In Florida’s 8th Congressional District, an area that encompasses portions of Orlando, incumbent Alan Grayson, a Democrat running for his second term in office, plans to unleash some “money bombs” against Republican challenger in Daniel Webster.
Candidates for Florida’s 8th Congressional District (two-year term)
(Encompasses portions of Orange County, Lake County, Marion and Orlando, including Disney World. See a boundary map here.)
Candidate: Alan Grayson
Political experience: In 2006, Grayson made an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic nomination in Florida’s 8th Congressional District. In 2008, he earned his party’s nomination and defeated Ric Keller (R-FL), who was seeking a fifth term in office.
According to his U.S. House of Representatives biography, Grayson serves on the House Committee on Financial Services and the House Committee on Science and Technology. Grayson also serves on the Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations and the Science and Technology Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight.
Professional experience: Grayson attended Harvard College, earning both his law degree and master’s degree in government in 1983. According to Grayson’s website, after graduate school, he became a judge’s assistant at the D.C. Court of Appeals, working with judges Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Robert Bork and Antonin Scalia.
In 1985, Grayson joined Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson, the Washington law firm in which Ginsburg’s husband, Marty, was a partner. Grayson specialized in government-contracting law during his time with the firm, leaving in 1990 to start IDT Corp., a telecommunications company. According to Graysonforcongress.com, Grayson later sold his interest in IDT.
In 1991, Grayson also became a founding partner in Grayson & Kubli (now Kubli & Associates), a law firm based in Vienna, Va. According to Whorunsgov.com, Grayson continued his previous work of representing government contractors in cases against the government. After the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, however, Grayson began taking on more whistle-blowing cases involving contractor fraud against the United States.
Key issues: As he did in his law practice, Grayson is an advocate for cutting wasteful government spending. During his first term in the House, he sponsored H.R. 1664, the Grayson-Himes Pay for Performance Act of 2009. Intended as an amendment to the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, H.R. 1664 would put a limit on executive compensation at firms that have received TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) funds.
Grayson also is an outspoken advocate of health care reform, making headlines in September 2009 for his candid presentation of the “Republican Health Care Plan” (watch the YouTube video here). On March 21, Grayson voted in favor of H.R. 3590, the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act.
Endorsements: In July, the League of Conservative Voters Action Fund endorsed Grayson’s re-election in Florida’s 8th Congressional District. In June, director Oliver Stone also gave Grayson his endorsement, referring to Grayson as a “warrior for peace” on CongressManWithGuts.com for his work to get American troops out of Iraq.
Chances of maintaining his seat: Quoted on “The Buzz” blog of the St. Petersburg Times, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean called Grayson the “number 1 target of the GOP” and a “health care hero.” Grayson has some impressive endorsements, a no-nonsense approach to politics and a talent for creating what he calls “money bombs” that bring in significant campaign contributions. With his high-profile public persona and ample campaign funds, Grayson has a good chance of keeping his seat for a second term.
Candidate: Daniel Webster
Political experience: In 1980, Webster was elected to the Florida state house, which was under Democratic control at the time. During his 18 years in the Florida house, Webster became the speaker of the house in 1996, the first Republican to do so in 122 years.
In 1998, Webster was elected to the Florida state senate, retiring in 2008 after serving 28 years in the Florida legislature. As a senator, Webster sponsored State Bill 804 in an effort to keep Terri Schiavo on her feeding tube. Schiavo was brain-damaged after suffering cardiac arrest in 1990, passing away in 2005 after a long-legal battle involving both her husband and parents.
Professional experience: After earning an engineering degree in 1971 from Georgia Tech, Webster returned to work for Webster Air Conditioning & Heating, Inc., the business owned by his father. Webster still owns and operates this family business.
Key issues: According to electwebster.com, Webster wants less government control in people’s life. During his years in the Florida legislature, Webster worked on reforms to Florida’s welfare system, reducing the emphasis on cash payouts and more focus on job training and education. In 2001, after the controversial presidential election, Webster also worked on reforms to help Florida counties update their voting systems.
As witnessed by the Schiavo story and SB804, Webster is a strong right-to-life candidate. Webster’s legislative work in Florida also included family initiatives, including the right for parents to homeschool their children.
Endorsements: Former governors Jeb Bush and Mike Huckabee have given their endorsements to Webster.
Chances of unseating Alan Grayson: Unlike Grayson, who makes national headlines, Webster is a quiet, conservative candidate with a reputation for getting the job done. Because Grayson produces plenty of sound bites and already has unleashed some attack ads against Webster, the incumbent has a good chance of earning his second term.
Key Differences between Alan Grayson and Daniel Webster:
Grayson and Webster both advocate cutting wasteful government spending, but each takes a different approach. Grayson’s legislation is directed primarily at contractor abuse in Iraq and financial firms that received government bailouts. In his time in the Florida legislature, Webster focused on individuals taking more fiscal responsibility for themselves, especially when it comes to Welfare benefits.
Grayson has also taken Webster to task for ignoring the big picture. In a letter sent to supporters, Grayson attacked Webster’s “covenant marriage” legislation in Florida, which would make it more difficult to obtain a divorce. In his letter, Grayson compared covenant marriage to the policies of the Taliban in Pakistan, referring to Webster as “Taliban Dan.”
Florida’s 8th U.S. Congressional District
Location: Located in North Central Florida, the 8th Congressional District includes the cities of Eustis, Ocoee and Conway. This district also includes the portion of Orlando that contains Disney World.
2008 results: Grayson defeated Republican incumbent Ric Keller 52 percent to 48 percent.
Demographics: According to a 2006-2008 American Community Survey (ACS), the 776,225 residents of Florida’s 8th Congressional District fall into the following groups: 74.3 percent white, 12.3 percent black, 4.4 percent Asian, 0.8 percent American Indian or Alaska native, 0.1 percent native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander and 5.8 percent other.
The Cook Partisan Voting Index of registered voters gives FL-8 an R+2 rating, indicating a slight Republican lean in this district.