Nearly every pundit and political prognosticator has their eyes on the Florida Senate race as one that could potentially tip the balance of power.
As of now there is little clarity in the run-up to the Republican primary on August 30. Five strong candidates are currently in the race to replace outgoing Sen. Marco Rubio: two congressman, the lieutenant governor and two businessmen, any of which would make a formidable opponent. The Democrat primary field is firmer, but also more vitriolic, with progressive favorite Rep. Alan Grayson going toe-to-toe with establishment choice Rep. Patrick Murphy.
This race, between two highly flawed candidates, is about as ugly as it gets.
Grayson, who has a net worth of more than $30 million, was recently made the subject of a House Ethics Committee investigation over his role in managing a hedge fund that until recently was based in the Cayman Islands, a tax-free offshore haven.
“It’s appalling. It’s bad for the party, it’s bad for all elected officials, quite frankly,” Murphy said of the investigation. “What’s your number one concern? Is it your constituents or is it making money.”
“People hate mudslinging, which is all Murphy seems to be capable of doing, and they hate the DC establishment — the corrupt, inept DC establishment, which Reid has embodied his entire career,” Grayson said. “Our voters understand Patrick Murphy is an empty suit backed by more empty suits and he’s a sellout to lobbyists, and special interests, and multi-national corporations and big banks.”
Part of that establishment—Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid—hasn’t been shy about sharing his low opinion of Grayson. He’s previously said that Grayson’s “disgraceful” actions should “disqualify” him from the race and urged him to “drop out of the Senate race immediately.” The accusations prompted a tense exchange at a Congressional Progressive Caucus meeting in which Grayson repeatedly asked Reid to “say my name,” while Reid fired back, “I want you to lose.”
Then again, Rep. Murphy isn’t exactly squeaky clean either.
His road to the top of Washington politics has been completely paved by his wealthy father, a real estate developer in Florida. Murphy’s rather has given more than $1 million to super PACs supporting his son’s campaigns, over $180,000 directly to the candidate’s campaigns, and tens of thousands of dollars to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which (surprise, surprise endorsed his son).
Despite the influx of his father’s cash, Murphy has said that he finds the prevalence of big money in politics “disgusting” and said he’s on “every single bill out there to make sure we get money out of politics.”
Tellingly, when the Tampa Bay Times asked whether that included cutting off the biggest source of money flowing into his U.S. Senate race — his dad’s money — Murphy grew flustered.
“I hate the money in politics, and I hate the sort of gotcha questions, too,” Murphy said.
Perhaps more troubling, Rep. Murphy was one of the cosponsors of a bill that would lift restrictions on the EB-5 program, which grants visas in return for investment in U.S.-based businesses. The law would significantly help his father’s construction company, particularly a $1.7 billion project in Miami which is actively seeking Chinese investors.
“I’m a member of Congress and I’m not actively involved in the family business … so feel free to reach out to them and learn more about what they do,” was the best Murphy could muster when questioned by reporters.
The bottom line: Republicans may not have settled on a candidate to replace Sen. Rubio, but that’s a much better position to be in than to be forced to settle for one of these two crooked characters.