The latest battle in the war over the newly drawn congressional District 9 was more about character than issues on Monday. At stake is the representation of parts of Orange and Polk counties and all of Osceola County.
WFTV was there as Democratic former congressman Alan Grayson and his Republican opponent, Todd Long, didn't hold anything back during Monday's debate.
The debate fell apart during the candidate's opening statements.
Grayson called Long an extremist with dangerous ideas. Long called Grayson a failed ex-congressman thrown out after one term.
"When you went to Congress, instead of working with the Republicans and trying to solve problems, you decided to go there and call people names," said Long.
"You know this is nonsense. This is utter nonsense," said Grayson.
"Don't interrupt me," Long replied.
"Don't shout at me. Why don't you stick to the rules instead of asking silly questions?" Grayson said.
Issues like foreign policy, taxes and Social Security came up, but time and time again, the answers drifted back to character and name-calling, like this exchange on the federal budget:
"If you can do the math, you know all your entitlements are going bankrupt," said Long.
"And I want to preserve them," said Grayson.
"Hey, you can shut up," said Long.
"Let him answer," said the moderator.
"I'm not going to let him keep interrupting me," said Long.
"Let him answer. Let him answer please," the moderator said.
"I have not interrupted him once," said Long.
During the debate, Grayson said his campaign has broad support and a huge bankroll.
For Long, debates are the best chance of taking shots at Grayson, who has taken in nearly $3 million, according to the Federal Election Commission. That's compared to Long's $35,000.
"He's raised pennies for his campaign. He's not able to go on TV. He's not able to go on the radio," said Grayson.
Long challenged Grayson to a series of debates, but Grayson said no.
Even faced with the softball question: name one thing about your opponent that you respect, both candidates just couldn't do it.
"Well, he's run for office twice and lost. I respect the fact that he knows how to lose," said Grayson.
"He's against everything I believe in and cherish in this nation, and so I say no," said Long.
"This man is a horrible radical, and all of that became obvious today not just in his answers but in his demeanor," said Grayson.
"The man's a bully; he has no reverence for God; no reverence for people. He's in there to divide the nation. He'll use his money as a platform. We can do much better than that," said Long.
Grayson was absolutely unapologetic about his plans to use advertising to tell his story. He said failing to properly tell voters about his successes in congress led to his loss in 2010.
The newly drawn congressional District 9 includes three counties. It includes Osceola County; northeastern Polk County; and part of East Orange County, along the greenway and south past the beach line.
Click here to get a look at all of the newly drawn congressional districts.
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