Florida's outspoken Rep. Grayson draws GOP challenger

Miami HeraldOctober 16, 2009 

Republicans eager to unseat a brash Orlando Democrat who said their party's health care plan amounts to hoping people "die quickly" have so far been unsuccessful in finding a candidate.

But now comes a willing Republican -- all the way from South Florida.

Armando Gutierrez Jr., son of one of Miami's best-known political consultants and a member of local civic boards, voted in the city of Coral Gables as recently as April.

But he says he's the right person to take on Rep. Alan Grayson, who likes to call Republicans "knuckle-dragging Neanderthals" and has become one of the party's top targets in 2010.

Gutierrez, a 28-year-old real estate developer and Republican Party fundraiser, said he has already lined up endorsements from three Central Florida Republicans: U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis and state Reps. Chris Dorworth and Bryan Nelson.

At least three Orlando Republicans have declined to run against Grayson, who has millions of dollars of his own to spend on the race and is emerging as a rock star in the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. Even some Republican strategists say Gutierrez is a long shot.

"The fact that Republicans have to import their candidate from 300 miles away shows how strong Congressman Grayson is," said Eric Jotkoff, a spokesman for the Florida Democratic Party.

Gutierrez says he has been doing business in Central Florida for six years and started renting in downtown Orlando earlier this year. State law does not require congressional candidates to live in the district. He registered to vote in Orange County on Sept. 11, his birthday.

"The most important thing is that I've been in Florida for 28 years, a lot longer than Alan Grayson has," Gutierrez said of the Bronx native. "I know more about Central Florida than he does. How much has he invested in Central Florida?"

Gutierrez said he owns seven commercial and retail properties in the Lakeland area.

Grayson's chief of staff, Julie Tagen, said the congressman "is delivering progress to Central Florida. He is working hard and getting things done."

Read more at MiamiHerald.com

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