A Profile of 2016 1st District Congressional Candidate Pat Murphy

Jun 2, 2016

Democrat Pat Murphy in his campaign office at his home in Dubuque
Credit Pat Blank/IPR

Two candidates who were in the 2014 Democratic primary for the nomination in Iowa’s 1st Congressional District are giving it another shot. Pat Murphy and Monica Vernon will face off in the June 7th primary. 

Pat Murphy of Dubuque served 12 terms in the Iowa House and ended his legislative career while he was Speaker of the House to run for Congress. He won the Democratic nomination in the 2014 U.S. Congressional race in a five-way primary. Murphy then lost to Republican Rod Blum in the general election.

He says now as he did then, raising the minimum wage is his top priority.  He would do that with automatic increases reflecting the rate of inflation until it hits $15 an hour.

“Rod Blum thinks that the private sector should do it, if people can work for $7.25 an hour, that’s good ‘cause I’ll make more money," he says. “We’ve got to change the mindset in this country where we need to make sure all boats all rise in the tide. I think that’s the difference I have with him, it was a huge difference in the 2014 election. Even in the primary Monica Vernon says, 'well I raise it as high as I can go,' but the highest she’ll talk about is  $12 an hour, even Hillary Clinton is only at $12.50. And the first thing you hear is what it’s going to do to small business, but I’m more concerned about the single parent who’s raising a child, who is on food stamps, maybe on WIC, on Medicaid, don’t even qualify for the Affordable Care Act they’re working 40 hours a week. And that’s the problem I don’t think most Americans have woken up to."

Murphy says he also understands that the agriculture sector is also struggling. He believes farmers can help themselves by diversifying.

“One of the things we can do to help farmers especially in tough economic times is look at how we can create additional energy sources for them  so that they are one;  broadening their economic base and two; they’re not totally at the whim of what the price of corn is  based on quite frankly what OPEC is doing in the Middle East,” he said.

Murphy says he and his primary opponent, Monica Vernon, have similar views on expanding civil rights, blocking efforts to reverse same sex marriage and protecting a woman’s right to choose.  But he says the biggest difference is that he has always been a Democrat. 

"Up until her early 50s she was giving money to the Republican party, campaigning and was elected as a Republican," Murphy says.  "We’ve had four debates, she doesn’t even understand the concept of how Social Security works. She thinks that people make $118,000 a year and more are middle class. That’s not middle class in Iowa. I’d like to see the neighborhoods she’s been hanging around. The neighborhood I live in is much more middle class. If you told people in my neighborhood they could make $118,000 a year they’d say, 'woo who I’m gonna have it pretty easy, I’m going to buy a new car and I’m going to do a bunch of work on my house I couldn’t do'."

But even after making a point about Monica Vernon’s GOP roots, Murphy says he’s the right candidate to represent the 1st District because he will reach across the aisle to get legislation passed.

“Everyone thinks that everything is about being a Democrat or a Republican," he says. "On some things I won’t compromise, like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. But on some of these other issues like expanding health care and finding ways to do it where Republicans won’t object,  I have a lot of experience with those are things I can probably work with them on,  so those would be some of the things I would work on when I  first get to Washington."

The 1st District covers much of northeast Iowa and includes Dubuque, Waterloo and Cedar Rapids. Until Rod Blum was elected, it tended to vote Democratic. The district also has a sizable share of independent voters.