On Monday, Florida Democratic Congressman Patrick Murphy announced that he plans to run for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Republican Senator Marco Rubio. Nationally, Murphy’s announcement was overshadowed by Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz’s presidential roll-out at Liberty University.
However, Murphy’s decision may prove more consequential in the long run. Unlike Cruz, Murphy has a strong chance of winning his race. A Murphy victory in Florida would put the Democrats in a strong position to recapture a Senate majority in the 2016 election.
Patrick Murphy represents Florida’s 18th Congressional District, a swing district, north of West Palm Beach that includes the city of Port St. Lucie. Murphy won the seat in 2012, at age 29, making him the youngest member of Congress when he was sworn in, in January 2013. He was re-elected in 2014.
The 2012 race generated national attention because Murphy defeated well-known Tea Party extremist Allen West, in one of the most competitive races in the country. Murphy ended up winning by less than 2,000 votes out of 350,000 votes cast.
Prior to defeating West, Murphy switched from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party in 2011. He left the GOP, disgusted with the party’s shift to the far right. He was especially disenchanted with the Republican Party for mismanaging foreign policy during the Iraq War. Former Florida Republican Governor Charlie Crist left the Republican Party in 2010, similarly disenchanted with the strident right-wing rhetoric and disastrous policies of the GOP. Both Murphy and Crist are political moderates.
While it remains unclear whether Senator Rubio intends to defend his seat, or whether he will throw his hat into the ring for President, Murphy wasted no time denouncing Rubio, noting that:
For years, Senator Rubio has put the needs of Floridians behind his presidential ambitions.
Murphy sounded a bipartisan tone in making his announcement:
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.
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.
He was careful, however, not to attack fellow House Democrat Alan Grayson (FL-09), who is also considering entering the U.S. Senate race. When asked by a Miami-Herald reporter about Grayson, Murphy refused to denigrate his potential primary opponent, replying instead, by saying:
I know he cares a lot about Florida and I know he has been working hard. I have no idea who else will run.
While Grayson would clearly be the more progressive of the two candidates, should he decide to enter the race, both candidates would be a tremendous upgrade over Senator Rubio.
Murphy would be a formidable candidate. In 2014, he raised five million dollars and crushed his Republican opponent 59.8 to 40.2 percent in what is normally a very competitive U.S. House district. Whether or not Marco Rubio runs to keep his Senate seat, Murphy’s candidacy gives the Democrats strong odds of taking the seat.
Keith Brekhus is a progressive American who currently resides in Red Lodge, Montana. He is co-host for the Liberal Fix radio show. He holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri. In 2002, he ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in the state of Missouri. In 2014, he worked as a field organizer for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s successful re-election bid in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He can be followed on Twitter @keithbrekhus or on Facebook.