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In Tampa, Alan Grayson says a Senate victory for him is the chance “to take our govt. back”

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“All rise!”

Those were the first words that Alan Grayson uttered in jest while entering a conference room at the Seminole Heights Library in Tampa on Thursday night.

The Orlando area U.S. Representative and U.S. Senate candidate then gave a sarcastic shoutout to the “trackers” who follow his every move in public, before setting in for the next hour-and-half- to take questions from approximately 80 people at the town-hall meeting.

Gun control, the environment, restoring the voting rights to ex-felons, and even his run-in with a POLITICO reporter during the Democratic National Convention were all fodder for discussion, as well as the de rigueur slamming of his main opponent in the Senate race, Jupiter Congressman Patrick Murphy.

“My opponent has taken more money from Wall Street than any other Democrat … or any other Republican other that that of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy,” he said. “He’s taken more money from Wall Street than the Chairman of the Banking Committee (Texas Republican Jeb Hensarling). How do you do that?” he asked.

He then answered his own question.

“You cut the law into little pieces and you sell it to the highest bidder,” Grayson said, adding somewhat ominously that a vote for him was “the last chance to say that you can either work for the people, or work against the people? You can either do the greatest good for the greatest number, or you can be a toady for special interests. That’s really what this election is all about. It’s a referendum on our system of government. One last chance to take our government back.”

The crowd – some of them wearing Bernie Sanders T-shirts – seemed totally in his corner. A couple of citizens said they didn’t know much about him before hand, but were impressed by what they were hearing.

One of those people was East Hillsborough activist Michelle Williams, who said her major issue was the restoration of voting rights for ex-felons. Grayson informed her that it was an issue that he cared a lot about.

There was one moment that could have gone sideways during the discussion. One citizen said there were “three troubling issues” that he hoped Grayson could speak to. One was his support for his wife, Dr. Dena Grayson, over his former staffer, Susannah Randolph, in the race to succeed him in Florida’s 9th Congressional District.

Grayson swatted that question away easily, espousing the virtues of having a doctor elected to the House of Representatives, especially in the time of Zika.

The second question was about the House Office of Congressional Ethics report that alleged that there was a “substantial reason to believe” that Grayson broke federal and House ethics rules in connection with his offshore hedge fund. And the third question was about the “admittedly ambushed interview” he had last month in Philadelphia with a POLITICO report, as well as “the larger issues pertaining to that.”

Those “larger issues” were the allegations by Grayson’s ex-wife that he had physically abused her.

Grayson said he would answer “all of the questions you have,” but added that “the things you refer to actually touch the lives of no one in this room, except possibly me.”

But, in fact, he did not answer at all answer the questions regarding the hedge fund or those “larger issues,” and instead simply focused on his confrontation with POLITICO reporter Edward-Isaac Dovere.

“In the NBA, if you want to take a charge, you have to stop moving your feet,” the congressman began, as he started to shuffle his own feet to demonstrate what he meant. “He went here, and there, and everywhere and consistently tried to block me, leading the room with his chest. I’ll tell you, I’ve never gotten that treatment, even from Republican trackers.”

Grayson went on to say that that he kept on telling Dovere that “you are blocking me.”

“Is that my fault? I don’t think so. I think it’s a strange thing that just because you’re a U.S. congressman running for a Senate seat that somebody would do anything like that,” he said, before apologizing to the rest of the room because he said it had nothing to do with their lives.

In response, Dovere tells FloridaPolitics that, “I’m not sure why the Congressman wants to keep discussing this, but there is a video on our site showing what happened — including his pushing me while claiming I was pushing him. As he said in that video, he attended a public event, and he is a public official. I was attempting to ask him questions about the serious allegations of domestic abuse by his ex-wife.”

Grayson has made frequent appearances in Tampa as he vies for the senate bid. Patrick Murphy hasn’t made as many visits, but his office did announce on Friday that he will be coming to Tampa on Monday to visit Tampa Bay Wave.

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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