Rep. Patrick Murphy (D)
Pennsylvania 8th District
Bucks County was one of founding father William Penn’s three original settlements and the launching point for George Washington’s crossing of the frigid Delaware River to surprise English and Hessian forces on Christmas Day 1776. But it has had a split personality from the start. Upper Bucks County was at once a bucolic paradise of rolling hills and creeks running into the Delaware River and, after Penn’s secretary, James Logan, built the Durham Furnace iron works in 1727, it became one of the nation’s major industrial sites. In the 1920s, Bucks County’s well-settled farmland, old fieldstone houses and covered bridges captured the imagination of writers and artists, attracting the New York theatrical crowd—Oscar Hammerstein, Moss Hart, Dorothy Parker, S. J. Perelman. New Hope remains a popular weekend spot with hip boutiques and restaurants. After World War II, its location between Philadelphia and Trenton, N.J., brought industrial Lower Bucks County to the forefront. The ocean-navigable Delaware River and several rail lines resulted in huge new developments: U.S. Steel’s Fairless Works, one of the few big postwar steel plants, and the Levitt organization’s second Levittown, in what had been a swamp between U.S. 13 and U.S. 1. Most of the steel mill closed in 1991, and today, Bucks County’s largest employers are in the health care field.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
Bucks County’s politics were heavily Republican, but more recently, it has been marginally Democratic. This was the home of Republican Sen. Joseph Grundy, longtime head of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association, who opposed the 1930 Smoot-Hawley tariff as insufficiently protectionist. Development in Bucks came after the New Deal, unlike other suburban Philadelphia counties where most blue-collar immigration occurred years earlier. Lower Bucks around the Fairless Works and Levittown, with its tightly-packed homes filled with blue collar workers, became Democratic. Upper Bucks, faster-growing and attracting trendy New Yorkers, has favored Democratic policies such as green space programs to keep developers away.
The 8th Congressional District of Pennsylvania includes all of Bucks County, a tiny finger of Montgomery County and parts of two wards in Northeast Philadelphia. Bucks has a small minority population and the third highest income of any county in the state. The 8th was marginal in elections during the 1980s. Since then, it has moved with other Philadelphia suburban areas toward the Democrats and has voted for Democratic presidential candidates since 1992. It also joined the rest of southeastern Pennsylvania in voting decisively for Democrat Ed Rendell for governor in 2002 and 2006. Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama won the district 54%-45% in 2008.
Rep. Patrick Murphy (D)
Elected: 2006, 2nd term.
Born: Oct. 19, 1973, Philadelphia .
Education: Attended Bucks Cnty. Comm. Col., King’s Col., B.S. 1996, Widener U., J.D. 1999.
Family: Married (Jennifer); 1 child.
Military career: Army, 1996-2004 (Bosnia, Iraq); Army Reserves, 2004-present.
Professional Career: Asst. professor and staff atty., U.S. Military Academy, West Point, 1999-2004; Practicing atty., 2004-06; Adjct. prof., Mt. S. Mary's Col.; Lecturer, Widener U.
The congressman from the 8th District is Patrick Murphy, a Democrat elected in 2006 and the first Iraq war veteran elected to Congress. Murphy grew up in Northeast Philadelphia, the son of a Philadelphia policeman and a legal secretary. He attended Bucks County Community College, enrolled as a cadet in the Army ROTC program at King’s College, and after graduation, earned a commission in the Army as a second lieutenant. He obtained his law degree at Widener University, got a job as a staff attorney at West Point, and later taught there as a professor. Murphy trained as paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division and served four months in Bosnia in 2002 and seven months in Iraq beginning in mid-2003. In Iraq, he worked as a JAG Corps attorney, handling court-martial cases and claims made against U.S. troops by Iraqis, and rebuilding the Iraqi justice system. After returning from Iraq, he practiced law at a Philadelphia firm, and volunteered as a veterans’ liaison in Pennsylvania for Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry in 2004.
|Patrick Murphy (D)||197,869||(57%)||($3,917,416)|
|Tom Manion (R)||145,103||(42%)||($1,138,048)|
|Patrick Murphy (D)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (50%)
He was a first-time candidate when he decided to challenge Republican Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick in 2006. He first had a competitive primary with recent Democratic convert Andrew Warren, who was better known to voters after four terms as a Republican Bucks County commissioner. Warren called for rapid troop withdrawal from Iraq, while Murphy offered a three-phase troop redeployment that would bring U.S. troops home by the end of 2007. Murphy won, 65%-35%.
First-term incumbent Fitzpatrick had been hurried onto the ballot in 2004 after longtime GOP Rep. Jim Greenwood announced he was leaving Congress, and so had only a weak hold on the seat. His conservative positions on abortion rights and stem cell research differed from Murphy’s. And Murphy’s military credentials gave him credibility on Iraq and forced Fitzpatrick to stray from the party line; in one mailer the incumbent declared, “Mike Fitzpatrick to President Bush: ‘America needs a better, smarter plan in Iraq.’” Murphy too was critical of President George W. Bush’s handling of the war, but struck a different tone than other Democratic war opponents. “I’m not antiwar. I’m not pro-war. I’m pro-troops,” Murphy told the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Fitzpatrick tried to distance himself from the by-then unpopular administration by noting he had voted against the Republican budget and a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, and that he had earned endorsements from environmental groups. He also charged that Murphy had moved into the district to further his political ambitions. In one debate, he stumped Murphy by asking him how many school districts there are in Bucks County. The National Republican Congressional Committee pumped $3.5 million in independent ads into the district, compared to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s $1.7 million. Fitzpatrick outspent Murphy $3.2 million to $2.4 million. But Murphy won 50.3%-49.7%. Fitzpatrick actually carried Bucks County, which includes almost all the district, by just over 1,000 votes. But Murphy carried smaller areas of Northeast Philadelphia and Montgomery County by large enough margins to win the district by just over 1,500 votes. Shortly before taking office, Murphy generated some controversy by signing a book deal with a $100,000 advance, which Republicans called a possible violation for the outside-income rule. The book, Taking the Hill, was published in February 2008.
In the House, Murphy established a centrist voting record, especially on social issues. He quickly became a favorite of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who made him a party spokesman on the issue of a troop withdrawal from Iraq. With seats on the Armed Services and Intelligence committees, he was a leading voice against Bush’s troop “surge” plan to send more combat troops to Iraq to restore order. And he was a leading proponent of the Democrats’ initial plan to require redeployment of all combat troops by March 2008. Murphy contended that once the Iraqis knew that American forces were departing, they would take more responsibility.
On other issues, Murphy won House approval of his amendment to the higher education bill to require universities to estimate their long-range charges for tuition and other costs.
In 2008, Murphy had an easy ride to re-election against pharmaceutical executive Tom Manion, a former Marine whose son was killed in Iraq. After spending nearly $4 million to Manion’s $1.1 million, Murphy won 57%-42%.