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Link Between Grayson, Tea Party Questioned

One of Rep. Alan Grayson’s pollsters is running for the state House in Florida as a Tea Party candidate, fueling Republican suspicions that the Democratic Congressman is using a newly formed third party to boost his own re-election bid.

On Friday, Victoria Torres, 44, of Orlando qualified to run as a Tea Party candidate in state House district 51 in the last hours of the qualifying period.

A call to Torres was returned by Nick Egoroff, communications director for the Florida Tea Party, who described Torres as a “quasi-paralegal assistant who works in a law office.” But apparently, Torres is also a pollster.

According to records from the Florida Department of State office, Torres incorporated Public Opinion Strategies Inc. in December 2008. In the first quarter of this year, Grayson’s campaign made two payments to her firm, totaling $11,000, for polling and survey expenses.

“She’s got various businesses on the side,” explained Egoroff, who confirmed Torres’ work for Grayson. “It’s just a business relationship. Nothing more. Nothing less.”

Egoroff described Torres as a conservative. When asked why she would work for a liberal lawmaker, he said, “It’s quite common.”

The name of Torres’ company is curious, considering Alexandria, Va.-based Public Opinion Strategies is one of the largest and best-known Republican polling firms in the country. Egoroff declined to say if Torres has worked for any other clients, and her company doesn’t appear to have a website.

“We definitely do not poll for Democrats, nor do we have an office in Orlando,” said Glen Bolger of the Virginia-based POS. “However, we do wish Congressman Grayson the worst of luck in November.”

Dave Beattie, a prominent Florida-based Democratic pollster, also said he had never heard of Torres or her polling firm.

A spokesman for Grayson confirmed that Public Opinion Strategies Inc. is one of three pollsters the Congressman has employed. Dr. Jim Kitchens is Grayson’s principal pollster, but his campaign also uses Middleton Market Research. The use of multiple pollsters simultaneously in the same cycle is highly uncommon for a Congressional candidate.

This latest connection between the Florida Tea Party, Torres and Grayson is only likely to fan the flames of an ongoing battle about the tea party in Florida.

“I will not stand for the way Alan Grayson is using this political party to further his own political career,” businessman Bruce O’Donoghue said at a Thursday press conference with other local tea party movement activists.

O’Donoghue, one of the Republicans vying to take on Grayson this fall, is among Grayson’s detractors who believe the Congressman is connected to the Florida Tea Party. Business consultant Peg Dunmire is running as the Tea Party candidate in Grayson’s 8th district and there is concern among Republicans that she’ll take votes from the GOP nominee and help Grayson get re-elected.

The Florida Tea Party has also recruited Congressional candidates to run in two Republican-held open seats that Democrats have some hope of putting into play, including Rep. Adam Putnam’s 12th district and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart’s 25th district.

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