There's a 28-year-old South Florida native who's never run for political office before, but he's convinced he can unseat polarizing Tea Party Rep. Allen West in 2012.
His name is Patrick Murphy -- a CPA and businessman who's hoping to get a spot on the Democratic ticket for his chance to dethrone West from Florida's 22nd Congressional district.
We've already spent what was probably way too much time with West -- resulting in a feature article a few months ago -- so the Pulp dropped by Murphy headquarters in Wilton Manors to find out who this guy is.
"Towards the end of last year, I really started paying attention to politics -- following things closely," he says. "I started paying attention and complaining, pointing the finger, and one day said, 'Who am I to complain?'"
When the BP oil spill happened last year, Murphy started an environmental cleanup company, and he spent six months in the Gulf of Mexico with his oil skimmers to help that mess -- and as an avid fisherman and Keys native, he was ready in the event that the oil got into the Loop Current.
After that, Murphy took his attention to Haiti. A former day laborer, Murphy's now become a project engineer, as he and his company are set to break ground on a modular hotel near Port-au-Prince to aid in the area's rebuilding efforts.
At age 18, he registered to vote as a Republican -- the same party as his father -- but his sentiment changed a bit after the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003.
"I started really paying attention, especially to the Iraq War, saying, 'Who are we? We're not the world's police. What are we doing over there?'" he says. "I was so disenfranchised with the party to the point that I decided to not only change my party but run for Congress."
Murphy says that the Republican Party has gone so far right that he doesn't even recognize it and a guy like West is a caricature of that movement:
A lot of the people you speak with -- we have Republicans calling us out of the blue, saying, "Look Patrick, I'm a registered Republican, and I gave money to Allen West, and I helped raise him money. But I didn't realize who this person was -- I'm just now learning what type of guy he is, and I would rather have you, Patrick, as a Democrat, than this crazy guy Allen West as a Republican.
With the current redistricting battle going on in the state, it's unknown what Allen West's district will look like come election time. Primary challenge or not, Murphy has his sights set on taking down West in 2012, and just like everyone else in the district, Murphy has his own opinion on the wild, wild West.
I think he's somewhat uncontrollable and a loose cannon, really. You go back to his military days and look at his record -- when you're in the military, you're supposed to follow command, and he broke command numerous times and got in trouble for it. Now he's in Congress, and he's a loose cannon again. I really don't think that's representative of our country and our district in particular.
Why does Murphy think he's the guy to help get the country back on track? His business qualifications mostly, as he calls the debt-ceiling negotiations an "embarrassment on a world scale" that could've been handled much differently. There are only eight CPAs in Congress right now, and Murphy says they could use a few more people like him to "balance the books."
In fact, Murphy says the current Congress has its priorities mixed up.
"The deficit is obviously a problem, but it's nothing new -- we've had a deficit for decades," he says. "The best way to reduce our deficit is to create jobs. Reducing the deficit will not create jobs. Contrarily, the whole debt negotiation should have been how to create jobs to reduce the deficit, so I think the priorities were backwards."
So what is Murphy left with now? He's raised the most money of any congressional challenger in the country, and redistricting could unload any number of variables on both West and Murphy as the lines are redrawn. Our pal Brandon K. Thorp wrote a "pre-emptive political obituary" for Murphy when he announced his candidacy a few months ago, but given West's getting more outrageous by the day and the shriveling death of the Tea Party movement, we may have a race come next November.
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