Murphy Announces in Florida; Schilling on Radar

Florida Senate

As expected, Florida Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Jupiter) formally announced his US Senate candidacy. Accompanying the public pronouncement were targeted Internet ads to liberal political websites indicating that he is running to “stop the Tea Party”.

Murphy’s reach to the left is intended to secure the liberal base for purposes of capturing the Democratic nomination, thus beginning to pinch Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Orlando), another potential candidate. Murphy has to walk a tightrope, however, moving far enough left in the short term but not so far as to marginalize himself for the general election in what has become America’s quintessential swing state.

The congressman’s ad features a picture of conservative ex-Rep. Allen West (R-FL-22), who Murphy unseated in 2012, with the word “Stopped” stamped across his picture. Next to West’s image is a picture of Sen. Marco Rubio, with the word “Next” affixed to his photo. The final shot shows Murphy above a US Senate banner, and adjacent to a sign-up box. The inference is that Murphy defeating West “stopped” him, and ostensibly running against Rubio means the senator is next in line for defeat.

Rep. Murphy needs to cover his left flank largely because of his more centrist voting record. The National Journal ranks him as the 10th most conservative Democrat in the House. Though this positions him to the left of every Republican, twisting such a statistic before Democratic primary voters would likely portray him in an unfavorable light irrespective of how he votes in the aggregate.

Conversely, while he’s running this type of ad designed to polarize, he simultaneously tells his home area’s Palm Beach Post newspaper during his announcement interview that he is a “consensus builder” and “independent voice” who stands in contrast to “hyper-partisan politicians who can’t, or won’t, get anything done.”

Now the focus turns toward Sen. Rubio, who is expected to forgo re-election in order to concentrate on a presidential run. Until Rubio clarifies his plans, expect Murphy to launch pointed attacks against the senator, using him as an easy target with which to score points with his Democratic primary constituency.

Murphy running for Senate means his 18th Congressional District that includes the Jupiter area, West Palm Beach, and Port St. Lucie will be open in 2016. One of just five Republican districts to elect a Democratic congressman in the nation, FL-18 will be a prime National Republican Congressional Committee conversion target for next year.

Should Rubio relinquish the Senate seat in the 2016 election, expect several Republicans to run. Three statewide officials, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, and Attorney General Pam Biondi, are all possible candidates, as are representatives Ron DeSantis (R-FL-6) and Vern Buchanan (R-FL-16).

With Rep. Murphy as the Democratic nominee, the party will be well positioned to fight for a GOP seat. Only needing four or five conversion seats to re-claim the Senate majority – depending upon which party wins the White House – putting Florida in play will go a long way toward achieving that goal.

IL-18

A new name has surfaced in the soon-to-be-vacant western Illinois congressional seat that Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Peoria) is resigning at the end of the month.

Former Rep. Bobby Schilling (R), who represented the adjacent 17th District for one term, is apparently testing the waters to run in the upcoming district special election. Schilling became a redistricting victim in 2012 because the Democratic congressional map drawers extended his district well south to include the city of Peoria (and Rockford to the northeast) in order to add Democrats to the voting population. Though Peoria city is no longer in the 18th, the surrounding area is, and Schilling represented almost 20 percent of what is now the Schock district.

Already in the race is state Sen. Darin LaHood (R), son of former congressman and US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood (R). Also considering running are state Rep. Dan Brady (R) and businessman Ed Brady (R). The two Brady’s are not related.

The candidate field will begin to crystallize once Rep. Schock leaves office on March 31st, and the subsequent nomination system and schedule is determined.

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