Republicans Backing Away From Challenging Patrick Murphy
Around the State
Despite winning one of the closest congressional races in 2012, Patrick Murphy is increasingly in the clear for 2014 from Republicans as events of this week clearly show.
After beating Allen West by a slim margin, Murphy was supposed to be a top target for the GOP. Republicans have a slight edge in the district and, on paper, the right candidate could win back the seat for the GOP, especially in a nonpresidential year.
But the right candidate never quite materialized, even as six candidates still run for the Republican nomination. West closed the door on a rematch with Murphy and threw his support to Ellen Andel, who promptly pulled out after she couldn’t raise enough money. Republicans pleaded for Adam Hasner to move into the district but they never could lure him to run against Murphy.
This left the likes of Carl Domino, Beverly Hires, Brian Lara, Alan Schlesinger, Calvin Turnquest and Nick Wukoson in the Republican primary. Domino is probably the best known of the candidates from his time in the Florida House, but he’s coming off two consecutive losses in a state Senate primary in 2010 and a state House primary in 2012. Hires and Turnquest did even worse than Domino in the state House race in 2012. Schlesinger is better known for his career in Connecticut politics while Lara and Wukoson are political novices, not exactly a bad thing to be in Florida as recent Republican primaries have shown. While the second quarter fundraising figures aren’t in yet, most of the Republicans have been relying on their own money to compete and none of them is close to catching Murphy in the money chase.
Things got even more dreary for the Republicans this week. The NRCC released its final round of “Young Guns” who have the funds and momentum to knock off Democrat incumbents or pick up open seats. None of the hopefuls looking to take down Murphy made an appearance on the list -- a bad sign for what is supposed to be a competitive district.
Even worse for their chances of beating Murphy, Republicans canceled a forum with the six primary candidates after less than 25 of the party faithful paid for advance tickets. With even the party activists losing interest in the primary, it’s no wonder the NRCC and conservative groups are increasingly staying out of it.
Unlike West, who never bothered to move to the middle, Murphy has been able to grab the center even as the Republican candidates try to paint him as a liberal with connections to Nancy Pelosi. On a range of matters, Murphy has broken with Beltway Democrats and has received more than his share of publicity for it. Murphy has also kept his eye pretty glued to the district. He is looking tougher to beat by the week.
With seven weeks to go until the primary, the Republican candidates will try their best to turn things around. But with the GOP starting to tune out at the national and local level, this is increasingly becoming a missed opportunity.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this story exclusively for Sunshine State News.