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With Alan Grayson set to announce a Senate bid, the political dominoes are about to fall in Central Florida

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Rumors surrounding U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson and his designs on the Senate seat Marco Rubio will soon vacate are nothing new.

But with word spreading the self-proclaimed “Congressman with Guts” will officially announce tomorrow, efforts to prepare for the electoral domino effect he will leave in his wake are gaining a new urgency.

Grayson’s decision to give up a coveted seat in the U.S. House to tussle with U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy for the Democratic Senate nomination opens up anew a rich vein of speculation over who will seek to replace him and, in turn, who will replace them.

For starters — Kissimmee state Sen. Darren Soto will almost certainly make a bid to jump to Congress in Grayson’s 9th Congressional District, which skews Hispanic (about 44 percent) almost as much as it skews liberal. (Cook Political Report rates it “D+4.”)

The 37-year-old pol hasn’t lost an election yet since coming to the Florida House in a 2007 special election, where he defeated both former state Rep. Tony Suarez and a crowded Democratic primary field that included a candidate supported by the progressive Orlando power couple of Orange County Tax Collector Scott Randolph and his wife Susannah, Grayson’s congressional district director.

Which is where the race for FL-9 really gets interesting — Susannah Randolph is said to have an active interest in the seat, setting up the possibility of a primary between Randolph, Soto and biochemist Dr. Dena Minning, who just happens to be Grayson’s significant other.

That would create a fiery contest that both fractures the Grayson camp and activates the Randolph machine for a rematch against Soto.

And then there’s the question of Soto’s current perch in SD 14, a deep-blue seat that takes in a large portion of FL-9 in inland parts of Orange, Osceola and Polk counties.

Democratic insiders say state Rep. Victor “Vic” Torres may find himself a clean winner amid the congressional intrigue.

In a region where Anglo and Hispanic relations are sometimes tense within Democratic leadership, Torres is seen as a uniting force along with his wife Carmen Rodriguez-Torres, who more than one source called “the power behind the throne” within the nascent Torres dynasty, such as it is.

The question then becomes, will she step out from behind the scenes — like Randolph figures to —  and run for her husband’s House seat in HD 48, or will she maintain her largely unsung avenues of influence as a peacemaking go-between?

Though the election is a long way away, there’s no denying she would be formidable in an early 2017 special election, if the going projections hold up. But sources say the Torres’ daughter and former House candidate Amy Mercado may have a go at it instead. And so too may party activist Betsy Franceschini, who like both Soto and the Torres family is a member of Greater Orlando’s burgeoning Puerto Rican community. In many Central Florida elections, that community is often decisive.

Ryan Ray writes about campaigns and public policy in Tampa Bay and across the state. A contributor to and before that, The Florida Squeeze, he covers the Legislature as a member of the Florida Capitol Press Corps and has worked as a staffer on several campaigns. He can be reached at

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