Grayson faces friendly Tampa crowd amid recent controversies

Democratic U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson didn't exactly get grilled by his audience at a Tampa town hall meeting Thursday evening, nor did he get roasted. And he was indeed his usual raw self.

The Orlando Congressman who's running for Marco Rubio's U.S. Senate seat started off telling the crowd of 75 about how he is the only candidate in the race who is raising most of his campaign cash from small donors, which he said means he is “un-bought and un-bossed.”

He said this contrasts his Democratic primary opponent, U.S. Rep. from Jupiter Patrick Murphy, the establishment favorite in the race.

"Nobody owns me, and because they don't own me they want to destroy me," he said. "If they can't defeat you, they want to destroy you."

Grayson enjoys unwavering support from the Democratic Party's progressive wing, even as bad press — including allegations of domestic abuse — and oft-bombastic behavior have gotten him in trouble.

When asked about the recent altercation with a POLITICO reporter, Grayson upheld his side of the story saying that the reporter “chest bumped” him several times and blocked Grayson from leaving. Then, he said that he doesn’t want to waste anyone’s time talking about these controversies.

"The things you referred to touch the lives of no one in this room, except me," Grayson said.

He did not address the domestic abuse allegations.

Most questions he fielded dealt less with his personal issues and more with his policy positions, like his opinions on legalizing medical marijuana, raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and gun control measures, all of which Grayson supports. Grayson was also asked about his standing on Trans-Pacific Partnership, a centerpiece of the progressive platform he opposes out of concern over the policy's potential negative economic impact.

Grayson also tore into Murphy, who refuses to debate him. Grayson called Murphy a “coward” and an “inarticulate loser” when speaking with reporters before the town hall meeting.

Grayson’s opponents also include Miami labor attorney and former naval officer Pam Keith, former assistant U.S. attorney Reginald Luster of Jacksonville and real estate developer "Rocky" Roque De La Fuente of Orlando.

Should he win the primary, he would likely face Rubio in a general election that will be in the national spotlight as Democrats seek to win back the Senate.

At one point, Grayson was asked if he would debate a fully vetted Libertarian candidate, to which Grayson asserted that there is no evidence that shows the candidate’s chances of winning and that he doesn’t want to “waste your time with things that don't matter.”

However, there were a few members of the Libertarian Party of Florida who were frustrated with Grayson's refusal to debate a Libertarian candidate or answer any follow up questions about the matter.

“You said you were open to everybody, but reality was you were a Democrat pitching to Democrats preaching to the choir,” said Susan Stanley, 53, who is the membership chair for the Libertarian Party of Florida. “I wish he was a little bit more open and forthcoming with what I would consider the whole truth.”

The primary election is Aug. 30.

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