WASHINGTON -- Former Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson has taken an unconventional approach to boosting his bid for Florida's 9th congressional district seat, spending more than $100,000 to attack the man who could be his strongest GOP competitor -- even though Republicans haven't chosen their nominee yet. By weakening John Quiñones, Grayson could help ensure that one of the other three GOP opponents could instead get the party's nomination on Tuesday, likely setting up an easier election for Grayson in November.
This approach, however, has raised the ire of former Florida Gov Jeb Bush (R), who sent a stern warning to Grayson on Friday to stay out of the GOP race.
"I encourage Mr. Grayson to take down his ads, stay out of the Republican primary and let the voters of Central Florida to choose their nominee without his help," Bush said in a statement Friday. "There will be plenty of time for Mr. Grayson to defend his liberal tax-and-spend record in the fall."
Grayson's campaign recently sent out a mailer labeling Quiñones as the "Tax Man," saying he raised taxes as a state lawmaker and as a current member of the Osceola County Commission. Quiñones, who is serving in the Florida House of Republicans and is of Puerto Rican ancestry, is seen as potentially having the best chance on the GOP side of beating Grayson in the district, which has a heavy Hispanic -- and Democratic -- population.
The mailer even invokes Bush, reading, "Gov. Jeb Bush vetoed the Quiñones Plan because it was 'taxation without representation on a large scale.'"
The Orlando Sentinel notes that the issue is "a local-option tax on rental cars that Orange County officials had urged to help fund road and transit problems. It passed the Legislature, but then-Gov. Jeb Bush vetoed it, calling it -- as the mailer accurately noted -- 'taxation without representation.'" Voters would have had to approve the tax in a local referendum before it went into effect.
In his veto message, Bush said, "While I appreciate the inclusion of voter approval as a prerequisite to implementing the new tax, these taxes will be paid disparately by tourists visiting Florida, consequently creating taxation without representation on a large scale. Philosophically, I cannot support this."
Bush, however, accused Grayson of misquoting him on Friday.
"I find it in utterly poor taste that Alan Grayson would use my statements, misquoted and out of context, for political gain," he said in his statement.
"The one thing that Jeb Bush and Congressman Grayson agree on is that the Quiñones Plan to raise taxes was, and is, a bad idea," Grayson campaign manager Todd Jurkowski replied in an email to The Huffington Post. "The same is true of Quiñones's votes to raise taxes and fees on driving, haircuts, insurance, hunting, fishing, firefighting, 9-1-1 calls and churches. He has imposed on Osceola County the highest taxes in Central Florida. As the JohnQRaisesTaxes.com website demonstrates, John Quiñones truly is 'The Tax Man.'"
Quiñones consultant John Dowless recently told the Orlando Sentinel that Republicans were taken totally "off-guard" by Grayson's attack ads, which could benefit long-shot candidate Todd Long.
"It is a tight race. And I'm not just saying that," Dowlesss said. "I just hope the Republicans are wise and see where these attacks are coming from -- and why."