The Republican efforts to find a candidate against the fiery liberal Democrat Alan Grayson continue — with a focus on finding someone else besides the current de facto frontrunner, 28-year old real estate developer Armando Gutierrez. So what exactly is their problem with him?
Gutierrez, who comes from a politically well-connected family in the Miami Cuban community, has picked up some decent endorsements so far, including Rep. Tom Rooney (R-FL), several state legislators, and George P. Bush, the son of former Gov. Jeb Bush. However, other candidates could still get in — state Rep. Kurt Kelly says he might get in if nobody better opts for it, and Orange County Mayor Rich Crotty, who previously shied away from the race, now says he’s staying out “for now.”
A Republican source told us that local GOPers aren’t accepting Gutierrez, due to youth and inexperience, and the fact that he is seen as having moved into the Orlando district from Miami to buy the nomination. “A lot of people think you need an adult to contrast with Alan Grayson’s childish behavior,” the source said. “So let’s be honest, Armando Gutierrez is 28 years old, and doesn’t have much of a rÃ©sumÃ© in terms of creating jobs or influencing public policy or anything like that.”A Republican source in Florida was even more blunt, telling us: “Gutierrez is young and talented, but he moved to the district specifically to run for this seat. While he has done well in fundraising so far, in the end we do not believe he is the candidate the majority of Republican voters will rally around.”
I spoke to Gutierrez campaign adviser Bryan Stewart, a friend of Gutierrez’s since their days in the College Republican, and he attested to his candidate’s qualifications. “He was born and raised here in Florida. He did grow up in south Florida, but I would say that a lot of people who have come to Orlando and Central Florida are not from this area,” said Stewart, who said he was himself born and raised in the area. He cited that many of the district’s own recent Representatives — including Alan Grayson and his Republican predecessors Ric Keller and Bill McCollum — had originally come from elsewhere.
“I guess I like to emphasize this, being someone who was born and raised in the area, not only am I comfortable with Armando representing the area, but I know he has ties, and has been an active part of the business community and the political community in central Florida for years before he established his residency.”
As to the criticism that Gutierrez hasn’t had experience in state politics and public policy: “My response to that would be in addition to Armando’s business career, either as a technology officer of a startup or in real estate and business development, Armando served as chairman of the College Republicans while in school, and he’s been involved in a number of state and local races in Florida. So in a sense he’s already been a part of public policy in Florida, just in a behind the scenes way.”
Stewart said that Gutierrez doesn’t need to have an advanced age and experience: “And quite frankly, given the direction the Republican Party has gone, I don’t think that would be much of a credential.”