ORLANDO – Leading a chant of “The people united, we will never be defeated,” former Congressman Alan Grayson addressed a huge crowd of protestors in downtown Orlando on Tuesday, in what could be the first step in a possible bid for a return to Congress in 2012.
“We are here today to fight the madness of King Rick,” Grayson said, as the crowd cheered.
“He wants to cut health care,” Grayson added, to loud boos from the people surrounding the stage, and there were similar boos when Grayson added, “He wants to cut education.”
More than 600 people turned out at Senator Beth Johnson Park on South Ivanhoe Boulevard on Tuesday evening to protest Gov. Rick Scott’s proposed budget cuts, part of a series of rallies held across the state, and sponsored by the grassroots organization Awake The State.
The rallies were organized by teachers, public employees, firefighters, union supporters and others opposed to the governor’s austerity budget. In Orlando, the protesters carried signs that read “Stop the Attacks on the Middle Class,” “We Are America’s Middle Class – We are Worth It,” “Less Cuts More Pay,” and “Let Them Eat Tea.”
The rally started at 5:30 p.m., right near the Orlando Chamber of Commerce office, and brought out people chanting “Recall, recall.” At 6 p.m., the governor started his State of the State address to the Florida Legislature, urging lawmakers to cut corporate and property taxes by $2 billion to help resurrect the Sunshine State’s battered economy, which has struggled to recover from the collapse in the once-booming housing market, and the sky high home foreclosure rate that continues to plague the state.
While Scott was telling lawmakers that cuts to corporate taxes would help create jobs in the private sector, those at the rally were warning that budget cuts totaling up to $5 billion would be devastating to those working in the public sector.
“We do need to wake up to what’s going on,” said Wayne DeNosca, a member of the Orlando Firefighter’s Union. “For too long, our politicians have been asleep at the wheel. Now some of Rick Scott’s own Republican legislators in Tallahassee are finding out they don’t even agree with him.”
Awake the State, he said, was an effort to show that the public is worried about the budget cuts and the impact they’ll have on working class and middle class Floridians.
“This organization is all about what’s in our future,” he said. “We have to stick together. Stay united, and let’s win this thing.”
Grayson said the cuts would impact a wide variety of government services, from health care to education and public safety.
“He wants to cut jobs for teachers and firefighters and police officers,” Grayson said of the governor. “This is madness.”
Noting that Scott has proposed 10 percent cuts to all public schools, Grayson said “We need schools. I’ve got five children in public schools in Orlando. I don’t want them home all day.”
Grayson called for the election of politicians who want to help, rather than hurt, people in need.
“We need leaders who care about us,” he said. “We need leaders who care about helping the needy.”
Small government conservatives, though, continued to support the governor’s objectives.
“I was pleased with the tone and subjects covered by the governor,” said Peg Dunmire, chairman of the Florida Tea Party. “We strongly support Governor Scott’s efforts to bring the state budget under control and be on the side of the taxpayers of Florida. Governor Scott will have a tough fight on his hands to overcome the forces of special interests to implement his bold initiatives. We will do what we can to back up his agenda when it comes to less taxes, less government and more individual freedom.”
Grayson was elected in November 2008 to represent Florida’s 8th Congressional District, as part of the sweep by Barrack Obama that saw the democratic presidential nominee carry 29 states, including Florida, as Democrats increased their margins in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate.
Grayson was swept out of office in 2010 in the Republican tidal wave that helped defeat four Democratic congressmen in Florida and brought Scott into office by a narrow margin.
Doug Guetzloe, host of The Guetzloe Report radio talk show, said he thinks Grayson is a likely candidate for Congress in 2012, when Florida will pick up two new House seats and fast-growing Central Florida seems likely to gain one of them.
Guetzloe predicted that with most of the region’s congressmen being Republicans, Florida lawmakers would likely create a new, solidly Democratic seat that peels Democratic votes away from neighboring districts, which helps make those Republican congressmen even safer in future elections. And he predicted Grayson would be a frontrunner for that new district.
“Democrats love Alan Grayson,” Guetzloe said. “I don’t even think the Republicans would run a candidate in that district.”
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