Saturday’s shocking news that Jeff Atwater will not seek the Republican nomination for the US Senate seat being vacated by Marco Rubio sent shock-waves through Florida politics. As we discussed just a few short days ago, Atwater seemed likely to win any head-to-head race with a Democrat, was perceived as a moderate and drew from a similar geographic base as Congressman Patrick Murphy.
Atwater’s exit makes Murphy’s prospects for election much brighter. Yesterday, we ran a piece about Murphy’s interest group voting scores from liberal groups including the League of Conservation Voters (LCV). In the interest of fairness and knowing that Murphy has championed environmental causes, I choose to dig a little deeper this morning and found the following:
The Everglades Coalition gave Murphy their “Distinguished Public Service Award” in 2015.In receiving the award the organization stated the following:
“Since his election to the United States Congress in 2012, Patrick Murphy has quickly proved himself
to be an up-and-coming champion for America’s Everglades… Congressman Murphy has worked
above and beyond in his service to Floridians and indeed all Americans to reach across party lines
and facilitate meaningful progress for the Everglades.”
In addition, Murphy was honored by Audoboun Society last year for working hard on Everglades-related issues. He has also been given credit by activists for tirelessly devoting energy to get Kissimmee River restoration back on track. He also had yet to accept a check from sugar though we will continue to track this closely as Murphy’s fundraising operation ramps up and his need to access money increases. By contrast, Congressman Alan Grayson accepted over $10,000 in sugar related money during the last cycle. Grayson did unseat former anti-sugar lawyer, Republican Rep. Ric Keller in 2008, and that probably is when the relationship with sugar began.
Murphy has also worked hard on the Indian River Lagoon issue as has been pointed out before on this site. However, the Keystone XL pipeline vote remains problematic as do some of his other economic-related stands. However, on the issue of the Everglades, depending on your perspective, Murphy could be identified as a strong progressive advocate and voice. Perhaps it also depends on geography as the Everglades tends to be a bigger issue in the southern reaches of the state. Even south Florida Republican members of Congress from yesteryear such as the late E. Clay Shaw and former CIA-director Porter Goss worked hard on Everglades issues and avoided taking sugar money.
Geography however might not favor Murphy. No Democrat from South Florida has won a statewide election since Bob Butterworth and Bob Graham’s final reelections in 1998. The Everglades issue might demonstrate how out of touch the southeastern part of the Florida is with the rest of the state. For many Florida progressives outside the southern part of the state, the Keystone XL pipeline issue might prove to be a bigger deal than Murphy’s liberal stands on the Everglades. Grayson’s acceptance of money from sugar and related entities might simply be ignored, because the Orlando-based Congressman has a great environmental voting record even with some questionable cash. But one thing is for sure when you consider this issue – labels aren’t that easy to apply.