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Could the Tea Party Give Grayson a Boost?

It’s looking like the Tea Party might be Rep. Alan Grayson’s saving grace. The firebrand freshman Democrat from Florida won a close election in his swing district in 2008, and his race this November is expected to be a tough one. But now the Florida Tea Party is running its own candidate, Pat Dunmire, potentially splitting the district’s conservative vote.

The Orlando Sentinel reports:

As a third-party candidate and political newcomer with scant campaign funding, Dunmire has little chance of winning. But with a spot on the ballot listed under the Florida Tea Party mantle, she could attract votes from disaffected conservatives — votes that would otherwise likely go to the Republican candidate.

“Everyone understands the impact a Tea Party candidate could have in that race,” said Tom Tillison, an activist with the tea-party movement who has no connection to the formal political party. “It’s clear that Peg Dunmire’s candidacy stands to benefit Alan Grayson tremendously.”

Republicans fear Dunmire, an Orlando business consultant, will peel away enough votes in the general election to let Grayson coast into a second term, much as some Democrats still blame Green Party candidate Ralph Nader for taking votes from Al Gore in 2000, helping George W. Bush win Florida and the presidency.

Dunmire had started out as Republican, and now may be a spoiler in a crowded field of candidates vying to challenge the well-funded freshman.

Dan Faneli, another Republican in the race who has drawn national attention for remarks supporting racial profiling, was reportedly also courted by the Tea Party, but declined the offer, according to the Sentinel.

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