TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — U.S. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid on Friday called for U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson to drop out of the race for a Senate seat in Florida, but Grayson angrily denounced the move and said he has no plans to follow Reid's suggestion.
Reid said in a statement that Grayson claims to be progressive but seems to have "no moral compass." He said Grayson used his office to unethically promote a hedge fund that until recently had been based in the Cayman Islands.
"These deeply troubling allegations should disqualify anyone from a seat in the U.S. Senate," Reid said. "His actions aren't just disgraceful to the Democratic Party, they disgrace the halls of Congress."
Grayson, who is from the Orlando area, is running in the Democratic primary to replace U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio. Rubio has repeatedly said he will not run for re-election even if he fails to capture the GOP nomination for president.
Grayson's business activities have come under scrutiny for the past several months. The New York Times on Thursday reported that Grayson promoted his international travels, some with congressional delegations, to solicit business for a hedge fund he controlled. The newspaper also reported that his own aides had advised him to shut the fund down.
Party leaders — Democrats and Republicans — typically don't take sides in primaries, letting the election play out. But Democrats in Washington see the more mainstream, moderate U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy as a better candidate to win the Florida seat.
And it's not the first time Reid has picked a candidate. Last March, he endorsed Rep. Chris Van Hollen in his bid for the seat being vacated by Maryland's longtime Democratic incumbent Sen. Barbara Mikulski.
Reid's backing for Van Hollen came even though other Democrats were weighing a bid, including Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Md., a favorite of progressives, who since then has entered the race.
Grayson in his own statement said Reid is relying on a "false and misleading hyped story to try to pressure me out of this race."
"I never used my Congressional office to advance any business interest or for personal gain, and to say so is utterly deceitful," he added. "I resent the attack on my 'morality,' and I question the morality and judgment of any elected official, much less one in my own party, who would sink so low as to engage in such a smear."
Grayson, a liberal firebrand who has said the GOP health plan was to hope people die quickly, has contended he is the only true Democrat in the race and has taken his own flurry of shots at Murphy.
Republicans have four major candidates: U.S. Rep. Ron Desantis, a tea party favorite backed by conservative groups; U.S. Rep. David Jolly, a former Washington lobbyist and congressional aide; Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera; and businessman Todd Wilcox, who has never run for political office.
Carlos Beruff, a wealthy Manatee County homebuilder, is also likely to jump into the GOP primary.