Iowa state Rep. Pat Murphy says he's ready to "continue the fight" of Rep. Bruce Braley, as he seeks the Democrat's seat in Congress. And as for the current and former representatives who share his name, well, the more the merrier. "We can't have enough Pat Murphys," he said in a phone interview.
As Braley gears up for a Senate bid, Murphy is the first to join the race to replace him -- but likely not the last. Democrats say the First District houses a deep well of party talent, and they expect a competitive primary. Murphy, the state's former House Speaker and a longtime party leader, takes at least partial credit for honing some of those candidates, helping them win competitive legislative races. "The reason there's a lot of talent over here is a lot of the marginal seats are located in this congressional district," Murphy said. "I've done a lot of the team building and party building."
Those longtime party connections, Murphy said, will be an asset as he seeks to build support. When he called local leaders to announce his candidacy, Murphy said he noted that he already had relationships with 16 of the 20 county party chairs.
"There were people that were strongly encouraging me to run in 2005," Murphy said. After Braley announced his Senate candidacy, those people "were giving me calls saying, 'I hope you consider looking at this congressional seat.'"
Murphy said he passed on a bid eight years ago because of leadership commitments to his caucus, but is better positioned for a run this time around, having already decided to step down from the state legislature when his term expires.
A competitive Democratic primary, Murphy said, is something to keep an eye on, but not a factor that affected his decision making. "You worry some about the competition," Murphy said. "I know there's a lot of other names out there being mentioned. ... The most important thing for you is decide what you're going to do."
He said he expects to draw strong support within the party, including from Democratic leadership and progressive coalitions. He's already been privately promised endorsements, and he said his stances on key issues -- labor, education, LGBT rights and the environment -- will earn the backing of activist groups.
In the early stages of his campaign, he said he already has one supporter -- former Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Pa., who emailed last week to pledge a campaign donation.