Mayor Murphy eyes run for Congress

October 3, 2019

Merced Mayor Mike Murphy is “seriously considering” entering the 2020 race for the District 16 seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“We’ve had a lot of success here in Merced and that success has been bipartisan, and I think those same principals would go a long way in Washington, D.C.,” Murphy told the Times. “I haven’t reached a decision. I likely will, one way or the other, in the next couple of weeks.”

If Murphy decides to do so, he would enter a race that features longtime Democrat incumbent Jim Costa of Fresno, who currently faces three challengers. Costa’s main challenger is considered to be Esmeralda Soria, a Fresno City Council member and a Democrat. Another Democrat challenger is Kim Williams of Mariposa. And the lone Republican in the race, so far, is Kevin Cookingham, a retired Clovis Unified educator.

Murphy, a registered Republican, told the Times he is considering running as an Independent in the race. He pointed to statistics that show 32 percent of the registration in District 16 — that includes the City of Fresno and parts of Fresno County, along with Madera and Merced counties — is listed as “something other than Republican or Democrat.” He said of that group the largest is listed as “no party preference.”

Said Murphy, “There are a lot of voters in the Congressional district that would like to see Washington work better, and have abandoned the Republican and Democratic parties. They want solutions to our country’s problems.”

Murphy’s comments to the Times ends a few weeks of speculations and rumors that resulted in news being reported on local radio and TV that he had indeed entered the race.

Not so fast, said Murphy, who pointed out this week that he is still talking with strategists and looking at recent polling.

He did say he hired a professional pollster, and that: “If I decide to run, I like my chances.”

The mayor added that like any campaign, it would take money to get the word out. He said, “The vast majority of my support would come from residents who live in the district. There would be a large number of small contributions.”

Murphy served five years on the Merced City Council and will be finishing up his second and final term as mayor of the city toward the end of 2020. He is known for supporting public safety, UC Merced investment in town, and the redevelopment of downtown. His phrase “City on the Rise” — successfully used at his annual State of the City address — has become a popular slogan to symbolize growth in the relatively new “university town.”

He was a graduate of Golden Valley High School a couple years after the school opened, and went on to study law at Georgetown University. In recent years, he helped open the Murphy & Brawley law firm in downtown Merced.

Murphy said he has talked to Congressman Costa about his thoughts.

“If I decide to run, it would be me putting forward my message rather than an attack on him,” he said.

Costa, a 67-year-old Blue Dog Democrat, has beat out numerous Republican challengers over the years, including Brian Whelan, David Rogers, Johnny Tacherra and most recently Elizabeth Heng.

Costa, with a sizable campaign war chest, has accepted money from PACs and corporations such as Chevron, Google, Comcast, McDonald’s and Wal-Mart, plus various agriculture or labor-related groups. His long list of endorsements includes Gov. Gavin Newsom, Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris and Attorney General Xavier Becerra, as well as members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

A final list of candidates for the race is expected in December. The Primary Election is set for March 3. The top two vote-getters — regardless of party — will move forward to the General Election in November 2020.

Stay tuned for more on this election race and others in future editions of the Merced County Times.


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