Republican challenger looks to hit Murphy on missed votes

Republicans say Rep. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) ran on a message of change, hitting former Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-Conn.) for missing important votes.

But Murphy has picked up right where Johnson left off, according to national Republicans and Murphy’s 2008 opponent, state Sen. David Cappiello (R).

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Cappiello already had been campaigning on Murphy’s missed vote in May on legislation that would require lobbyists to report political contributions on lobbying reform. The congressman reportedly was involved in a conversation off the House floor and didn’t realize votes were being cast.

This week, Murphy missed a vote on expanding the American Home Ownership Act, leading the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) to put out a release entitled, “Chris Murphy’s Law: If There’s a Big Vote, He’ll Miss It.”

The NRCC insists that the two issues on which Murphy missed votes are two areas he discussed the most with voters in his district.

“Chris Murphy continues to prove that he is just too irresponsible to represent Connecticut’s 5th district,” NRCC spokesman Ken Spain said this week. “In just nine months in office, Murphy has claimed to be a champion [on] two issues: lobbying reform and homeownership. The only problem is that he has forgotten to vote for both of them.”

The NRCC says Murphy has missed nine votes since coming to Congress.

Cappiello, in an interview with The Hill this week, said Murphy “has an awful lot of time to raise money and do press conferences,” but “he’s missed a few big ones [votes].”

“I just don’t think he’s really focusing on getting the work done,” Cappiello said. “It paints a picture that he’s more focused on raising PAC [political action committee] money and holding press conferences than he is on getting the job done.”

Cappiello boasts of his own near-flawless voting attendance record in the state Senate and House, marred for the most part only by big events like his honeymoon or false alarms about the birth of a child.

Murphy’s office disputed the notion that the congressman had failed to act on the mortgage crisis.

“Chris inadvertently missed the vote,” Murphy spokeswoman Kristen Bossi said in an e-mail. “He has been a leader on the issue of the sub-prime mortgage crisis — he has submitted legislation to improve transparency between consumers and mortgage brokers.”

What’s more, Bossi said Cappiello’s and the NRCC’s claims were transparent attempts to blur how active Murphy has been in Congress and drum up a vulnerability that doesn’t exist.

“Chris has made 99 percent of his votes this year, and so this is all about political point-scoring,” Bossi said. “It’s not going to stop Chris from being a leader on these issues for his constituents.”

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), however, took exception to the suggestion that Cappiello is above taking PAC money, saying that he will be in Washington in October for PAC meetings.

“Republicans are kidding themselves if they believe voters are going to support a candidate whose views are more in line with George Bush than in line with Connecticut families,” DCCC spokeswoman Carrie James said in an e-mail. “While Chris Murphy has been fighting for a change in Washington and voted for the landmark ethics reform bill that was just signed into law, Dave Cappiello is busy scheduling meetings with special interest groups and receiving marching orders from national Republicans.”

But Murphy can expect GOP criticism to continue, though, as national Republicans say they view the district as one of their top targets next year.

But Cappiello concedes that it’s a district that can go either way.

Murphy beat Johnson handily in last year’s Democratic tidal wave, winning 56 percent to 44.

In 2004, however, the district was about as evenly divided as one can be, with President Bush and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) splitting the vote there 49 percent to 49 percent.

Kerry edged the president by 1,112 votes.

Cappiello said the top of the ticket could be the difference this time around, as he thinks both GOP front-runner and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney could do well in the district.

Cappiello’s early fundraising has been impressive by most standards. He raised just less than $200,000 last quarter and reported about $183,000 cash on hand.

Though Cappiello warned that his third-quarter haul would be substantially less because he has spent the first six weeks of the quarter with his family following the birth of his second child, he hasn’t been facing fundraising challenges alone.

Cappiello is one of nine candidates the House GOP has selected to be a part of its Challengers Helping Obtain the Majority Program.
Cappiello will join other candidates in benefiting from the House Republican Conference’s first candidate-specific fundraiser of the cycle.
Set for Oct. 24 at the Capitol Hill Club, the event has raised between $75,000 and $100,000 per candidate in the past.