September 06, 2012 at 11:07 pm
By Jonathan Mattise
Treasure Coast Newspapers
While introducing himself as Allen West’s opponent at meeting after meeting, Patrick Murphy caught up at the Democratic National Convention with another former Republican turning blue from Florida — Charlie Crist.
Murphy, a Democratic Jupiter accountant, said he sat down Wednesday in Charlotte with the former Republican Florida governor who’s grabbing headlines for drifting Democratic. It’s hardly the first time Murphy and Crist have gotten together, though. Murphy and his family were friendly to Crist’s U.S. Senate campaign in 2010, and Crist is returning the favor for Murphy’s District 18 run this cycle.
“He’s been very supportive of my campaign, and we stay in touch regularly,” Murphy said.
Crist went independent during a dying 2010 primary bid against U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, but lost anyway in the general election. He’s been largely out of politics since that defeat, despite rumors of a return. Crist made his comeback to the political stage Thursday night as a DNC speaker, sparking plenty of jabs from Republicans and mixed reviews from Democrats. Crist also endorsed Obama over Republican Mitt Romney.
Landing the speaking gig only intensified murmurs that he’ll switch to Democrat and run against GOP Gov. Rick Scott for his old job in 2014.
Murphy, similarly a refugee from the Republican Party, points at the tea party movement that carried West into office as the reason for his flip to Democrat in January 2011.
“The extremism of the Tea Party is now taking over the party. When you read this Republican platform, the exception is now becoming the rule,” Murphy said. “Charlie Crist and others don’t want to identify with that party. It’s a party of fear-mongering and hatred.”
West, the Palm Beach Gardens Republican running for a second term, didn’t have to say much to reflect the GOP’s distaste for Crist. When West heard Murphy met with the former governor, he let out a five-second belly laugh.
At their rival convention in Tampa last week, West’s Republican colleagues didn’t waste any opportunities to call Crist a disloyal flip-flopper.
“I think what you’re talking about are unscrupulous, characterless individuals who four years ago were out there, ‘I’m a Republican. I’m donating and bundling money for Mitt Romney,’” West said about Crist and Murphy. “And now look at them. They’re just a bunch of political opportunists.”
Campaign manager Anthony Kusich said Murphy never bundled for Romney. Murphy did give $2,300 to Romney before the 2008 primary, federal elections records show. He said Romney was a different candidate then — pro-gay-rights and pro-choice at the time.
Murphy’s family business, Coastal Construction Group in Miami, firmly backed Crist against Rubio in 2010. Coastal Construction employees anted up $28,800 total for Crist’s 2010 Senate campaign, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. Accordingly, Crist has signed $5,000 in checks for Murphy’s congressional bid. His wife Carole, who switched from Republican to Democrat in 2011, has given Murphy $2,000.
Not all Democrats were enthused about Crist’s DNC role because of his inconsistencies, including 2014 gubernatorial candidate and outgoing Florida Senate Minority Leader Nan Rich. As for Murphy — he’s a fan of a potential Crist run at governor.
“That will probably be a likely route for him,” Murphy said. “I think he was a good governor. I think he was moderate, and got a lot done for the state.”
Murphy and Coastal Construction have given almost exclusively to Democratic causes this cycle — U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and Obama, for starters.
Murphy’s packed two-day schedule at the DNC also was a chance to start casting a wider net in an increasingly national bout with West. The District 18 race ranks third most expensive in the U.S. House, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Center for Responsive Politics stats show West, a $10.8 million fundraiser who clocks in with the third highest campaign total in the country, gets 54 percent of his donations from out of state. Murphy, whose campaign is worth $2.4 million, brings 22 percent of his donations from outside Florida. Martin and St. Lucie County donations are a minuscule part of campaign war chests for the Broward County candidates who moved to run in District 18.
“(West) is getting support all over the country, we’ve got to do the same thing if we want to compete with him and expect to beat him,” Murphy said.
The Miami Herald contributed to this report.