Patrick Murphy must face Republican Mike Fitzgerald in the Philadelphia suburb district known for close matches between the two. This year, the advantage is in Fitzgerald’s court as widespread voter disappointment in President Barrack Obama and in the Democrat-controlled Congress has sparked a strong political climate of anti-incumbency. Murphy will be hard-pressed to keep his seat under the circumstances, but he has a fighting chance.
Candidates for Pennsylvania’s 8th Congressional District (two-year term)
(This district includes Bucks County and part of Montgomery County, and includes the cities of Quakertown, Doylestown, Fairless Hills, Morrisville, Levittown, Bristol and Croydon. See a boundary map here.)
Candidate: Patrick Murphy
Political experience: Currently serving his second term as a U.S. Representative, he was the first Iraq War veteran elected to office.
Professional experience: Murphy practiced law at Cozen O’Connor before his election to the House. He has been a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney in New York, a prosecutor in North Carolina and an assistant professor of Constitutional Law at West Point. A veteran, Rep. Murphy served in Bosnia and in Iraq as an Army Captain.
Key issues: Murphy supported the Afghanistan “surge” authorized by President Obama and believes a strategy to defeat al-Qaida in the region is essential to security.
Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), Murphy secured $2.6 million in funding for first responders to upgrade cameras, software, training and other means of stopping and preventing crime in the district.
On Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, Murphy takes the bold approach of calling for an end to the practice on the issues page of his website, a values vote issue that will probably not cost many votes, but doesn’t address more pressing issues like job losses.
Endorsements: Murphy has been endorsed by the Sierra Club and by the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO.
Chances of maintaining his seat: Murphy has a funding advantage, according to OpenSecrets.org — for now. He has $2,663,013 to Fitzpatrick’s $925,918 as of mid September. He has the extra advantage of incumbency, though all Democrats in swing districts are in danger of losing their seats due to the current political atmosphere. Voting for TARP, the health care bill and the stimulus package may not do him any favors with independents either. While in a toss-up race, the momentum may be shifting toward his competitor.
Candidate: Michael Fitzpatrick
Political experience: Fitzpatrick was the district representative from 2005 to 2006 and was unseated by Murphy.
Professional experience: Fitzpatrick has practiced law and has argued before the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania and the Supreme Court of New Jersey.
Key issues: Zeroing in on a key 2010 issue on his website, Fitzpatrick is keen to show that reducing government regulation and business taxes will help prevent outsourcing and boost the economy. On the economy itself, he feels government spending is an impediment, and he would freeze all non-defense discretionary program spending to help reduce the federal deficit and the national debt.
Endorsements: Fitzpatrick has been endorsed by the National Federation of Independent Business.
Chances of unseating Patrick Murphy: Recently, the National Republican Congressional Committee announced it was adding four incumbents to its list of targets, making them eligible for additional funding. According to the NRCC, Fitzpatrick is going to receive a portion of a $2 million cash infusion into his campaign. While it is by no means certain, Fitzpatrick may be in a far more competitive race than was projected in late summer and could find himself unseating Murphy this fall.
Key Differences between Michael Fitzpatrick and Patrick Murphy
Energy: According to Murphy, ARRA has helped invest millions in local municipalities for environmental projects. By creating jobs that help wean America off foreign oil, he believes the 8th District can be considered a green-energy hub. He’s strongly for green-energy tax cuts and grants for local green-energy companies and consumers. Fitzpatrick’s approach to energy independence is to encourage the development of Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale natural gas and by dropping support for so-called “cap and trade” measures that he says represent a tax on families.
Health care: Like most Republicans, Fitzpatrick opposes the health care reform bill, saying the best solution is the free market. He’d change tax law to allow individual insurance plans to receive the same advantages employer insurance receives. He is in favor of health savings accounts, Medicaid and tort reform and reducing federal mandates. Murphy voted for health care reform and suggests that closing the Medicare Part D “donut hole” was a positive step to helping cut the rising price of prescription drugs. He feels fraud, waste and Medicare abuse are key problems that must continue to be addressed.
Pennsylvania‘s 8th U.S. Congressional District
Location: The Pennsylvania 8th District is part of northeast Philadelphia and borders New Jersey.
2008 results: Patrick Murphy defeated Republican Tom Manion 56.8 percent to 41.6 percent.
Demographics: According to the U.S. Census, 88.2 percent of the district is white, 3.9 percent black, 3.5 percent Hispanic, 3.4 percent Asian and 0.1 percent American Indian and Alaska Native.
The Cook Partisan Index gives the Pennsylvania 8th District a rating of D+2, awarding a slight edge to Democrat voters in this district.