Sun Sentinel Broward Edition
First pitch for Senate seat
Congressman Murphy sells himself as a pragmatist who can work across aisle
DEERFIELD BEACH — Appearing before political activists in Broward, the most liberal Democratic territory in Florida, U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy pitched himself as a pragmatist who is willing to cross the political aisle to talk to and work with Republicans.
“Floridians, along with Americans in general, are tired of the hyper-partisanship that they see in Washington. They want results and they deserve results. There are so many things we should be fighting for instead of fighting against,” Murphy said Sunday. “America needs a longterm vision. But it’s going to require that we put the partisanship aside and get the job done.
Murphy That’s just not happening in the U.S. Senate right now.”
He said his guiding motivation for everything he does is what’s best for his state. “I’ll work with anyone — if it’s right for Florida.”
The assembled Democrats — eager to capture the state’s Republican-held U.S. Senate seat as part of their hope to wrest back control of the U.S. Senate — liked what they heard. “Not all Democrats are super liberals,” said Bernie Parness, president of the Deerfield Beach Democratic Club, where Murphy spoke at a luncheon that included about 90 party activists, candidates, political consultants and elected officials.
Murphy spent much of his 16-minute speech introducing himself. Though he’s a member of Congress, Murphy, 32, is relatively new in the political world.
In his second term in the U.S. House representing northern Palm Beach, Martin and St. Lucie counties, he’s best known for how he got there — by defeating tea party Congressman Allen West’s bid for a second term in 2012 — and for avoiding anything that could make him seem like a stereotypical liberal Democrat.
He said he was motivated to get into politics because he was tired of the rancor in Washington, D.C., and horrified by West.
Since he took office in 2013, Murphy’s broken from his party and President Barack Obama so much that he was one of only four Democrats endorsed in 2014 by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which almost always supports Republicans.
On Sunday, Murphy praised the president. Describing decreasing federal budget deficits, the housing recovery and an increase in optimism, he said, “You better believe that the president deserves a lot of credit for this.”
He also highlighted his support for increasing the minimum wage, preserving abortion rights and legal same-sex marriage.
The strongest applause of the afternoon may have been when he told the crowd to “make sure that Hillary Clinton is the next president of the United States.”
Murphy didn’t offer a policy agenda, but that wasn’t his mission on Sunday, said Mitch Ceasar, chairman of the Broward Democratic Party. Murphy needed to introduce himself to those who don’t know him well, and come across as someone who can win, Ceasar said.
The Senate seat is currently held by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who is seeking the Republican presidential nomination and forgoing an attempt to seek a second term next year.
So far, Murphy is the only declared candidate. A long list of high-profile Democrats and Republicans have taken themselves out of the running.
Still, the Senate campaign is in its infancy. Officially candidates don’t qualify to get on the ballot for another year, the primary is almost 16 months away, and the general election isn’t for another 18 months.
Murphy has endorsements from U.S. Reps. Ted Deutch and Lois Frankel, who represent parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties, and last week was endorsed by 15 of the 24 Democratic state legislators from the two coun- ties. On Sunday, the dinning room at the Deer Creek Golf Club was set up with Murphy signs on almost every chair and several people — including Palm Beach County State Democratic Committeewoman Bunny Steinman — wore Murphy stickers.
That could indicate difficulty for U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, the liberal firebrand from Orlando who’s considering entering the Democratic primary. Cynthia Busch, vice chairwoman of the Broward Democratic Party, said she hasn’t endorsed a candidate, but Democrats need to make sure they have a candidate who can win, not someone “just trying to present themselves as the better Democrat.”
Murphy has been criticized by some in the party’s liberal wing who think his more conservative leanings mean the Democratic base won’t be excited if he wins the nomination. And some regard him as insufficiently vigilant on the Democratic goal of protecting Social Security from any changes. Murphy on Sunday described himself as someone who supports “shoring up” Social Security and who is working to “protect” Medicare.
Parness, who is also head of the Florida Democratic Party’s Senior Caucus, said Murphy needs to be judged in his entirety.
“Nobody is going to mirror every item you love,” Parness said. Overall, does he have you or your interests in mind? If the answer is yes, you support him. If you don’t talk and you don’t compromise, nothing gets done.”