Murphy up against nine GOP opponents
Republicans ranging from 24 to 81 lining up to run against US Rep.
Enough Republicans to field a baseball team lined up for their chance to defeat Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy in 2020, a moderate Democrat who represents an evenly split district.
So far, nine Republicans filed either with the state or the Federal Election Commission to run in the primary. They range in age from 24 to 81 and have a wide variety of backgrounds and experience. One already has dropped out.
But unlike in 2018, when the GOP nominated former state Rep. Mike Miller, there’s no big name so far this time among her potential opponents.
And her district in Seminole and central Orange counties, experts say, is trending more Democratic compared with four years ago.
Murphy, of Winter Park, defeated Miller by 15 percentage points to win re-election in 2018, improving on her 3-point win over GOP incumbent John Mica in 2016. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report lists her District 7 as “Solid Democratic” despite an almost even number of Democrat, Republican and independent voters.
Murphy has also raised more than $1 million this year for 2020, dwarfing what Republicans have raised so far.
The field, meanwhile, has already narrowed. Anti-human trafficking advocate Janet Edwards – who had raised the second-most
amount of money out of the GOP candidates as of the third quarter – dropped out in July.
And UCF student Armani Solado, of Winter Springs, who at age 24 made headlines earlier this year by becoming one of the youngest candidates to file to run for Congress, hasn’t provided any new information to the FEC since August.
He also has been posting positive statements about Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard on Facebook. Salado could not be reached for comment.
The remaining candidates would face a congresswoman who has carved out a reputation as a moderate. Murphy has worked with the Trump White House to make a deal on the USMCA trade pact and was one of the rare Democrats to get the endorsement of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in 2018.
So far, no current or former state legislators have jumped in the race. And while the Seminole County Republican Party posted a now-deleted Facebook poll in October asking whether Seminole Tax Collector Joel Greenberg could win in a matchup with Murphy, Greenberg – who has been under recently fire for his office’s spending – isn’t among the Republicans who filed either.
Instead, there’s a mix of businesspeople and a medical professional, with the only officeholder coming from outside District 7 in Volusia County. DeBary Councilman Stephen Bacon, 81, ran against Mica in the GOP primary in 2010 and said he’s long wanted to run for Congress again.
“I just felt [Murphy] would be a good candidate to beat,” said Bacon, whose platform includes shoring up Social Security. “I know the issues in Seminole County are very similar to DeBary.”
Investor Yukong Zhao, 56, of Orlando, cited his business experience and said he would “fight against the socialist programs offered by the Democratic candidate.”
“I’m a consistent, proven leader and problem solver,” Zhao said.
Also running are Vennia Francois, 46, of Winter Springs, a former U.S. Senate aide who ran in 2018; Richard Goble, 59, of Lake Mary, a former Seminole Republican state committeeman and businessman; business executive Mike Thibodeau, 57, of Orlando; and Thomas Delia, 31, a business manager and National Guardsman from Deltona. Those candidates could not be reached for comment.
But the latest candidate, radiology doctor Leo Valentin, 39, of Deltona, made one of the biggest splashes by announcing he had raised $100,000 his first week.
Valentin hasn’t filed a quarterly FEC report yet, and his treasurer would not give more details about donors, but Valentin said the $100,000 was not a self-loan.
“I think a growing part of the public is tired of Washington elites wanting control of the way they live their lives,” Valentin said.
He criticized Murphy for her early endorsement of former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke for president – before O’Rourke’s controversial comments about mandatory gun confiscation, which Murphy has not backed – and for her backing of an impeachment inquiry against President Trump.
Murphy’s support for an impeachment inquiry into President Trump’s actions involving Ukraine came after months of cautiousness about a process that could “grind our nation to a halt,” as she told a town hall in July. And it has led Republicans to think they have an opening against her.
“Stephanie Murphy’s race has been on our target list since last year,” said National Republican Congressional Committee spokeswoman Camille Gallo. “Murphy has caved to the socialist Democrats in Washington by supporting the impeachment sham, and Floridians will no longer believe her phony moderate act.”
In October, the state GOP led a protest outside Murphy’s Sanford office to criticize her support of an inquiry, though the event drew an equal number of counterprotesters.
Valentin, Zhao and Bacon all said they opposed impeachment, with Valentin calling it “more Washington politics,” Zhao stating he doesn’t think Trump’s actions are high crimes and misdemeanors and Bacon said Trump was “just asking questions” about former Vice President Joe Biden and his son. Murphy hasn’t said how she will vote on impeachment. But, her campaign spokesman Chip Harris said, “Whether folks agree with Stephanie Murphy on impeachment, they appreciate her deliberate, dispassionate approach to the process, one focused on uncovering the truth and getting the facts.”
He added, “the impeachment process will not keep Stephanie Murphy from getting results for her district, which is why, as a member of the trade subcommittee, she’s been working with representatives in the House and the White House to advance USMCA.”
The GOP primary is Aug. 18. The general election is Nov. 3.
U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy applies lapel pins for Vietnam vets during a ceremony at VFW Post 5405 in Winter Springs on Nov. 6.