November 09, 2016

After U.S. Senate defeat, Patrick Murphy taking time for himself

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@ByKristenMClark

Following his decisive loss to Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio on Tuesday night, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy is keeping a low profile.

He's not doing any media interviews today, his campaign said. (The Herald/Times did request one.) The two-term Jupiter congressman has "no immediate plans" other than spending the next few days with family and friends, his campaign said.

After a hard-fought, 20-month campaign, advisers say Murphy was realistic about his odds and was prepared for Tuesday's outcome -- long indicated by consistent polls in Rubio's favor.

Murphy also knew that, regardless of the result, his life would change Tuesday, his campaign said: He'd either be a newly elected U.S. senator or he'd be on his way out as a public official.

Voters decided the latter would be Murphy's fate.

Photo credit: Jim Rassol / Sun Sentinel

Rubio's margin of victory: 716,833 votes

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@ByKristenMClark

While some expected Florida's U.S. Senate race to be relatively close at the end, Florida voters were decisive in re-electing Republican Marco Rubio on Tuesday.

In complete but unofficial results, Rubio's margin of victory was 8 percentage points -- 716,833 votes, to be precise, out almost 9.3 million cast.

Rubio outperformed president-elect Donald Trump -- who took Florida by about 120,000 votes out of almost 9.4 million cast -- while Rubio's Democratic challenger, Patrick Murphy underperformed Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Rubio beat Murphy 52 percent to 44 percent, while Trump beat Clinton in Florida 49 percent to 48 percent.

MORE: Rubio returns to U.S. Senate

Murphy, a two-term congressman from Jupiter, won the majority of the vote in only nine of Florida's 67 counties -- most of them in reliably blue hotspots: Alachua, Gadsen, Leon, Orange, Osceola and St. Lucie counties, plus the Democratic stronghold of South Florida: Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach.

While Rubio, of West Miami, lost his home county to Murphy by 109,000 votes, Rubio easily won most of Florida's rural counties and two key metros: Tampa Bay and Jacksonville. In Florida bellwether Hillsborough County, Rubio won by just 2,900 votes, with stronger support in the surrounding counties. In Duval County, Rubio's advantage was more than 69,000 votes.

Murphy -- who will now exit Congress in January after representing the Treasure Coast and northern Palm Beach County for four years -- had a mixed bag in his moderate congressional district. (His redistricted seat went back in the red column Tuesday, won by Republican Brian Mast.)

He won in Palm Beach County by more than 61,000 votes and eked by in St. Lucie County with 3,300 more votes than Rubio. However, he lost Martin County to Rubio by more than 16,000 votes.

Polls had shown Rubio ahead in nearly all polls in the Senate race -- by various margins -- since he declared for re-election in June. Less than a handful had Murphy evenly tied with him.

Photo credit: Pedro Portal / Miami Herald

November 08, 2016

Marco Rubio easily keeps seat in U.S. Senate

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@JeremySWallace @KristenMClark @DavidOvalle305

Marco Rubio is headed back to the U.S. Senate with his prospects of another run for president intact.

Rubio defeated two-term Congressman Patrick Murphy, who couldn’t overcome poor name recognition or questions about embellishments on his résumé.

Tuesday’s outcome was not a surprise given Rubio never trailed in 47 consecutive public polls of the race since he jumped into the contest in June. Yet given that Rubio emphatically stated he would not run for re-election six months ago, the outcome was still improbable.

Rubio, flanked by his family, took the stage at his watch party shortly before 9 p.m. to the cheers of a raucous crowd inside a ballroom at Miami’s Airport Hilton

He said he talked to Murphy by phone. “He ran a great race.”

In his brief remarks, Rubio struck a optimistic tone, making no mention of Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. He took a sharply different tact than Trump, his party’s standard bearer who campaigned with divisive rhetoric.

“America is going to be OK. We will turn this country around. I have faith. I know God is not done with America yet,” Rubio said, adding: “While we can disagree on issues, we cannot share a country where people hate each other because of their political affiliations. We cannot move forward as a nation if we can not have enlightened debates about tough issues."

More here.

Photo credit: Wilfredo Lee / AP

Patrick Murphy wraps up Election Day still on the campaign trail

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@ByKristenMClark & @DavidJNeal

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy spent Election Day in his familiar territory of South Florida trying to maximize as many votes as possible in what's expected to be a close outcome between him and Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

The Miami-born Palm Beach County congressman began the day in north Miami-Dade County -- including with a stop at a polling site he visited on the day of the Aug. 30 Democratic primary, which he won decisively.

"I think it's good luck to be in this location," Murphy said at the North Dade Regional Library in Miami Gardens. "So we're here making sure people show up to vote, getting those last few voters, making sure if they have any questions, we're here to answer them.”

MORE: Live coverage of Election 2016: Here’s what’s happening right now

The hip-hop and modern soul music from WEDR 99 Jamz booth that dominated the library parking lot got stepped on by chants of “Mur-phy! Mur-phy! Mur-phy!” as Murphy shook hands, posed for selfies and talked with supporters before hitting the radio booth.

Asked what he wanted to see on Election Day to indicate he'd defeat Rubio, Murphy said, “Long lines. People show up to vote, we win.”

“It's going to be a close race,” he said. “It's Florida. We expect close races.”

By this afternoon, Murphy had made his way up to Palm Beach Gardens -- home to his campaign office and where Murphy's campaign is hosting its Election Night watch party.

Speaking with reporters, he repeated similar themes of optimism for victory and echoed some of the main talking points of his campaign as a final pitch to TV viewers.

He also said -- on the final day of his 20-month campaign -- that if voters elect him to the U.S. Senate, he's going to work on his Spanish.

At one of his last stops of the campaign, Murphy was asked twice Tuesday afternoon by reporters from Spanish-language media if he could offer a message to their viewers in Spanish.

With a quiet, awkward laugh, all Murphy could humbly say each time was: "Gracias por su voto." ("Thank you for your vote.")

After the second reporter had asked, Murphy jokingly explained: "At one point I was pretty much fluent in Spanish, but I’ve lost it in 14 years, so if elected to the U.S. Senate, that’s something I’m definitely going to brush up on."

Murphy has lagged Rubio throughout the general election campaign this fall, but Murphy says he's optimistic tonight and predicted, "I think we win by 1 or 2 points."

But if he doesn't win, what are his plans? "I haven't thought about that yet," Murphy said with a big grin. "Call me tomorrow morning."

Murphy is campaigning down to the wire in an effort, he said, to maximize voter turnout. His campaign has sent out a half-dozen fundraising emails today making last-minute pleas for money and support.

"We're just trying to do everything we can to get our message out there," Murphy said.

Murphy's dozen supporters at the Palm Beach Gardens library -- waving signs and chanting and cheering -- were outnumbered by the army of media that's come in to town to cover the conclusion of Florida's nationally watched U.S. Senate race.

Clark reported from Palm Beach Gardens, and Neal reported from Miami Gardens.

Photo credit: Kristen M. Clark / Herald/Times Tallahassee bureau

November 04, 2016

Hillary for America spends $50K on late media buy for Florida's U.S. Senate race

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Five days before Election Day, the campaign for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton dumped $50,000 into a media buy for Florida's U.S. Senate race -- both in support of Democrat Patrick Murphy and against Republican incumbent Marco Rubio.

The expense on Thursday by "Hillary for America" was reported late Friday in a disclosure report to the Federal Election Commission, according to ProPublica's FEC Itemizer, which tracks campaign finance filings.

This marks the first time Clinton's campaign has put any direct funding behind Murphy, the Democratic Party's long-time hope tasked with unseating Rubio.

Last month, Clinton's campaign said it would be sending $6 million in all to help down-ballot Democrats in key swing states. However, it wasn't revealed at that time whether Murphy would benefit from that or by how much.

It was not immediately clear what Clinton's money would exactly be used for in the final days of Murphy's campaign. (Fifty grand can't buy a lot of TV time in a state like Florida, where ad slots are expensive.)

Clinton has helped elevate Murphy's candidacy in the past few weeks, as polls showed the two-term Jupiter congressman continued to struggle with statewide name recognition against the nationally known Rubio even as Election Day drew closer.

Since mid-October, Murphy has spoken at several of Clinton's campaign rallies in Florida -- including a handful this week -- sometimes ahead of Clinton herself and other times ahead of high-profile surrogates, like President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden or vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine.

Photo credit: Patrick Farrell / Miami Herald

Patrick Murphy won't return donations D.C. newspaper says are tied to FBI probe

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@ByKristenMClark

Capitalizing on a controversy affecting Democrat Patrick Murphy's U.S. Senate campaign less than a week from Election Day, Florida Republican Party leaders want Murphy to return what they call "tainted donations" that a Capitol Hill newspaper reported are the subject of an FBI investigation.

But Murphy's campaign told the Herald/Times on Friday that the Jupiter congressman has no plans to.

The Hill reported this week that federal investigators are looking into allegations that Murphy donor Ibrahim Al-Rashid -- the son of a Saudi billionaire whom Murphy first met in high school -- orchestrated a "straw donor" scheme to boost Murphy's first run for Congress in 2012. The accusations originated from the Senate Leadership Fund, a GOP super PAC that filed a formal complaint in June and is spending $15 million on ad time this fall to attack Murphy and support Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

The Hill noted that Murphy himself is not under investigation, and Murphy's campaign has said repeatedly this week -- in the original story and subsequent media interviews about it -- that neither Murphy nor anyone from his campaign has been contacted by the FBI.

Seeking to link Murphy's (unrelated) controversy with that of the FBI's probe into Hillary Clinton's emails, Republican Party of Florida chairman Blaise Ingoglia said in a statement Thursday: "Floridians are tired of the Democrats and their concurrent FBI investigations. ...  It’s time for [Murphy] to return all of the donations tied to the alleged straw donor scheme and finally end his track record of shady campaign contributions."

Murphy's campaign says it's not going to return the money -- citing the political motivations of both RPOF's request and the Senate Leadership Fund's complaint.

The campaign also noted -- in explaining its decision to the Herald/Times -- that The Hill's report is based on unnamed sources and not, what the campaign would deem, information that proves definitively an FBI investigation is ongoing or that the donor scheme even happened. Murphy's campaign added that it doesn't dispute the facts in The Hill's story, although the congressman downplayed it Wednesday, telling reporters: "There's nothing in there."

"There is no investigation into Patrick Murphy, as The Hill reported. We haven't been contacted by any authority about this issue," Murphy spokesman Joshua Karp reiterated in a statement Friday.

Murphy -- as recently as this week -- has agreed to donate other past contributions associated with controversy, though.

For instance, on Monday, Murphy's campaign said he would donate to the U.S. Treasury nearly $22,000 in contributions Murphy received from a Boston Law firm that was exposed by The Boston Globe over the weekend for allegedly engaging in a different type of donation scheme.

Last spring, Murphy also said he'd given away $16,000 in direct contributions from Al-Rashid after the Senate Leadership Fund publicized the fact that Al-Rashid had pleaded guilty in 2014 to an assault charge against his wife.

Murphy's campaign said those two examples are different because, in the latter situation, it involved proven criminal charges or, in The Globe's case, "a thorough investigation by a widely respected newspaper."

Photo credit: AP

Outside money floods Rubio-Murphy race thanks to high court's Citizens United ruling

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Individuals, corporations, advocacy groups and super-PACs from outside Florida are pumping money into the close Senate contest between incumbent Marco Rubio and challenger Patrick Murphy.

More than $48 million in independent expenditures, most of it from outside the Sunshine State, has been spent on the Rubio-Murphy race in which the Miami Republican has held about a 3 point lead in recent days, according to the polling average on realclearpolitics.com.

Only five other U.S. Senate campaigns -- in Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Nevada, North Carolina and Ohio -- have received more money from outside their campaigns.

Every state except Nevada features incumbent GOP senators who, like Rubio, are trying to fend off Democratic challengers. Nevada's race is for an open Senate seat vacated by the retiring Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.

Those six races will likely decide whether the Republican Party retains the Senate majority it gained in the November 2014 elections.

In addition to money contributed by outside groups, Rubio's campaign had raised $12.48 million through Oct. 19 while Murphy's campaign had raised $13.72 million, for a total of $26.2 million, according to the Federal Election Commission.

That figure combined with the independent expenditures puts an overall price tag of almost $75 million on the Rubio-Murphy Senate race.

In Florida's Senate race, outside groups have made 14 TV, media and digital ad buys totaling at least $1 million, all but one of them targeting Murphy.

The biggest buy was made by the Senate Leadership Fund on Oct. 27 for $3.16 million.

The Senate Leadership Fund, a spinoff of the American Crossroads super PAC started by former President George W. Bush senior adviser Karl Rove, has spent $81.7 million in the current election cycle.

Among all super PACs in the country, only the liberal Priorities USA Action and the conservative Right to Rise USA have spent more.

Other groups based outside Florida that have spent big against Murphy are the American Future Fund, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Republican Senate Committee and the National Rifle Association.

The only Florida-centric organization with significant expenditures opposing Murphy is the Florida First Project, a super PAC created in June on the day Rubio did an about-switch and announced he was running for Senate re-election after having declined during his earlier presidential bid.

So-called "super" political action committees are free to collect unlimited amounts of money as long as the donors' identities and the amounts of their contributions.

The flood of independent expenditures by super PACs has followed a landmark 2010 Supreme Court ruling, in a case brought by the conservative watchdog group Citizens United, that described such spending as expressions of free speech protected by the First Amendment.

However, direct contributions to political campaigns remain limited by campaign-finance law.

Photo credit: Wilfredo Lee, Associated Press

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

November 03, 2016

Patrick Murphy's Cuba connection

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@ByKristenMClark

During two U.S. Senate debates last month against Republican incumbent Marco Rubio, Democrat Patrick Murphy answered questions about Cuba policy by revealing a little-known detail about his personal life.

The Jupiter congressman -- a Miami native of Irish descent -- said he has Cuban family members.

"I have aunts and cousins that are Cuban," Murphy said at the first debate on Oct. 17. "I remember every Christmas Eve going around, sitting around the caja china (a Cuban pork roaster) talking about politics, talking about Cuba. So I understand that this is a very personal issue for many people."

Ten days later at the second debate, Murphy began his answer with a similar response when Cuba came up again.

"I have some Cuban relatives -- some are here this evening -- and have talked to them at length about this," Murphy said. "And I understand this is personal."

Although he gave similar answers across the two debates, this wasn't a standard line from Murphy's stump speech. It's unclear if he'd ever previously mentioned his family connection to Cuba during his nearly 20 months on the campaign trail.

His campaign told the Herald/Times this week that the relatives Murphy referenced are cousins-in-law.

Murphy's cousin Jimmy Murphy is married to Raquel, and another cousin Mike Murphy is married to Alicia; both women are Cuban-American, his campaign said.

Murphy is in rare company for a major party nominee for U.S. Senate in Florida by supporting an end to the Cuba embargo. Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants, wants to keep the embargo intact.

Photo credit: AP

Alan Grayson unleashes on Patrick Murphy, Democratic Party

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@ByKristenMClark

U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson is holding on to his grudge against U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy and the Democratic Party establishment that helped Murphy beat Grayson in the Aug. 30 primary.

Since that loss, the sometimes polarizing and notably bombastic Orlando congressman had largely kept a low profile. Grayson has maintained his campaign email list but has used it mostly just to send out fundraising pitches in support of like-minded progressive candidates across the country.

But on Tuesday night, Grayson unloaded to his supporters.

In a scorched-earth rant entitled "What $10 million buys from the Democratic Party," he vented his bitter frustration about Murphy and Democratic Party leaders. The piece is riddled with attacks and accusations against Murphy, his wealthy father and Democratic leaders and fundraising groups -- none of whom have responded to requests for comment from the Herald/Times.

MORE: Read Grayson's email here.

So given his clear disdain, whom is Grayson voting for this fall?

The soon-to-be outgoing congressman reiterated in an email to the Herald/Times: "I will be voting for Hillary Clinton for president. I haven’t decided who will get my Senate vote, but it will not be Patrick Murphy."

In his email blast, Grayson claims a "Murphy political operative" told someone within his own campaign earlier this summer that Murphy's father, Tom Murphy Jr., had made a promise wherein "the Democratic Party could expect to see $10 million if it delivered the nomination to [Patrick] Murphy."

Continue reading "Alan Grayson unleashes on Patrick Murphy, Democratic Party" »

Republicans allege Patrick Murphy's stock sale for campaign loan is illegal 'sham'

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@ByKristenMClark

Republicans are accusing Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy of violating congressional ethics rules and federal campaign finance laws by recently selling stock in his family's company to cover a last-minute campaign loan.

The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust -- a conservative watchdog group -- filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, and Seminole County Republican activist Kimberly Carroll also filed a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee publicized Carroll's complaint Thursday, as FACT provided the Herald/Times with a copy of its. Both complaints are dated Wednesday.

MORE: Read the two complaints here and here.

Murphy campaign spokesman Joshua Karp dismissed the complaints as "desperate," politically motivated attacks. He called Carroll's complaint, in particular, not "worth the cost of a stamp, and it's an abuse of taxpayer dollars to ask taxpayer-paid employees to read it and throw it in the trash."

"Not only does this complaint get its facts wrong, it is filed by a long time supporter of Marco Rubio who has donated to him," Karp said in reference to the Republican incumbent. Karp did not respond to a request for which facts were incorrect in Carroll's complaint.

FEC filings show Carroll previously gave $255 to Rubio's former presidential campaign, for which she listed herself as "campaign manager" in contribution records. 

Murphy's campaign has similarly dismissed as "frivolous and unfounded" previous complaints from FACT over Murphy's family connections and his campaign finances.

FACT and Carroll now claim, though, that Murphy executed what Carroll described as "a sham 'sale' " by claiming to have sold $1 million in stock in his family's Coastal Construction Group to use as collateral for the recent campaign loan. Murphy was gifted his stock in Coastal a few years ago by his father -- Coastal founder, CEO and chairman Tom Murphy Jr.

"This massive sale of stocks given to him by his father warrants investigation by the Office of Congressional Ethics ... as it appears to constitute a prohibited contribution in the name of another in violation of both federal campaign finance laws and House Ethics rules," Carroll writes in her complaint.

Continue reading "Republicans allege Patrick Murphy's stock sale for campaign loan is illegal 'sham'" »