Former Tabernacle Committeeman Justin Murphy today celebrated the Philadelphia-Inquirer’s endorsement of his upstart 3rd Congressional District Republican Primary candidacy – and promptly prepared for a barrage from his establishment GOP opponent, former Eagles offensive lineman Jon Runyan.
“We’re on fire down here and we’re starting to feel really good,” Murphy told PolitickerNJ.com.
“I am waiting for them to start slamming me now,” the candidate added. “I will tell you they are going to come at me furiously now. If they did take it for granted, they’re going to come hard, and my response is they should refrain from attacking me until they’re ready to put Jon on a debate stage with me.”
Murphy, who ran a respectable losing campaign for Congress two years ago, attributes his success so far to a high visibility trail effort.
“I have received invitations to five or six venues during the month of May,” Murphy said. “Jon declined all of them, and I accepted all of them. He declined the forum tonight and tomorrow. We went to the Inquirer editorial forum together, but that’s not a debate. It’s fine with me if he doesn’t go. I’m happier with the organizations leaving me to have a town hall forum, and at this point I’m just resigned to the fact that they’re not going to them.”
Chris Russell, campaign consultant for Runyan, said the bulk of Tea Party organizations that have sprung up to embrace Murphy have their roots in bitter backlash against Ocean County Republican Chairman George Gilmore and/or Burlington County Republican Chairman Bill Layton.
“Jon is out on the campaign trail every day,” Russell said. “The difference is Murphy thumbed his nose at all the county committee people. Jon got those lines, and has gotten the endorsement of the Independence Hall Tea Party PAC, which is the biggest in the tri-state area.
“Jon has talked to everyone and made himself available for questions, including going into uncomfortable situations with anti-organization groups that are either against Layton or Gilmore. Murphy, on the other hand, refused to face questions from the county organizations or participate in their process. Proof of our broad support is that we got the backing of the biggest Tea Party group with no skin in the game in terms of organizations.”
As for the Inquirer’s endorsement of Murphy over Runyan, “Congraulations,” said Russell, “but they also endorsed Jon Corzine.”
An exhilarated Murphy today deflected a question about money (he’s raised about $13,000, and has less than $6,000 on hand) by arguing that this particular anti-establishment cycle will not favor the well-connected candidate.
“The first difference I point to is I’m pro-life and he’s pro choice,” Murphy said. “I have 20 years of pro-business experience, which makes me a candidate who’s easier to connect with for people. I struggle and fight with the bills, and that makes me a better candidate. It’s wonderful that Jon has enjoyed great success in his life, but my backgroudn is very important.”
Tonight, Murphy plans to go to Willingboro to participate in a 3rd Congressional District grassroots citizens debate forum with Barry Bendar, a progressive running in the Democratic Primary against incumbent U.S. Rep. John Adler (D-Cherry Hill).
Bendar will face an empty chair meant to designate the absence of Adler on his side, and Murphy will face an empty chair desginating an MIA Runyan.
“I was contacted to go to the forum, so I’m going,” Murphy said. “It’s a leftwing organization, I guess. Anyway, they’re to the left of me, certainly.”
Ben Dworkin, executive director of Rider University’s David Rebovich Institute of NJ Politics, said notwithstanding the newspaper’s endorsement of Murphy, Runyan is the solid favorite to win the GOP Primary – just as the establishment Republican candidates should win in other congressional districts, he added.
“I think the expected winner should win in all of the Republican primaries,” Dworkin told PolitickerNJ.com. “It’s interesting that Runyan didn’t get the endorsement but Runyan will have the line in Ocean and Burlington counties. I wouldn’t expect any surprises.”