Guest Column: Democrats have good options beyond Patrick Murphy

By Veronica Wade

It’s official.  The Florida U.S. Senate seat is up for grabs as Marco Rubio has made his intentions to run for President clear.  To date, there are but two people who have  filed to run for the vacancy on the Democratic side:  Patrick Murphy, Congressman from Florida’s 18th District, and newcomer Pam Keith.  Murphy has worked quickly and efficiently to galvanize party support and raise funds.  He has garnered the endorsements of several influential party operatives, including former Governor Charlie Crist, Congresswoman Fredericka Wilson and Congressman Alcee Hastings.  Murphy brings with him a reputation for working well with Republicans and formidable financial backing, some of which comes from his own family coffers.   Murphy was the bright spot in last year’s dismal Democratic showing, with a resounding win in a Republican leaning district, and has on his resume the ignominious defeat of Tea Party firebrand, Allen West.  However, Murphy’s first win could be viewed as the result of voter disdain for West, more so than true confidence in Murphy.  West outspent Murphy by more than 10 million dollars in one of the most expensive Congressional races in the country.  From the result one can assume that West could have spent 25 million, or 30 million, rather than the 17 million he did, and still would have lost, no matter who the Democratic challenger was.  In 2014, Murphy ran a strong campaign against one of the weakest and most inept Republican challengers in recent memory.  Carl Domino put up no fight, refused to campaign in any substantive manner and ran ads that were painfully amateurish.  In short, both of Murphy’s congressional wins come with an asterisk.   He has successfully circled the Democratic Party wagons around himself, but it remains to be seen if this galvanizes voters or turns them off.  And so far, Murphy has not presented any new ideas upon which he could distinguish himself as a candidate.

At first blush, Murphy’s name recognition and money ought to be enough to win him the nomination, and it very well might.  But the story on this race is just beginning.  There is still the very real possibility that Alan Grayson will jump into the mix.  He has a solid fundraising infrastructure and very loyal base.  Grayson, however, comes with a trunk-full of personal baggage and volumes of over-the-top and un-serious comments that make him unlikely to win support from any but the most ardent supporters.  Rumors abound regarding Miami Beach Mayor Phillip Levine jumping in the race at some later date.  Levine can rely on his abundant personal wealth to fund his run and support from some of the most well healed Floridians in the state.  But Levine’s appeal is limited almost entirely to the Miami/Dade area.

The unknown element is Pam Keith.  While others simply refuse to even acknowledge her run for office in the hopes that she will go away, there is real substance to this candidate.  Keith, an African-American woman, is a former JAG officer in the U.S. Navy and a seasoned attorney.  She speaks French and Spanish.  Her website is polished and substantive and presents a positive and broad-reaching message.  Keith is blessed with a youthful and energetic appearance, and pleasing demeanor.  She advances innovative proposals that could appeal to the business community, many of which have not been raised by any other candidate on either side of the aisle.  Most impressive, however, are her substantive understanding of the issues and her formidable public speaking skills.  Keith balances the verbal mastery of a trained advocate with the passion of a preacher, pitching her delivery perfectly to convey intelligence and zeal.  She can, and has, held an audience in the palm of her hand as has been demonstrated repeatedly at activist gatherings in the last six weeks.  She can appeal to a broad range of voters, and has none of the baggage attributable to others considering a run.  It remains to be seen if Keith can parlay her substantial personal appeal into fundraising prowess, and can create campaign machinery that can deliver on a statewide scale.  But there can be no doubt that she is gaining converts everywhere she goes.  Should this race become crowded with contenders, Pam Keith could rise above the fray as the candidate with the passion to truly advocate progressive ideas and the bona fides to win over swing and centrist voters.

Many progressives have rallied behind Alan Grayson and he is despite being a lightning rod with substantial political baggage the type of candidate that could inspire the base of the party. Like Keith, Grayson could prove to be a candidate that helps rally those voters that Hillary Clinton will need to win the state should Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush be the nominee.

Despite party support and the pressure from group aligned with the Democratic Party, Patrick Murphy is doing little if anything to inspire Democratic voters across the state. His “milk toast” campaigning style and wishy-washy record has activists clamoring for Grayson and flocking to hear Keith speak in person.

Veronica Wade is a Teacher/Counselor in Miami Dade County, and a political activist

 

16 comments

  1. dianecbrown · · Reply

    Sounds directly quoted from Keith’s CV. She sounds good on paper, but how does she plan to win in this right-leaning district?

    1. BrowardDave · · Reply

      District? I’m confused. Are you thinking the statewide race or Murphy’s Republican District? I can see how he won there. It isn’t as clear in more Liberal areas and across the state.

  2. Naoya6161 · · Reply

    Hmm… You do know that some people have actually been turned off by Grayson’s most recent remarks right? The big problem with Grayson is that he doesn’t really have a winning record. Back in 2010 he lost by 18 points in a district where Sink only lost by 1.
    As for Keith? I don’t see her gaining much traction unless Grayson decides not to run. She will likely have trouble raising money if he does. Otherwise…who knows?
    Now as for Murphy. You say he is a milk toast candidate? I’d like to know why you think he is.

  3. Hello Diane: since this is a state-wide race, I’d be glad to come to your area and speak to make my case.

  4. salsagator · · Reply

    She’s right that we need a bad-ass. And it’s cool that as a woman, she can get away with saying that – it might sound a little silly if a guy said it. But on the front page of her website, she says that polarization is the problem. I’m not sure it is and it is a bit of a mixed message. I think the problem may be that the polarization has been all coming from other side, with the exception of Alan Grayson and a few others, like Martin O’Malley, Elizabeth Warren and Sanders. And although the polarizers have not been able to get everything they have wanted, they have been able to get a lot (sequester/shut down, just about every Supreme Court opinion) and have stopped anything progressive since 2010.

  5. Barbara from Broward · · Reply

    The candidate and the campaign are both important. When I compare the candidates and potential candidates, I believe Murphy is the strongest. He has a proven record of winning campaigns through hard work and a top notch staff, and he has a likeability factor that goes across the gamut of voters. The Republicans have shown their hand in not wanting him to be the candidate by already trying to beat him down. We Democrats cannot afford to attack each other. Let’s start looking for and electing Democrats for the Sate House and Senate.

    1. BrowardDave · · Reply

      Likeability that goes across the gamut? From what I have been reading, the Progressives have a problem with Murphy. The African-Americans have a problem with Murphy. It seems the only people who like him are FDP leaders, paid consultants, and those that don’t think they have a choice. Let’s face facts here. He doesn’t excite the base. Unless that changes, I don’t see him winning. Hillary Clinton isn’t exactly causing fireworks to go off either, so we can’t count on her to drag people to the polls. Grayson has his die-hard supporters, and it appears as though Pam Keith has hers as well. While Grayson’s supporters may bite the bullet and support Murphy in the end, exactly how will we convince African-Americans to do so if they see Pam Keith being slighted? We say we want to deal in facts, right? The fact is we have problems with any of these candidates right now. There is no cohesion in the party, and that only adds up to a loss. Same thing happened last year in the Governor’s race. Nan Rich supporters were down-right pissed! I’m sure a lot of them stayed home. For the paid consultants and the ones who say they know it all, how does that get fixed? What can we do?

      1. Naoya6161 · ·

        Except that this is a website frequented by Grayson supporters… So of course there are a lot of anti-Murphy comments here! Remember, most voters aren’t even paying a attention to this sort of stuff right now.
        Do remember that this is a Preaidential election year… Turnout is going to be high no matter who is on the ticket.
        And Murphy does have a base of followers. They may not be as vocal as some of the other factions, but they’re there.

  6. To the staffers and consultants (according to them, the only ones with skin-in-the-game), you’d be wise to read this: http://m.thenation.com/article/207833-proof-centrism-dead

    1. Naoya6161 · · Reply

      The article is only an opinion piece. And this race is in Florida,where both parties can conceivably win. So mass appeal is necessary here in Florida. Only good campaigns do that.

    2. The opinion is widespread, except among those with SITG.

      1. Naoya6161 · ·

        And we’re talking about a single state here. Not a blue state, but a swing state.
        Simply running on the issues isn’t enough these days.

  7. The Observer · · Reply

    There are many Real Democrats who have not been vocal yet as to the fact that we do not want Murphy. The fact that the fix is already in in reference to all the elected officials who have supported Murphy so far. We voters have had too many candidates stuffed down our throats by party insiders (translated to people who make money off these decisions) . Time to stop this and have a real primary season and let the people decide who we want. We have had enough of this handfull of people making choices, then watching this same handfull make excuses on election night as to why we lost another race. Either let this primary play out or get use to Democrats staying home on election day.

  8. nicetry · · Reply

    *milquetoast

  9. Mark Lynn · · Reply

    Total bs!! Murphy’s wins were very significant in a district that has only been carried only one other time by a Dem since its creation back in 1972. West was a sitting member, with lots of donors around the country. Murphy was an unknown challenger, under 30 at the time. And while no political powerhouse, Carl Domino managed to get himself elected to the FL House four times! I think the Club for Growth’s recent million dollar attack on Murphy shows who the GOP fears most. Grayson would be their dream opponent, while nobody, outside of this blog, has ever heard of Pam Keith.

    Others mentioned are not going to run. Alcee Hastings is an old friend of mine & is a very smart and talented guy. But he isn’t going to run at age 80. Crist would become FL’s version of Harold Stassen if he runs again, and Frederica isnt going to give up her safe seat like Meek did. We need to rally around the person who has the best chance of retaking Bob Graham’s old seat for us, and that is Congressman Patrick Murphy! To me, Murphy is a new Reubin Askew, Lawton Chiles & Bill Nelson. They had the right formula to win!

  10. if Alan Grayson – or any other Progressive Democrat is planning to get into the fight, they betta get in there NOW – enough with procrastination – this is an election that we can win, but let’s show some brass testicles NOW –

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