As the GOP primary race to take on liberal firebrand Alan Grayson heads into the final weeks, the incumbent Congressman might be telegraphing who he is most afraid to take on.
By Jacob Engels
With less than two weeks to go before the August 26th primary, the GOP’s Peter Vivaldi is getting some unwanted attention from his possible general election opponent – Congressman Alan Grayson. While Grayson has remained noticeably quiet in regards to the GOP primary field hoping to best him in November, it seems that he is turning up the heat on Vivaldi – who many view as the best candidate to take on Alan Grayson come November.
A few months ago, a robocall went out to voters gauging their opinions of the candidates in District 9 – mentioning Peter Vivaldi, Carol Platt, and Alan Grayson. The poll asked prospective voters if the election was held today….who would you vote for, along with whether or not they had a favorable or unfavorable opinion of the three.
Advisers or consultants from all three GOP campaigns of Jorge Bonilla, Peter Vivaldi, and Carol Platt all denied commissioning the poll and pointed the finger at Grayson, who spent hundreds of thousands of dollars last election cycle meddling in the GOP primary – hitting Hispanic Osceola County Commissioner John Quinones who was viewed as his strongest general election opponent. Whether or not Grayson was behind the poll remains a mystery, but he’s looking pretty good for it right now.
Notice how the poll did not mention Bonilla, who has led a shaky campaign plagued by his connection to South Florida political interloper and blogger Javier Manjarres. Does that send the message that Grayson’s camp was trying to confirm their suspicions that Platt would be the weakest candidate and Vivaldi the strongest, with Bonilla being a non-factor or equivalent to Platt? Who knows…
Platt, is an Osceola County Realtors executive who has deep connections to the Bush family and has received the endorsement of former Governor Jeb Bush. Many have questioned whether or not she is a viable candidate in a democratic leaning heavily minority district, despite her ability to tap GOP donors who she worked for the Bush family in the past 10 years – netting her $250,000 to date.
Bonilla on the other hand, who is of Hispanic origin like Vivaldi, has seen his campaign lag because of his former boss – blogger Javier Manjarres, who had been stalking and harassing fellow Republican Hispanic Peter Vivaldi’s daughter, wife, and campaign volunteers. Mr. Bonilla and Manjarres were seen sitting together at the Orange County Republican Executive fundraising dinner earlier this month, not so much as exchanging a word. Maybe Jorge is trying to keep their relationship on the “DL” because of the bad taste it’s put in the mouth of voters. The Orlando Sentinel named Jorge the “Chump of the Week,” last week.
Vivaldi, who has faced criticism for a bad check he wrote over 25 years ago unknowingly, has received considerable support from the Hispanic community in his campaign. To date, he has the support of over 150 pastors and churches in the district, who count tens of thousands in their respective congregations. He has also received the endorsement of the ever-popular Orange County Commissioner Pete Clarke and former Governor of Puerto Rico Carlos Romero Barcelo. Vivaldi is a former youth pastor, and currently works as an executive for Health Fair as well as serving on the board of Hope Now International and several other politically related boards and committees. Out of the three candidates in the race, Vivaldi has been the most visible at community events and gatherings, working the crowds at both GOP leaning and non-partisan events.
Fast-forward a few months after Grayson’s first suspected meddling in the GOP primary, and we find the Congressman’s campaign volunteers canvassing Avalon Park – allegedly harassing supporters of Vivaldi. Last week, according to several Vivaldi supporters who have campaign signs displayed in their yard – Grayson’s campaign staff rang their doorbell and began interrogating them about why they are supporting Mr. Vivaldi.
“They came to our door and became very aggressive about our support for Peter. The gentlemen asked why we would support someone like Peter over Grayson and was not happy when I did not budge. I understand & admire their support for who they believe in, but it was over the top – the way they were carrying themselves was not friendly. I told them I’ve known Peter for a long time and believe that he is the best person for our district and shut the door,” said Avalon Park resident Jose Pickard.
Similar reports of incidents like these have occurred in the past few weeks throughout District 9, particularly in East Orlando.
“People have been stealing signs from my yard, my parent’s yard, and several of our supporters. It’s hard to believe this a Republican on Republican crime, but whomever is doing it is pathetic,” said Vivaldi.
So, with less than two weeks to go before the August 26th primary, is it possible that Alan Grayson is preparing to get involved in this primary & try to stave off a potential win for Vivaldi – whom he views as his biggest threat? Only time will tell, but if history is any indicator of the future – I’d be willing to bet something is brewing over at Alan Grayson campaign HQ. What that is…..we simply don’t know.
We called the Grayson campaign and left a message. They have recently seen a shake up in their comms department, and we expect that when the new Communications Director settles in next week that we will get a comment from the campaign about the robocall and their involvement in the GOP primary.
Jacob Engels, is the Founder of East Orlando Post & Seminole County Post. He is a seasoned political operative who has led numerous statewide political groups and has worked on several high-profile local, statewide, and national races. Jacob has been interviewed on national television & radio programs, with his work having been featured in the Orlando Sentinel, New York Times, Washington Post, Miami Herald and other publications nationwide. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org