Grayson hires new staff to recharge U.S. Senate campaign
U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando, has hired new top-level staff for his U.S. Senate bid, replenishing his campaign's ranks following the departure of high-profile aides in recent weeks.
"As we move into the next phase of the campaign, we are re-tooling and, as always, aggressively running to win," the campaign said in a statement today, confirming the two new hires to the Times/Herald.
Among them is a familiar face from Grayson's congressional office: David Damron. Damron had been Grayson's press secretary but is now taking over press operations for his boss' Senate bid. Damron also worked on Grayson's 2014 re-election campaign and, before that, was a reporter covering politics in Florida for nearly two decades.
The campaign also hired as political director Mario Piscatella, who was formerly the executive director of the Florida Young Democrats and has worked on a variety of campaigns throughout the country.
"As voters start to pay more attention to this race, we will continue to build up our winning team," Grayson's campaign said.
Two weeks ago, Grayson's campaign manager Doug Dodson left, and senior adviser and spokesman Kevin Franck's last day was Dec. 15. Deputy campaign manager David Keith left the campaign’s day-to-day operations earlier this fall but was to remain as an informal adviser. The departures were all mutual, the campaign said.
But critics have said those exits indicated growing turmoil in Grayson's camp, which is also grappling with sluggish fundraising and a congressional ethics investigation into the congressman's hedge funds. Grayson's campaign had shrugged off those notions, saying the staffing changes were "normal in the course of a campaign."
Grayson -- an unabashed progressive known for never mincing words -- is in the midst of a contentious primary battle with fellow U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, for Marco Rubio's U.S. Senate seat. Murphy has support from the party establishment and, as of October, had $3.5 million in his campaign warchest, compared to Grayson's $250,000.
Democrat Pam Keith, a North Palm Beach attorney, is also running in the August primary.
Four candidates are running on the Republican side: U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach, U.S. Rep. David Jolly of Indian Shores, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera of Miami, and Orlando businessman Todd Wilcox.