Has Grayson awaken the mighty GOP giants?

11 01 2009

By David M. Trotter

Florida’s 8th Congressional District has been a weird one to say the least.

In 2000, unknown conservative attorney Ric Keller pulled off two upsets, defeating moderate State Representative Bill Sublette in the GOP primary, and popular Democratic Orange County Chair Linda Chapin in the general.

In this past election, Keller (a four term Congressman by now) was defeated by the liberal multi-millionaire Alan Grayson. Grayson’s political ideology is not exactly what this mostly Orange County district has seen.

Early indications are that Grayson will have quite a liberal voting record. During the campaign, he didn’t hide the fact that he spent his time prosecuting war profiteers, and he also was proud of his liberal endorsements, like Democracy for America, which he proudly touted on his website.

But will Grayson hold on to the seat? Is Grayson the next Nancy Boyda, just a temporary replacement until the real GOP candidate arrives?

The Republicans are already talking about targeting his seat. Todd Long, the Republican who nearly defeated Keller in the 2008 primary, has already indicated to the Orlando Sentinel that he would be interested in seeking the seat again. But Long was just the anti-Keller Republican in 2008. Will his baggage be enough to win him the GOP nomination or the general election this time? I doubt it.

Still, the Republicans have a number of big hitters to run. The top two candidates that have to be considered for this seat is former Florida House Speaker Dan Webster and Orange County Chairman Rich Crotty. Both of these candidates are conservative enough to rally the base and have enough connections to bring in the kind of cash that will be needed to take on Grayson.

Others that have to be considered are Bill Sublette, Glenda Hood, Andy Gardiner, Randy Johnson and, possibly, Ric Keller again.

Bill Sublette will be the choice of many moderate Republicans. But many indications are that he will run for the newly created Orange County School Board Chair position. Glenda Hood have high name ID, but does she have any ambitions to continue in elected office? Who knows.

Andy Gardiner is another name that area voters know. But Gardiner just won his State Senate seat, and will more than likely stay put. Randy Johnson is a former State Representative from West Orange County. But has he been out of the game too long? Do people remember him?

And then there is finally Ric Keller. Will he run for his seat again? Anne Northrup of Kentucky proved that seeking your old seat might bring disastrous results. Northrup lost here seat by nearly 18%.

So when Alan Grayson beat Keller in 2008, that might have been the easy task. The GOP giants have been awaken, and are ready to sink their teeth into this seat.