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In weekend visit in Tampa, Alan Grayson endorses $15 minimum wage, lets loose on Patrick Murphy

in 2017/Top Headlines by

Alan Grayson played devil’s advocate while meeting with a group of Tampa Bay area residents fighting for an increase in Florida’s minimum wage on Saturday afternoon in Tampa.

“The argument opponents make is that it might mean fewer jobs,” he said to the group assembled around a rectangular table at the Letter Carriers Hall. “Is anyone here afraid you might lose your job if you had $15 an hour?”

To the contrary, several people responded.

Grayson later said he would endorse the proposal in Congress sponsored in the House by Minnesota Democrat Keith Ellison that calls for raising the minimum wage to $15 by 2020.

“We need that now,” responded fast-food worker Clint Cuyler during the conversation when the Ellison bill was cited. He also helpfully corrected the congressman that the minimum wage in Florida is actually $8.05 an hour.

“Tuition has skyrocketed over the last few decades, but the average faculty pay has gone down, “ added Cole Bellamy, an adjunct professor of composition at St. Leo University, who says he makes only $24,000 annually.

“You seem to have different options,” Grayson told Bellamy.

“I love teaching,” Bellmany confessed. “I love higher education. I love what I’m doing. I love the institution. However, if you ask anybody in this industry, the prospects are pretty grim.”

Adjunct professors like Bellamy are all part of the coalition of employees whom the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has been working with over the past couple of years in Florida in their “Fight for $15,” campaign. Fast-food workers have led the charge, but the SEIU is also working with health home care and daycare workers

It was Grayson’s second appearance in Tampa in six days. On Monday, he met with local activists who have been involved in trying to get a tougher police civilian review board implemented in Tampa, and later that night he addressed the Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee, where his comment that the Democratic Club was a club “like the Crips or Bloods” who fought for the middle class became fodder for political blogs throughout the state.

“We defend our turf, and our turf is the middle class,” Grayson said on Saturday when asked about the comment, first reported by FloridaPolitics.com last Tuesday. On Wednesday, the Patrick Murphy campaign issued a press release slamming Grayson for the comment, which included a link to audio of Grayson making the remark.

On Saturday Grayson dismissed the negative reaction, saying the only criticism of his comments came from people “200 miles away.”

Just bringing up Murphy’s name was sufficient for Grayson to go into full attack mode on the Jupiter Democrat, saying the brouhaha was another “weapons of mass distraction” that he says the Murphy camp traffics in.

“What’s happened all throughout this campaign is that Murphy doesn’t want people to know about the fact that Murphy has announced on CNN that he plans to cut Social Security and Medicare,’ he said, smoothly transitioning into Murphy-bashing mode. “He wants people to know that he voted six times to force the president to license the Keystone Pipeline. He doesn’t want people to know he gave $2,300 to Mitt Romney out of his own pocket, or that he gave $4,800 to Charlie Crist when Charlie Crist was still a Republican. He doesn’t want people to know that he was the only Democrat out of 188 of us in the House of Representatives who voted to kill off high speed rail in Florida, even though it passes right through his district. So all he’s done is to deploy one weapon of miss distraction after another, in the vain hope that he can run away from his record, or largely his non-record, since as far as I can tell he’s accomplished very little except for Wall Street banks in the time he’s been in Congress.”

“Alan Grayson should be ashamed of himself for dismissing respected leaders in Florida’s African-American community, who condemned his comparison of the Democratic Party to vicious gangs,” Murphy spokesman Joshua Karp said when asked to respond on Monday. He also denied that Murphy intends to cut Social Security or Medicare.

“Instead, he is trying to change the subject with untruths about Patrick’s strong record for the middle class,” Karp continued. “The truth is Patrick has always stood strong for Social Security and has always opposed cuts to this vital safety net. Rather than launch baseless, reckless attacks, Alan Grayson should explain his vast fortune invested in ethically challenged Cayman Islands hedge funds.”

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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