If Jorge Bonilla has his way, the most colorful Democrat in the House of Representatives will no longer have anyone to represent come 2015.
Earlier this month, Bonilla, a court interpreter and military veteran, announced he was entering the race to challenge Alan Grayson, the loud-mouth Florida congressman who infamously declared on the House floor during his first stint in Congress that the Republican health care plan was for sick people to “die quickly.” That comment was just one of Grayson’s many “hits.”
“I think the incumbent poses a very interesting contrast,” Bonilla told The Daily Caller at the Tortilla Coast restaurant on Capitol Hill last week while he was in town “reaching out” and introducing himself to members of the Florida congressional delegation.
“Here’s a guy — smart guy — who went to Harvard Law, who went to [Harvard’s] Kennedy [School of Government], who’s a trained economist, who has worked in telecom, in a highly regulated industry, who has acquitted himself well, and who also then comes into politics, enters the political arena, and goes into all this bombast and all this blabber,” Bonilla said of Grayson
“He has a record and that is what we will focus on in this election,” he added.
The 42-year-old Republican was born in Brooklyn, New York to Puerto Rico immigrant parents who he says came to America to “pursue the American dream.” He would spend his middle school and high school years in Puerto Rico with his mother before joining the military — first the Marine Corps Reserves and then active duty in the Navy.
Bonilla is quick to note his military background, but when asked whether he does this in order to contrast himself with Grayson, who didn’t serve in the military, Bonilla says “not necessarily.”
“I bring it up because it is apart of me, it is a part of my formation, it is apart of my life experience, that I am going to bring to the race and to the district,” he said.
Unseating Grayson won’t be easy. Grayson, who is popular with the leftwing of his party, served one term in Congress after winning election in 2008, but was then voted out of office during the tea party wave of 2010. But in 2012, he was sent back to the House from the newly reconfigured 9th Congressional District, which includes part of Orlando, with 63 percent of the vote. The Cook Political Report lists the district as leaning Democratic.
Bonilla believes he can win the district over, including by reaching out to Hispanics, who compose over 40 percent of the district’s residents.
“We have to understand — and this is something that the right needs to understand — is that you have to separate policy from outreach,” Bonilla said.
“Outreach is not policy. Policy is not outreach. You have to do both hand and hand, but you can’t confuse one with the other. So we are going to do outreach in those neighborhoods. We’re not going to take anything for granted. You can’t just show up and claim heritage and be entitled to anything. … You have to go out there and you have to compete and you have to make the case.”