Democrat U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson and Republican U.S. Rep. David Jolly declared themselves front-runners Tuesday for their parties’ nominations for Florida’s U.S. Senate and announced they would hold a series of two-man debates.

The pair, who have led the past couple of public opinion polls, dismissed the notion that both are in relatively tight races for their parties’ nominations and sidestepped their opponents. They’re going to dual without them, as if this were a general election showdown.

Left out, for the moment, are Democrats U.S. Rep. Patrick Muphy of Jupiter, who has lead all candidates in fundraising, and Pam Keith of Palm Beach Gardens; and Republicans U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach, who has led in some polls and leads Republicans in fundraising, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, and businessmen Todd Wilcox of Orlando and Carlos Beruff of Tampa.

Wilcox shot back that Grayson and Jolly were pulling the kind of “election-year stunt” that gives career politicians a bad name. Lopez-Cantera’s campaign dismissed it as each party’s most liberal politician trying to one-up each other.

Jolly is from St. Petersburg. Grayson is from Orlando.

“Control of the United States Senate will have a direct impact on our economy and our national security – and control of the Senate may depend on who is elected from Florida,” Jolly stated in a news release issued by his campaign. “Congressman Grayson has challenged me to a series of four debates to contrast our differing views for the future of Florida and the country. I accept.”

They announced they would host policy debates in two debates in their respective regions, Tampa and Orlando, followed by other possible debates in Jacksonville and South Florida or other parts of Florida.

“Florida faces serious issues, and deserves a serious debate. Rep. Jolly and I share that common goal: give voters an honest and clear choice for the direction of our state and country,” Grayson stated in a news release issued by his campaign. “I’m honored that Rep. Jolly has accepted that awesome responsibility. Not all candidates would. As the leaders in this race, we owe it to the people of Florida.”

Here’s Wilcox’s full response: “This is exactly the kind of election year stunt from career politicians Floridians are sick of seeing. K Street lobbyist turned politician cut a deal with another politician accused of breaking the rules with an off shore hedge fund? Florida and all of America are tired of the games, tired of the backroom deals and tired of professional politicians. It’s a long time between now and August 30th and I am confident when Florida Republicans hear my message of returning to a citizen government, the professional politicians will be sent packing.”

And here’s a response from Lopez-Cantera’s spokeswoman Courtney Alexander: “Watching the two most liberal congressmen from both parties try to one up each other on who has been most effective in the broken system of Washington certainly will make for good TV. When Mr. Jolly is done debating Mr. Grayson we look forward to him rejoining the rest of the Republican field whom he is actually running against.”

A newly released PPP poll on Tuesday show Jolly and Grayson with leads over their primary rivals with both eclipsing the 25 percent threshold. An FAU poll conducted earlier this year also showed Jolly and Grayson as the frontrunners in their respective parties.

Both candidates’ campaigns said these debates aspire to a Lincoln-Douglas model, where policy stances on national security, health care, and other pressing issues of the day will be defended and disputed, and in places where Florida’s voters can see or hear it.

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