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Fact-checking Patrick Murphy, Democratic hopeful to succeed Marco Rubio

Patrick Murphy celebrates his election to Congress in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., on Nov. 7, 2012. Patrick Murphy celebrates his election to Congress in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., on Nov. 7, 2012.

Patrick Murphy celebrates his election to Congress in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., on Nov. 7, 2012.

Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman March 23, 2015

U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, a Democratic political newcomer who ousted GOP firebrand Allen West in 2012, announced Monday morning that he will run for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Republican Marco Rubio. Murphy plans to run regardless of whether Rubio makes a presidential bid or not.

"I’m running for the U.S. Senate for the same reason I ran for Congress in 2012 – Washington is full of hyper-partisan politicians who can’t, or won’t, get anything done, and Florida deserves better," Murphy said in a prepared statement. "I’m a consensus-builder who is working to boost the economy by cutting waste in government, raise the minimum wage, strengthen Social Security and Medicare, and protect the Everglades. I’ve done all of this by being an independent voice for Florida, and that’s what the Senate needs more of right now."

With Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston and former Gov. Charlie Crist both announcing that they won’t seek the seat, the only other big Democratic name known to be weighing a run is U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson of Orlando.

On the Republican side, there is a long list of Republicans who are prepared to potentially run if Rubio steps aside to seek the presidency. They include state CFO Jeff Atwater and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera.

Murphy took a swipe at Rubio in his statement: "For years, Senator Rubio has put the needs of Floridians behind his presidential ambitions.  We need a leader in the Senate whose eyes are firmly fixed on the people of Florida by working together to get things done. In the coming months, I look forward to meeting Floridians across the state to listen, earn their trust, and ask for their support."

Murphy, 31-year-old of Jupiter, represents Florida’s Treasure Coast, which includes parts of Palm Beach, Martin and St. Lucie counties. It’s one of the only districts in the state in which registration is closely matched between the parties. In 2012, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney won the district with 52 percent of the vote in 2012.

Murphy has built a reputation as a middle-of-the-road Democrat who’s willing to join the GOP on certain votes, including backing the Keystone XL Pipeline, which has been opposed by President Barack Obama. Congressional Quarterly determined that Murphy voted in support of Obama’s positions 49 percent of the time in 2014, and National Journal ranked him among the most conservative House Democrats. Still, he has faced attacks from GOP groups and received a 20 percent rating by the American Conservative Union.

Murphy, a Miami native and certified public accountant who worked at his father’s Coastal Construction firm, first announced he would take on tea party favorite West in 2011 when he was just 28. Murphy had switched his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat earlier that year.

West initially represented a swing district in Broward and Palm Beach, but after the district was redrawn, he decided to run in a more conservative district to the north, and Murphy followed him there. Murphy beat West by less than a percentage point, then beat former state Rep. Carl Domino with ease in 2014.

Here’s a look at fact-checks we’ve done involving Murphy (Here is Murphy’s overall Truth-O-Meter record.):

Attacks on Murphy’s voting record

In 2013, the National Republican Congressional Committee said Murphy "voted to keep the scandal-ridden IRS in charge of enforcing Obamacare."  

It is true that Murphy joined most Democrats in opposing a bill called the "Keep the IRS Off Your Health Care Act of 2013." The measure would have prevented the IRS from enforcing any portion of Obamacare.

While the IRS is playing a major role in enforcing elements of the Affordable Care Act, it goes too far to say the agency is "in charge" of enforcing the health law. States, the federal Department of Health and Human Services, and other agencies play key roles in enforcing and implementing various aspects of the law. We rated the NRCC’s claim Mostly False.

Meanwhile, Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group that opposes the Affordable Care Act, said Murphy voted for Obamacare in 2010 yet "reversed himself and voted to delay" the employer mandate and the individual mandate.

The problem with that claim was that Murphy wasn’t a member of Congress until 2013. AFP later acknowledged that it had confused Murphy with a similarly named Democratic member of Congress, Rep. Patrick Murphy of Pennsylvania.

On the campaign trail in 2012, Murphy had said he supported the health care law, but also thought it could be improved. He criticized some of the requirements on businesses, such as the requirement for filing complicated 1099 forms which was later repealed.

Attacks on Murphy’s college days

In the bare-knuckled West-Murphy race, a West campaign ad said Murphy was trying to "hide his drunken assault of a police officer." The ad was referring to a 2003 incident in which Murphy was a 19-year-old freshman at the University of Miami. Murphy and a friend were fighting and disrupting others at a Miami Beach bar, Club Crobar, and were escorted out by security. An officer asked Murphy for his I.D., but he refused to turn over a fake New Jersey driver’s license.

Murphy was arrested for disorderly intoxication and possession of a stolen driver’s license.

When PolitiFact Florida analyzed the ad’s claims, we saw no evidence in the officer’s narrative or court records that Murphy physically assaulted a police officer. Also, Murphy wasn’t convicted -- the charge was quickly transferred to traffic court and was dismissed within months. We rated the ad’s claim Mostly False.

West also claimed that after the charges were dropped, "Murphy’s father gave the prosecutor a huge campaign donation. That referred to campaign donations made by Patrick’s father Thomas P. Murphy and his construction businesses to Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle.

After the 2003 case against Murphy was dropped, his father’s companies gave $1,500 to Fernandez Rundle’s re-election campaign. Murphy’s father also gave $500 to Fernandez Rundle in 2000. But it was a stretch to call either donation "huge," particularly for his father’s firms which had given five-figure donations to the Republican Party of Florida in the past. We rated that claim Mostly False.

Murphy’s fundraising

Democrats are encouraged by Murphy’s past fundraising prowess.

In 2011, we fact-checked Murphy’s claim that "for the second quarter in a row, my campaign has raised more money than any other challenger in the nation and brought our fundraising total to over $800,000."

Through the first two quarters of 2011, Murphy -- then running in his first race -- raised roughly $809,000. A few other challengers taking on incumbents did raise more than Murphy in the first or second quarter, but they only surpassed Murphy because they gave themselves large loans or because they transferred money from a U.S. Senate campaign. We rated that claim True.

During the 2014 race, Murphy raised about $5.2 million. The only other Democratic candidate in the House to raise a larger sum was Sean Eldridge of New York -- the husband of Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes -- but more than half of Eldridge’s campaign was self-financed, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. (Eldridge, unlike Murphy, lost badly.)

Spot a claim by or about Patrick Murphy or other politicians worthy of a fact-check? #PolitiFactThis or [email protected]

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Our Sources

CQ, Patrick Murphy profile (subscription required), Accessed March 13, 2015

Patrick Murphy campaign, Press release, March 23, 2015

GovTrack, Patrick Murphy 2014 report card, Accessed March 13, 2015

Center for Responsive Politics, "Cash for challengers: some turn the tables, outraising incumbents," Nov. 1, 2014

Tampa Bay Times The Buzz blog, "Fla. US Sen poll: Patrick Murphy stronger against Rubio than Wasserman Schultz," March 10, 2015

Tampa Bay Times The Buzz blog, "Fla. Insider Poll: Sizing up Fla.’s ‘16 US Senate race," Feb. 1, 2015

Tampa Bay Times, "In swing district, Rep. Patrick Murphy has to tread carefully," July 4, 2013

Miami Herald’s Naked Politics blog, "Mason Dixon poll: Marco Rubio leads Democrats if he runs for Senate reelection," March 10, 2015

PolitiFact Florida, Patrick Murphy’s file, Accessed March 13, 2015

Politico, "Pols line up to replace Marco Rubio," March 12, 2015

See individual fact-checks for additional sources

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

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Fact-checking Patrick Murphy, Democratic hopeful to succeed Marco Rubio