Florida’s freshman Democratic U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson was ousted by a veteran GOP politician after the Democrat earned notoriety for harsh rhetoric that included accusing Republicans of wanting sick people to “die quickly.”
To the north, seven-term Democratic Congressman Allen Boyd lost handily to a political newcomer who played up his outsider status and tea party connections, despite Boyd’s support from business groups and the National Rifle Association.
With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Republican Daniel Webster had 56 percent of the vote to Grayson’s 38 percent in their central Florida district around Orlando. Webster is one of Florida’s most experienced Republican politicians, with 28 years in the Florida Legislature where he served as House speaker and Senate majority leader.
Grayson’s liberal views made him the darling of the left but a top target for Republicans.
His “die quickly” comment came in late 2009 as he attacked Republicans’ stance on health care policy, and subsequent comments on other issues created more controversy. The incumbent had also labeled his opponent “Taliban Dan” in an ad that created a backlash in Webster’s favor.
“People want a congressman with guts,” Grayson said. “They want someone who is paying attention, getting things done for the benefit of our ordinary people.”
Boyd’s demise contrasted that of Grayson’s, in that Boyd was the veteran upended by a less-experienced politician.
Political newcomer Steve Southerland, a funeral director from Panama City, rode a wave of tea party enthusiasm and hammered Boyd for supporting President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul and stimulus program.
“We’ve got to reform Washington, D.C.,” Southerland said. “People see that it has been broke under Republicans and it’s been broke under Democrats.”
With 94 percent of precincts reporting in a district that stretches across 16 counties and two time zones, Southerland had about 55 percent of the vote, while Boyd had 40 percent.
Outside groups spent heavily to defeat Boyd, a farmer and Vietnam veteran from Monticello, a small town east of Tallahassee, citing his health care vote. He opposed the House version but later voted for the Senate bill, which ultimately passed.
Boyd said it met his criteria of giving patients the right to choose the insurance plan they prefer, cutting costs, providing coverage for up to millions of people now uninsured and not increasing the deficit.
“It was the right thing to do,” Boyd said. “I’m not in this for political gain or worried about the political risk.”
Not even endorsements from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Rifle Association, both rare for a Democrat, could save Boyd the conservative district.
A third Florida Democratic representative, Suzanne Kosmas, also was defeated in the Orlando area and a fourth, Rep. Ron Klein, was trailing as South Florida returns were slow to come in.