Rep. Scott Murphy (D)
Elected: Mar. 2009, 1st term.
Born: Jan. 19, 1970, Columbia, MO .
Home: Glens Falls.
Education: Harvard U., A.B. 1992.
Family: Married (Jennifer Hogan); 3 children.
Professional Career: Aide, Roger Wilson for lt. gov., 1992; Aide, Gov. Mel Carnahan, 1992; Owner, Small World Software, 1993-98; COO, iXL New York, 1998-2001; Depty. chief of staff, Gov. Roger Wilson, 2000-01; Managing dir., Advantage Capital Partners, 2001-08
The new congressman from the 20th District is Scott Murphy, a Democrat elected in 2009 after Gillibrand was appointed to the Senate seat vacated by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Murphy is the son of a postal worker and a teacher and grew up in Columbia, Mo. After graduating magna cum laude from Harvard University in 1992, Murphy planned on working on Democrat Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign, but returned home because his mother was ill. He instead worked on Democrat Roger Wilson’s successful campaign for Missouri lieutenant governor, and then worked as an aide to Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan. After that taste of politics, Murphy moved to New York City to work as a venture capitalist, with a focus on high-technology and Internet-related companies. He invested money in baazee.com, an Indian auction website that eBay later bought for $50 million. He also co-founded Small World Software, which developed the first online fantasy sports leagues. In 2000, after Gov. Carnahan’s death in a plane crash, Wilson became governor for a few months and asked Murphy to be his deputy chief of staff. Murphy commuted back and forth from New York for a few months and then returned to his work as a venture capitalist.
|Scott Murphy (D-Ind-WF)||80,833||(50%)|
|Jim Tedisco (R-C)||80,107||(50%)|
|Kirsten Gillibrand (D-WF)||193,651||(62%)||($4,489,391)|
|Sandy Treadwell (R-Ind-C)||118,031||(38%)||($7,038,552)|
|Kirsten Gillibrand (D-WF)||Unopposed|
Murphy’s opportunity to jump back into politics came when New York Gov. David Paterson appointed Gillibrand to the Senate in late January 2009, triggering a special election. Both national parties immediately took a strong interest in the race. Republicans saw an opportunity for a much-needed win in a GOP-friendly district, while Democrats very much wanted to hold the seat. Michael Steele, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, and Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas, chairman of the National Republican Campaign Committee, both made the race a top priority. As Steele wrote to GOP insiders on March 19, “Some have advised me to downplay this race in case we lose. NONSENSE. We have to do all we can to win it.”
Republicans quickly settled on New York Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco as their candidate. Democrats first tried to recruit former New York Rangers goalie Mike Richter. Once he declined, they chose Murphy out of a weak field of three other Democrats, partially because of his ability to self-fund. Murphy started the race with very little name recognition and trailed. A poll conducted two days after he was nominated had him behind Tedisco by 21 points and showed only 17% of voters had an opinion of him. The Republican Party accused him of failing to pay taxes on some of the businesses he owned and charged that he was “part of the problem” on Wall Street, an issue with real resonance after the government’s massive bailout of financial services firms in 2008. National Democrats countered with charges that Tedisco had used a state-owned sport-utility vehicle and spent $21,000 of taxpayer money for his personal use.
The election turned on the state of the economy. Murphy called himself “Mr. Jobs” and argued that his business acumen would create jobs in the district. The NRCC in turn accused him of outsourcing jobs at baazee.com. Tedisco might have erred by refusing to take a stand on the $787 billion economic stimulus bill, arguing that since he wasn’t currently in Congress, the question was “hypothetical.” He eventually opposed the plan. Polls indicated that the NRCC’s negative campaigning was hurting Tedisco’s campaign, and he complained that he “didn’t have a handle about the information about [himself] going out.” He called for an end to the negative advertising. The NRCC ignored him and continued to run attack ads.
Pundits predicted a close race, and it did not disappoint. On Election Night on March 31, Tedisco led Murphy by a few dozen votes. As absentee ballots were counted and the tallies grew, Murphy built a small lead. Tedisco conceded on April 24, and Murphy’s final margin of victory was a mere 726 votes. The two candidates raised and spent more than $3.7 million, a large amount considering the entire race and vote tallying lasted fewer than three months. Murphy outraised Tedisco $2 million to $1.7 million. Total spending on the race topped $6 million.
Murphy credited his victory to his family, and for once this might not have been a political platitude: He dines weekly with more than 50 members of his wife’s extended family, and many were very active in the campaign. If each of them recruited 15 voters, Murphy’s entire margin of victory could be accounted for. Murphy said after the election that his primary goal was to help fix the economy, sticking with the issue he had focused on during the campaign. He was named to the Agriculture and Armed Services committees, taking prime slots previously held by Gillibrand. He will likely be a target in 2010.