The son of a disgraced Staten Island politician who has set his sights on Rep. Michael Grimm’s seat says he doesn’t think that his scandal-tarred pop — with whom he still lives — will adversely affect his campaign.
“I love my dad. I’m not my dad,” Mark Murphy, the son of former Rep. Jack Murphy — who served 20 months in prison in the 1980s for taking $50,000 from undercover FBI agents posing as Arab sheikhs seeking political support. “If [critics] want to make it a campaign between Michael Grimm and my dad, please, knock yourself out.”
And he’s not hiding his father from the campaign trail, either.
Jack Murphy, 83, stood just paces away from the dais during his son’s campaign kickoff in Staten Island on Wednesday, watching his son blast Grimm (R–Bay Ridge) for belonging to “the congress of ‘no,’” and accuse the freshman lawmaker of continually voting against his constituents’ interests.
“I believe in finding ways to say yes, not just saying no,” Murphy said, citing Grimm’s record of voting down payroll tax cuts for middle class workers — which Grimm later backed in a modified bill — and backing a controversial budget that would have drastically cut Medicare.
Murphy said he would create jobs and focus on infrastructure if he’s elected to lead the cross-harbor district, but he was light on specifics — claiming that he would unveil his plans in the coming weeks.
Grimm, who has more than $1 million in his re-election war chest, swatted away Murphy’s claims.
“Congressman Grimm is not concerned with every liberal Democrat who throws his hat into the ring,” Grimm spokeswoman Carol Danko said. “He remains concerned with doing what’s best for the people he represents.”
Murphy served as an intern to the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D–Massachusetts) in college. Once he graduated, he became a legislative assistant the late Rep. Dan Rostenkowski (D–Illinois) — who was accused of fraud while Murphy was a member of his staff. The allegations, however, stemmed from incidents that took place long before Murphy was hired.
Murphy then went into the private sector, where he held small acting roles in television shows like “Acapulco Heat” and “Pacific Blue” in the 1990s while running a west coast real estate investment firm and a movie production company. He ultimately came back to public service and was an aide for Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio before announcing his congressional campaign.
Murphy isn’t the first Democrat to challenge Grimm, who won the district in 2010 on a wave of Tea Party support. Restaurateur Alex Borgognone announced his campaign in October, then quit last month to open up a Manhattan eatery.
But Murphy has a hard fight in front of him: Bay Ridge has more Democrats than Republicans, but neighborhood Democrats are right-leaning and helped put Grimm, Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R–Bay Ridge) and state Sen. Marty Golden (R–Bay Ridge) into office. In 2008, more than 50 percent of Grimm’s district voted for Sen. John McCain (R–Arizona) over President Obama.
But Murphy said that won’t slow him down.
“I’m not running for president, I’m running for the congressional seat,” he said.
Murphy has visited Bay Ridge as a representative of DeBlasio, but he hasn’t started campaigning here. Some Democrats say they plan to hold back their support until he crosses the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.
“I think he’s handsome, but I have no idea what he stands for,” said one Bay Ridge Democrat.
Reach reporter Dan MacLeod at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-4507. Follow his tweets at twitter.com/dsmacleod.