Representative Scott Murphy and the Blue-ing of the 20th

GLENS FALLS—Scott Murphy, a Democratic businessman from Glens Falls, will be sworn in as the next congressman in the 20th district, after Republican Assemblyman Jim Tedisco issued an official concession.

At a downtown intersection for his first public appearance since a special election March 31, Murphy walked to the corner towing his three children and returning his wife's smiles. He made a brief statement, then took questions and conducted interviews.

"We're having a great day, obviously," he said. "We've got a lot of work in front of us, and I'm excited about getting to Washington and getting to work."

Murphy is the second consecutive Democrat elected in the district, which has a 70,000 more enrolled Republicans than Democrats. His win follows the successes of now-Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who defeated incumbent John Sweeney in 2006. The seat became available when she was elevated to the Senate in January.

Murphy said he "never expected to be counting votes for three weeks after the election," and said that the voter turnout in the race — around 160,000–was significant.

"It really reinvigorates the democracy for people to realize that their vote really can make a difference," he said. Tedisco, as he conceded, was "gracious" and "cordial."

I asked Murphy if he would run again in 2010. Maybe predictably, he demurred. But his victory is already being spun by Democrats as a tipping-point event, and a validation of President Obama's policies, an association that Murphy emphasized throughout the campaign.

"They were looking for change in Washington, and people that brought common-sense solutions, the kinds we use in our small businesses," he said. "That's what I talked about, and I think that's what they responded to."

Larry Bulman, the Saratoga County Democratic chair, said, "The district is definitely not red." Other national Democrats fed into this fervor, but what is more surprising is how Republicans have all but thrown in the towel in a place that should be easily electing them.

"After a long, hard-fought race, the final result of the New York special election reinforces what our party has known since November – we have our work cut out for us when it comes to winning in Democrat-held districts," said Representative Pete Sessions, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, in a statement. "In defeat, there will always be disappointment, but we should not ignore some of the encouraging signs that came out of this race. Just a few short months ago, President Obama carried this district and Kirsten Gillibrand won by an overwhelming margin against a well-funded challenger. For the first time in a long time, a Republican congressional candidate went toe-to-toe with a Democrat in a hard-fought battle over independent voters. This was hardly a common phenomenon in 2008, particularly in the Northeast. It should also be noted that our members and party leaders stepped up to the plate and without them this race never would have been as competitive as it was."

Tedisco took this line too, telling me on Election Night that "it's not Gerry Solomon's old district." Other local Republicans seem more inclined to believe that the race was Tedisco's to lose, and that he duly lost it.

I asked Representative Steve Israel, who, in his capacity as an official with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, helped recruit Murphy, what he thought of the Republican spin.

"That is the silver lining behind a whole sky of gray," he said.

The challenge ahead for Murphy lies in determining what lines to take as an elected official, not just a candidate who was able to win largely through hammering his opponent for opposing the federal stimulus package.

Murphy is pro-life pro-choice and supports the Tiahrt Amendment, a bellwether of how liberal his stance on guns is. Often, he has taken the same positions as Kirsten Gillibrand, who is now being attacked for being too conservative. More details on all that here.

Republicans are expected to withdraw a court case Monday that will prevent Murphy from being declared the winner. There are stil 800 votes that have not been counted; once they are canvassed, State Board of Elections spokesman John Conklin said, Murphy should be certified the winner after a May 12 meeting of the board's commissioners.

Murphy said he expects to sit on the Agriculture and Financial Services committees once in the House. He plans to live in Glens Falls. According to Brendan Daly in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's press office, Murphy will be sworn in sometime next week without the official certification.

Representative Scott Murphy and the Blue-ing of the 20th