As expected, U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, announced Monday morning that he will run for the seat held by Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.
“I’m running for the U.S. Senate for the same reason I ran for Congress in 2012 — Washington is full of hyper-partisan politicians who can’t, or won’t, get anything done, and Florida deserves better,” Murphy said in a prepared statement. “I’m a consensus-builder who is working to boost the economy by cutting waste in government, raise the minimum wage, strengthen Social Security and Medicare, and protect the Everglades. I’ve done all of this by being an independent voice for Florida, and that’s what the Senate needs more of right now.”
Murphy’s prospects on the Democratic side recently improved when Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston and former Gov. Charlie Crist announced that they would not seek the seat. But Murphy could face a challenge from U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson of Orlando, who is popular with progressives.
Asked about the potential of Grayson running, Murphy spoke positively about the congressman.
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“I know he cares a lot about Florida and I know he has been working hard,” Murphy said in an interview with the Herald on Monday morning. “I have no idea who else will run.”
On the Republican side, potential contenders include state CFO Jeff Atwater and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, a former state representative from Miami-Dade. Rubio could announce in April that he is running for president, creating a rare open Senate seat in Florida. Murphy plans to run for the Senate no matter what Rubio decides to do.
“For years, Senator Rubio has put the needs of Floridians behind his presidential ambitions,” Murphy said in his statement. “We need a leader in the Senate whose eyes are firmly fixed on the people of Florida by working together to get things done. In the coming months, I look forward to meeting Floridians across the state to listen, earn their trust, and ask for their support.”
Murphy has built a reputation as a centrist Democrat who’s willing to join the GOP on certain votes, including backing the Keystone XL Pipeline. Congressional Quarterly determined that Murphy voted in support of Obama’s positions 49 percent of the time in 2014. But he has faced attacks from GOP groups and received a 20 percent rating by the American Conservative Union.
Murphy, 31, represents Florida’s Treasure Coast, which includes parts of Palm Beach, Martin and St. Lucie counties. Party registration is fairly even between the parties in the district — Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney won the district with 52 percent of the vote in 2012.
Murphy was a young businessman and newcomer to politics when he switched his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat in 2011 and then announced that he would take on Tea Party favorite U.S. Rep. Allen West, who at the time lived in Plantation and represented a Broward/Palm Beach district. Due to redistricting, West decided to switch to a more conservative district to the north of his — and Murphy followed him there. Murphy beat West by less than a percentage point in 2012 and then easily beat former state Rep. Carl Domino in 2014.
Murphy is a Miami native and certified public accountant who worked at his father’s Coastal Construction firm. Democrats are hopeful about Murphy’s chances because he comes from a wealthy family and is a prolific fundraiser. During the 2014 race, Murphy raised about $5.2 million. The only other Democratic candidate in the House to raise a larger sum was Sean Eldridge of New York — the husband of Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes — but more than half of Eldridge’s campaign was self-financed, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Murphy told the Herald that he had no specific fundraising target figure but will not self-finance.
“Don’t forget in my last election we had over 20,000 contributions” from people throughout the state and country, he said.
Murphy said that the decisions by Wasserman Schultz and Crist not to run were not a factor in his final decision to jump into the race. Murphy said Wasserman Schultz didn’t give him a heads-up that she decided not to run.
But Murphy said that Crist, a longtime friend, had hinted to Murphy that he wouldn’t run.
When CBS 4’s Jim DeFede asked Wasserman Schultz in an interview about Murphy, she didn’t promote him.
“My support will go to whoever wins what I expect to be a robust primary,” she said in an interview that aired Sunday. “We have a deep bench and a lot of wonderful Democrats who I know will step forward. Ultimately whoever our standard bearer is will be the person I support.”
DeFede responded that the Democrats have been criticized for not having a deep bench — noting that Murphy is a 31-year-old two-term congressman.
“That’s who seems to be stepping forward at the moment,” Wasserman Schultz said, adding that other Democrats could step forward such as mayors including Bob Buckhorn in Tampa, Buddy Dyer in Orlando or Alvin Brown in Jacksonville.
Murphy announced his campaign on the five-year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act — a point highlighted by the National Republican Senatorial Committee in a new website attacking Murphy. Some of the attacks are recycled GOP talking points about Democrats, such as one saying that Murphy supported a “bill that cuts Medicare by over $700 Billion.”
Murphy wasn’t in Congress when the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010. However, PolitiFact has rated past claims that Obamacare cuts Medicare Half True or Mostly False, depending on how they are worded. Lawmakers wrote in new taxes and savings into the health care law including reductions in future Medicare costs. At the time the law was written, the reductions amounted to $500 billion over 10 years. But as the 10-year budget shifted ahead, the costs of those reductions rose to $700 billion over 10 years.
“Patrick Murphy is an overly ambitious Washington politician who needs to grow up and the United States Senate doesn’t have a kids table,” said NRSC spokeswoman Andrea Bozek in a statement.
PolitiFact Florida has fact-checked several attacks about Murphy including his positions on the federal Affordable Care Act.
Name: Patrick Murphy
Age: 31 (turns 32 on March 30)
Political career: In 2012, he won his first race against U.S. Rep. Allen West representing District 18, which includes parts of Palm Beach, Martin and St. Lucie counties. He won re-election against former state Rep. Carl Domino in 2014. He currently serves on the House Committee on Financial Services and the House Select Committee on Intelligence.
Career before politics: He previously worked as a certified public accountant for Deloitte and Touche. He also worked at Coastal Construction, a Miami firm owned by his father, Thomas Murphy.
Education: He earned his B.S. in business administration from the University of Miami, graduating with dual degrees in accounting and finance.
Personal: He was born in Florida and mostly grew up in the Keys. He is single.