October 28, 2016

Patrick Murphy on new FBI review of Clinton emails: 'I expect we'll all be learning more soon'

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@ByKristenMClark

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy has been all-in on Hillary Clinton since she first launched her presidential campaign, and he has loyally stuck by her during congressional and federal investigations over the private email server she kept as Secretary of State.

With news Friday afternoon that the FBI was potentially re-opening its probe into Clinton after finding new emails "pertinent to the investigation," Murphy's campaign re-affirmed the Jupiter congressman's trust in Clinton -- but wouldn't initially address the fresh controversy facing her 11 days before Election Day.

Murphy's campaign spokeswoman Galia Slayen did not directly answer questions from the Herald/Times on Friday afternoon as to whether Murphy had a response to the FBI's new review of Clinton's emails, whether he found the matter at all concerning and whether it, in any way, changed his level of support for Clinton.

Slayen said only: "Patrick trusts Hillary Clinton with the nuclear codes, which is more than Marco Rubio can say about his preferred candidate for president, Donald Trump."

Pivoting to attack Rubio, Florida's Republican incumbent U.S. senator, about his support for Trump has been a common response from Murphy's campaign this month, including in the two debates Murphy and Rubio have had.

Ninety minutes after Slayen provided the campaign's statement (and after the Herald/Times noted the campaign's lack of comment), Murphy's campaign followed up with this additional statement from Murphy himself:

"Secretary Clinton has said her use of personal email was a mistake and has apologized for it. This just became public, and I expect we'll all be learning more soon."

Murphy has spoken at Clinton rallies in Florida four times this month: twice with Clinton herself first in Miami and then Coconut Creek and twice with President Barack Obama first in Miami Gardens and then this evening in Orlando.

Photo credit: Patrick Farrell / Miami Herald

*This post was updated at 6:15 p.m. with additional comment from Murphy's campaign.

Patrick Murphy, who 'hates' super PACs, raises money off 'major boost' he's getting from one

@ByKristenMClark

Democrat Patrick Murphy has made campaign finance reform one of his key issues in his bid for U.S. Senate, notably saying this year he "hates" super PACs.

Yet, on Friday morning, Murphy's campaign sent out a fundraising email heralding it as "great news" that the Jupiter congressman was getting a "major boost" from one of those very same political funding sources he wants to dismantle if elected to the Senate.

The email references outside help Murphy's campaign is getting in the home-stretch from the Senate Majority PAC. The national Democratic super PAC announced Thursday it'd be giving at least $1 million to another super PAC dedicated to boosting Murphy's prospects against Republican incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio.

"This is fantastic for our race," Murphy's fundraising email said.

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Super PACs can raise unlimited amounts of money but can't coordinate with candidates' campaigns.

Murphy has said repeatedly that he wants to reverse the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling that paved the way for super PACs as well as dark-money groups, which don't have to disclose their donors.

Both Murphy and Rubio have benefited greatly from those funding sources during their past and present campaigns.

But of the two, only Murphy champions getting rid of super PACs even as he embraces the benefits of them -- a position that has sparked accusations of hypocrisy from Murphy's critics. (Rubio supports Citizens United.)

For example, despite abhorring special interest money in politics, Murphy has voiced gratitude for his wealthy father pouring nearly $3 million so far this cycle into super PACs -- including the Senate Majority PAC -- that have supported Murphy's Senate campaign.

When asked why Murphy was touting the "major boost" he's getting from the type of political group he wants to get rid of, Murphy's campaign spokeswoman Galia Slayen said in an email to the Herald/Times: "Like every other Senate candidate, Patrick has to play by the rules as they are, not as he wants them to be. To do otherwise would be absurd."

"Patrick has a message of showing up and working hard for Florida and he is appreciative of support that helps get that message out," Slayen said.

Pro-Murphy super PAC uses new cash to recycle attack ad on Rubio

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@ByKristenMClark

Flush with fresh cash from national Democrats and other donors, a super PAC supporting Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy is re-airing an attack ad in Miami that criticizes Republican incumbent Marco Rubio's Senate record.

The ad that the pro-Murphy "Floridians for a Strong Middle Class" announced Friday actually first debuted a month ago, when it was launched by the Senate Majority PAC, a national Democratic super PAC. "Floridians for a Strong Middle Class" says it's spending at least $100,000 to air the ad in Miami through Election Day.

On Thursday, the Senate Majority PAC announced it was giving at least $1 million to "Floridians for a Strong Middle Class" to prop up Murphy's campaign in the final days of the race. "Floridians for a Strong Middle Class" spokeswoman Ashley Walker said the latest ad buy is being funded in part from that money, as well as money from other supporters.

"It’s bad enough that Rubio rarely shows up to work, but it’s worse when he actually does and votes against our state’s best interests," Walker said in a statement.

Rubio spokeswoman Olivia Perez Cubas said in response: "Patrick Murphy has been in Congress for four years and has nothing to show for it, so he and his allies are attacking Marco. Florida already has a senator with a strong record of fighting for them, and that's why they're going to re-elect Marco." 

Recent polls show Rubio is maintaining an edge in the race, but Murphy has been able to narrow the gap in the past couple weeks.

Image credit: Floridians for a Strong Middle Class / YouTube

Miami Republican billionaire backs Murphy for U.S. Senate, donates to super PAC

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@ByKristenMClark & @PatriciaMazzei

Miami Republican Mike Fernandez, a billionaire healthcare executive, plans to vote for Democrat Patrick Murphy over Republican incumbent Marco Rubio in Florida’s U.S. Senate race, Fernandez told the Miami Herald in an email.

Fernandez recently backed up that support with a $100,000 donation to a super PAC supporting Murphy, money that is affording the group to make last-minute moves to prop up Murphy’s candidacy in the competitive contest against Rubio.

Fernandez — a top Jeb Bush donor in the GOP presidential primary who formally endorsed Hillary Clinton for president in September — told the Herald late Thursday that the main reason he’s voting for Murphy is because of the Jupiter congressman’s support for lifting the Cuba embargo.

More here.

Photo credit: Miami Herald file photo

October 27, 2016

Murphy loans $1M to his Senate campaign for last-minute ad time

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@ByKristenMClark

Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy personally loaned $1 million to his U.S. Senate campaign in October to pay for extra TV ad time in the final two weeks before Election Day, his campaign says.

The move comes after Murphy had lackluster fundraising in the third quarter and after national Democratic groups withdrew millions of dollars from Florida this fall, leaving Murphy to largely fend for himself.

"These additional resources will help position our campaign to win with expanded TV buys across Florida. We are confident in our path to victory," campaign manager Josh Wolf said in a statement Thursday.

MORE: Bitter Senate debate reflects tightening race between Rubio, Murphy

The loan is being disclosed this week as part of the campaign's pre-general election campaign finance report, which is due to the Federal Election Commission on Thursday. A copy of that report -- which would detail how and when the loan was reported to the FEC -- was not immediately available Thursday morning from Murphy's campaign.

The campaign plans to use the influx of cash from Murphy's loan to continue running a Spanish-language ad featuring President Barack Obama in Miami. That's Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio's backyard and where Murphy is working to court the county's high Hispanic population, which leans Republican.

Murphy's loan will also help pay for ad time in Gainesville, Tallahassee and Jacksonville -- areas of the state Murphy hasn't had much of a visible presence in but where his campaign hopes to close the gap with independents. In those markets, Murphy's campaign plans to air an ad he debuted earlier this month that knocks Rubio for his poor Senate attendance record.

Murphy is making use of his personal wealth to front the loan with no outside help.

In his annual financial disclosure for 2015 -- filed this spring -- Murphy reported a net worth of between $72,000 and almost $4.8 million. Much of that wealth comes from stock in his family's Coastal Construction Group, shares valued at between $1 million and $5 million. (The gift from his father, Coastal chairman and CEO Tom Murphy, tripled Patrick Murphy's net worth when he received it in 2012 before he first took office in Congress.)

Coincidentally, Rubio brought up Murphy's wealth in Wednesday night's final U.S. Senate debate during a discussion about the economy. (Murphy -- for whom strengthening the middle class is a major campaign platform -- supports raising the minimum wage; Rubio doesn't.)

In his rebuttal, Rubio mocked Murphy by saying: "I find it ironic that I'm being lectured by the plight of the working class by a millionaire who inherited his money" while Rubio noted he "is the son of working class immigrants who inherited no money." 

Photo credit: AP

October 26, 2016

White House: Obama 'committed to strongly supporting' Patrick Murphy

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@ByKristenMClark

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said in a press briefing Wednesday that President Barack Obama is "committed to strongly supporting" Patrick Murphy's U.S. Senate campaign in Florida -- but the White House won't weigh in on how national Democratic groups should spend their money helping Murphy versus other U.S. Senate candidates.

Between early September and mid-October, the Senate Majority super PAC and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee pulled $16 million in planned TV ad spending the groups had reserved to fortify Murphy's campaign this fall against Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

The decisions came as Murphy gained little, if any, ground on Rubio in September, causing the Democrats to re-direct their resources to other competitive -- and potentially more winnable -- Senate contests elsewhere.

But in the past two weeks, Murphy's campaign picked up steam again.

Recent polls show the race very close. And Murphy has gotten vocal praise from both Obama and Hillary Clinton during their recent visits to Florida, which has helped Murphy's name ID and his support among the Democratic base.

But the Democrats' money hasn't returned -- and if it did, the ad time would be vastly more expensive than before.

Some Democratic leaders are questioning the DSCC's earlier decision to withdraw from Florida and not more aggressively help Murphy unseat Rubio, according to a story by Politico on Tuesday.

When Earnest was asked Wednesday whether Obama had an opinion on if Democrats should do as much as they can to take out Rubio (and consequently help Murphy), Earnest said: "I can tell you that President Obama is traveling down to Florida because he believes that Congressman Murphy is the right person to represent the state of Florida in the United States Senate. And he will reiterate that case once again on Friday in Orlando."

"The president feels strongly about the race," Earnest added. "When it comes to the strategy that's implemented by the DSCC, those are decisions for them to make. But the president is -- is certainly committed to strongly supporting Congressman Murphy's campaign and is optimistic about his prospects."

McClatchy D.C. reporter Lesley Clark contributed to this report.

Photo credit: Miami Herald

Tonight is the second -- and final -- debate night for Rubio and Murphy

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@ByKristenMClark

Florida’s U.S. Senate race has, at last, shifted into a position long predicted by political observers and even the candidates themselves: A neck-and-neck contest that will go down to the wire between Marco Rubio, the Republican incumbent, and Patrick Murphy, the Democratic challenger.

The candidates’ second and final debate Wednesday night is among their last chances to gain an edge in the competitive contest and to draw the support of undecided voters who’ve yet to cast their ballots.

The debate begins at 7 p.m. at Broward College in Davie.

More details here on what to expect and how to watch.

October 25, 2016

Rubio: 'We're not going to be held hostage to whatever Patrick Murphy's mood is' on debates

Rubio_1stdebate_1017_ap@ByKristenMClark

Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio has ruled out the potential for any additional debates after Wednesday night's showdown with Democrat Patrick Murphy at Broward College -- what will be their second of two scheduled debates this fall.

"It's going to be the final one, because we're not going to keep playing this game," Rubio told Adrian Whitsett of WESH 2 News in Orlando over the weekend.

Rubio's comments came a day after Rubio and Murphy quarreled over who was to blame for the cancellation of what could have been their third debate, organized by Univision.

MORE: "No Univision debate for Rubio, Murphy"

The Spanish-language network took the event off the table after Murphy's campaign objected to the station's proposal -- which Rubio supported -- of having the debate in Spanish with a translator for Murphy. Murphy wanted the debate in English and then dubbed for the Hispanic-viewing audience. (His campaign accused Rubio of seeking unprecedented rules.)

In writing off any possible future debates, Rubio essentially told WESH that the clock had run out with two weeks left until Election Day.

"We have things to schedule, places to be and things to do," Rubio said. "We're not going to be held hostage to whatever Patrick Murphy's mood is in the morning when they call him about debates."

Continue reading "Rubio: 'We're not going to be held hostage to whatever Patrick Murphy's mood is' on debates" »

Murphy denies Trump connections, but CNN.com unearths photo of Murphy's dad with The Donald

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@ByKristenMClark

After Patrick Murphy relentlessly criticized U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio for weeks for standing by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, Rubio tried to shift the spotlight on to his Democratic challenger during last week's first Senate debate by alleging Murphy's family has made "millions" off doing business with Trump.

Murphy quickly called it "another lie" and, in the days since, has repeatedly denied any direct business connections between Trump and his family’s Coastal Construction Group. "We've never had a contract with Donald Trump," Murphy told the Tampa Bay Times and other Florida news media last week.

But CNN.com on Tuesday unearthed old photos that put Murphy in the position of having to further explain himself.

The images show Murphy’s father -- Coastal founder and CEO Tom Murphy Jr. (shown above at far left) -- a few feet away from Trump in a group photo-op at the ground-breaking for Trump Hollywood in 2007. Everyone in the photo, including the elder Murphy, is wearing a Trump-branded hard-hat.

Republicans quickly blasted out CNN.com's story, saying the images were "damaging" to the Jupiter congressman and "prove Murphy lied in the last debate."

But Murphy's campaign says the images show nothing of the sort and shed no new light on Coastal's business history with Trump.

The campaign acknowledges Coastal and Trump were "associated" with the same two South Florida projects -- Trump Hollywood and Trump Royale in Sunny Isles. But the campaign maintains, as Murphy has also said: It was the developer's responsibility in each project for separately hiring Coastal as its builder and Trump to market the properties.

Nonetheless, expect this topic to come up during Wednesday night's second and final U.S. Senate debate.

Photo credit: In this Getty image from 2007, Tom Murphy Jr. (pictured far left) appears in a group photo with Donald Trump (center) during the ground-breaking for Trump Hollywood. CNN.com

Patrick Murphy will speak at Hillary Clinton rally today in Broward

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@ByKristenMClark

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy will be among the opening speakers before Hillary Clinton takes the stage at a campaign rally today in Coconut Creek, Murphy's campaign said.

The rally is set to begin around 2:15 p.m.

This is the third major Clinton rally Murphy has spoken at in as many weeks, all in the strongly Democratic terrain of South Florida. It will be his second with Clinton directly; the other rally featured President Barack Obama stumping on Clinton's behalf.

When Obama spoke in Miami Gardens on Thursday, he devoted a significant portion of his speech to criticizing Republican incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio and urging Democratic voters to support Murphy so the Jupiter congressman could unseat him.

In Murphy's first two rally speeches, he got about 5-8 minutes on stage -- in which he delivered part of his routine stump speech to the friendly audience, while also laying into his opponent for continuing to support Donald Trump for president.

In contrast to Murphy, Rubio has not -- and, the senator's campaign says, will not -- campaign alongside Trump in Florida.

Photo credit: Richard Graulich / Palm Beach Post