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Daniel Webster Beats Incumbent Alan Grayson in Florida's 8th District

4 years ago
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Longtime state legislator Daniel Webster drubbed first-term Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson by a double-digit margin in a nationally-watched contest in the central Florida district that covers much of Orlando. Voters weren't so much angry with Washington as fed up with their outspoken incumbent congressman.

The amiable Webster had the strong support of local Tea Party activists although he is himself the antithesis of this year's angry outsider. More important to the district's voters, Webster, 61, is the antithesis of Grayson, an outspoken, Harvard-educated Obama supporter who made a national name for himself as the champion of the Democratic base and a favorite of liberal bloggers and MSNBC.

Grayson, 52, waged a relentlessly – and, many thought -- an overwrought and negative campaign. In particular one TV spot, a Grayson ad dubbed Webster "Taliban Dan" for his support of fundamentalist Christian views on women, marriage, divorce and abortion. Grayson apologized for taking a Webster quote wildly out of context, but only grudgingly. He was, many believe, the engine of his own destruction although this would have been a tough year even if the self-proclaimed "democratic populist" had waged a perfect – and perfectly civil – campaign.

Alan Grayson and Daniel Webster"Things haven't worked out exactly as we hoped," Grayson conceding to a packed, downtown crowd. "It was just that kind of a year."

Grayson's young supporters chanted "2012!," "Yes we did!" and "Grayson, Grayson!"

For Webster, it was enough this year to have high name recognition in the district and an "R" following his name on the ballot, and the deep, longtime support from conservative Christian groups. He rarely attacked Grayson, or even responded to his attacks. Webster avoided all debates – unusual for a challenger – and stuck to this year's GOP mantra: "Washington is broken."

Webster raised a paltry $1.3 million, compared to more than $5 million raised by Grayson, without having to draw on his own personal fortune, as the Democrat did in his previous two campaigns. (He lost a Democratic primary for the House seat in 2006).

"This is a new day for our Country and I am thankful to be a part of it," Webster told supporters at a hotel ballroom in Orlando's tourist area. Surrounded by his wife, children and grandchildren, the youngest of which he cradled in his arms, Webster finally took an oblique shot at Grayson.

"This is a huge victory for people who are tired of the politics of personal destruction," he said. "We ran a positive campaign against a broken system. Now it's time to begin the work of fixing it."

Webster was able to stick to the high road since national Republican groups and independent committees like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent more than $2 million on negative ads denouncing Grayson as a "Big Mouth Politician." Another commercial claimed he was a "big barker" who turned into Nancy Pelosi's "lapdog."

Grayson's supporters grumbled that in choosing Webster, an air conditioning contractor, voters may have chosen a representative that more accurately reflects this year's district voter profile: socially and fiscally conservative, bland, provincial and not too intellectual. In short, everything Grayson is not.

When Bill Clinton came to the University of Central Florida in Orlando on Oct. 20 to boost the sagging fortunes of Democratic candidates, the former President was almost upstaged by Grayson, who brought the audience of students and seniors to their feet by leading them in the chant made famous by Latin American leftists in the 1960s and 1970s: "The people, united, will never be defeated!" ("¡El pueblo unido, jamás será vencido!")

In the adjoining 24th District, which includes parts of heavily Republican Seminole County and several Atlantic coast beach communities, as well as Cape Canaveral, another first term Democrat, Suzanne Kosmas, ran as a classic Blue Dog, but suffered the same fate, losing to Republican challenger Sandy Adams, a former law enforcement officer and an outspoken conservative member of the state house of representatives, by 60-40. The district has a majority of registered Republicans.

Money was not a problem for either of the defeated Democrats. In the final two weeks of the campaign, the Orlando Sentinel reported that the Grayson and Kosmas campaigns, with the aid of Democratic Party and independent groups (like Moveon.org and the American Federation of Teachers for Grayson) blanketed local television airwaves with more than 600 commercials.

Grayson went down swinging, running a series of TV spots over the weekend that pounded Wall Street investment firms, banks and insurance companies for exploiting middle class Americans. In large, black, block letters, the spots proclaimed, "When They Lie, Stand With Grayson."

In less than two years in the House, Grayson made himself a lightning rod for many conservatives. He denounced the Republicans as "knuckle-dragging Neanderthals", the GOP's plan for health care ("Don't get sick...Die quickly!"), the Federal Reserve system (represented by a former "K Street whore"), Vice President Dick Cheney (a vampire who has "blood that drips from his lips"), and conservative pundits like Rush Limbaugh ("has-been, hypocrite loser...more lucid when he was a drug addict.").

A recent Newsweek column by George Will, headlined "American's Worst Politician," argued that the nation's "public life would be improved by scrubbing Alan Grayson from it" by ending his "short, ugly career."

"It's OK if the Republicans lose every seat in the Senate and the House except for one," Fox News's Glenn Beck told his fans. "As long as that one is Alan Grayson losing."

Always a counter-puncher, Grayson told his supporters before the election, "I'd like to win on Tuesday. For the sake of the battered middle class in America, the jobless, the homeless, the sick, the poor, the hungry and the desperate. But I would also like to win so that I can tell Glenn Beck to stick it. So that we can all tell Glenn Beck to stick it."

That won't be happening.
Filed Under: House, 2010 Elections

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17 Comments

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lawglynn

Another mean spirited, nasty partisan democrat removed from office and remitted to the nadir of oblivion. The American people regularly make mistakes at election time but they invariably correct them. I think Thomas Jefferson said that. God bless our wonderful system of government.

November 03 2010 at 2:28 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
blfintommy

Grayson never has represented the middle class- only the lefties- this time he couldn't fool enough people. Good riddance to this embarrassment.

November 03 2010 at 1:33 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
ilcapo

I'm proud of the people of most of the voters in Grayson's district. They were awakened to the truth about the left with this guy's "hate speech." The left loves to denounce conservatives for "hate speech" but I have NEVER heard a Republican ever come close to the rantings of this evil, vicious nut case. He's the worst of what American politics has to offer and needed to be sent packing. There's no excuse for his lies and rants. He would never debate an issue, he'd immediately turn to name calling. Worse than useless, it's people like him who give even bad politicians a bad name.

November 03 2010 at 1:01 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Geoffrey

I like Mr. Grayson - he's had the guts to call things as he sees them, and stand up to the hidebound bunch in congress. His first concern is for the people of this country, particularly the soon-to-be exterminated middle-class, down-trodden, disenfranchised and poor. I have no doubt that his campaign went down the wrong road many times, and that he may have misjudged the mood of his constituents, but his heart and politics were certainly in the right place.

November 03 2010 at 12:31 PM Report abuse -8 rate up rate down Reply
T. Vance

Is it true that he is being investigated and everyone expects him to be in jail next year at this time?

November 03 2010 at 12:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to T. Vance's comment
snrar

We can only hope !

November 03 2010 at 11:16 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
paulleddy6

Now he can get the job that he is really suited for, a pundit on MSNBC.

November 03 2010 at 11:50 AM Report abuse +7 rate up rate down Reply
bobnpath

being florida born in the 50's this makes me really happy... florida needs a turn around day and I hope this is the start of it!

November 03 2010 at 11:12 AM Report abuse +8 rate up rate down Reply
ds9dad

Isn't it interesting that the Republicans, the party of shrill incivility, act aghast when their tactics are used against them? Isn't it sad when Democrats get embarrassed when one of their own stands up to the republicans and uses their playbook? Alan Grayson has a spine and has passion. I don't know what Webster offers, except a path backwards , toward a "reality" that never actually was.

November 03 2010 at 10:59 AM Report abuse -10 rate up rate down Reply
nancysellsfla

Thank God!

November 03 2010 at 10:37 AM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
inlaws2

Grayson has left me and my family astonished over the last year with his arrogant, outrageous, and ignorent speech directed at political/professional opponents. I've been around awhile and witnessed "mud slinging", but this person certainly went over the top by reaching from the bottom. I dare say that his character and personality finally emerged out of desperation to "win" no matter what the cost. From outside looking in I can just imagine what opinions his family, associates, and peers privately think. Fortunately his demeanor emerged exposing his true self and saving we the people. We won this one. So long pal.

November 03 2010 at 9:44 AM Report abuse +20 rate up rate down Reply

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