with a camera in tow,” Damron said in the statement. “The reporter then blocked the congressman from leaving as he tried to leave the event. The congressman specifically told the reporter ‘you’re blocking me,’ but the reporter continued to harass the congressman.”
Dovere responded in a tweet late Tuesday that “Grayson is lying: he never told me to contact staff. I have the tape!”
A CLEAR PATH?
After Mike Prendergast stepped down this spring as executive director of the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs, more than 300 people submitted applications for the job.
But with Gov. Rick Scott and the state Cabinet ready to consider a replacement Tuesday, signs are pointing to one candidate: Glenn Sutphin Jr., the department’s interim executive director.
During a meeting Wednesday of aides to Scott and Cabinet members, the only name put forward for an interview was Sutphin. Checks Thursday with the offices of state Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Attorney General Pam Bondi didn’t turn up the names of any other candidates expected to appear at next week’s Cabinet meeting.
Sutphin is a familiar figure at the Capitol. Before becoming interim executive director of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs in April, he had worked since 1979 for the Department of Military Affairs, serving as chief of staff and legislative affairs director, according to his application to the Cabinet.
The Department of Military Affairs is made up of the Florida Army National Guard and the Florida Air National Guard. Sutphin served in the Army National Guard from 1979 to 1999 and held a number of roles as an officer.
Scott and the Cabinet are expected to interview Sutphin on Tuesday. Under state law, the executive director of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs is appointed by the governor with the approval of the Cabinet members. The appointment also is subject to Senate confirmation.
Prendergast resigned this spring to run for Citrus County sheriff.
TWEET OF THE WEEK: “I approve this hug. #DemsIn Philly” — former Gov. Charlie Crist (@CharlieCrist), referring to a photo of President Barack Obama and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton hugging on stage at the Democratic National Convention.
The News Service of Florida’s Jim Turner and Jim Saunders contributed to this report.