The must-watch video above was produced and edited by HuffPost’s J.M. Rieger.
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WASHINGTON ― For the second time since Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) entered national politics, he’s on his way out.
In 2010, Grayson was swept out by the tea party wave after becoming enemy No. 1 of House Republicans ― not least for suggesting that their only health care policy was to let people “die quickly.”
But in 2012, after a redistricting gave him a favorably Democratic district, he surged back to office, pulling off the greatest election-to-election turnaround in House history. He handily won reelection in 2014, before jumping into this year’s Florida Senate race to replace the retiring Marco Rubio. (Having lost to Donald Trump in the Republican primary, Rubio reconsidered retirement and is making a bid for reelection.) Grayson was unsuccessful ― he lost the Democratic primary to one-time Republican Patrick Murphy.
Grayson hoped to carry the primary by relying on a progressive base of support, but was overwhelmed by establishment opposition to his campaign. In an unusually public display, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) not only threw his support behind Murph, the scion of a construction fortune, but also skewered Grayson. “I want you to lose,” he told Grayson in a private meeting.
With Grayson’s loss in Tuesday’s primary, Democrats will lose one of their versions of a Donald Trump ― minus the racism, misogyny, xenophobia, penchant for war crimes and all the rest. (Watch the video above for a taste of it.)
His loss is part of a national push by establishment Democrats against insurgent candidates, Grayson told HuffPost in an interview before polls closed.
“There’s a purge going on all across the country in which the party machinery is being used to defeat progressive candidates,” he said, citing establishment support for centrist or conservative Senate candidates in Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Maryland. In Pennsylvania, the party fended off populist Mayor John Fetterman and progressive Joe Sestak in favor of Katie McGinty. In Maryland, leadership favorite Chris Van Hollen got establishment support against a progressive African-American woman, Donna Edwards. And then of course, there’s Bernie.
“Here, it happened in some of the worst ways possible,” Grayson said, referring to a contribution to his opponent from an outfit he jokingly refers to as “Daddy PAC.”
In July, Murphy’s father dropped $1 million into the Senate Democratic Super PAC. Shortly after the contribution was made, the Super PAC announced it would run $1 million worth of ads backing Murphy, though it didn’t mention Daddy Warbucks.
“Before that ad started running, we were ahead,” Grayson said. “And now I don’t believe we’re any longer ahead, though we’ll see what happens tonight.”
Grayson was also dogged by stories stemming from his tumultuous divorce, which suggested he may have had violent tendencies. However, in one situation, video footage reportedly showed it was Grayson who was instead on the receiving end of the violence.
“The media didn’t deign to report any of that, they only reported the smear,” he said.
Grayson, meanwhile, dinged Murphy for his ties to Wall Street donors. “Strange thing when a second-term member of Congress, who isn’t a chairman or ranking member of the Financial Services Committee, gets more money from Wall Street than any other Democrat and all but two Republicans.”
Murphy has little shot against Rubio, Grayson said. “The [Florida] Democrats have run one right-winger after another, one party-switcher after another. At the state level, we lost 14 of the last 15 races with these right-wingers and party-switchers,” he said.
Grayson’s House term will expire in January. Afterward, he said he is considering working on voter disenfranchisement within the African-American community, noting that Florida is one of only three states in which a voting ban is permanent.
In the end, he said, he’s glad he ran the Senate campaign, which was an effort to show that a statewide bid can be made with small-dollar backers.
“I was trying to establish a different paradigm, just as Bernie Sanders tried to do at the national level, to show you don’t have to sell out to be a statewide or national candidate. We showed that, and raised over 4 million dollars,” he said. “We ran a substantive campaign, and I feel really good about that. We’ve shown people a way forward, and I’m proud of that. You don’t have to choose between the lesser of two evils, you can work through the political system to make the world a better place.”
This story has been updated to reflect Tuesday’s primary results.