Key centrist Democrat Stephanie Murphy won’t seek reelection

Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.), a key leader among centrist House Democrats, announced Monday that she won’t seek reelection next year as her party faces increasingly tough odds for keeping its majorities in Congress.

Murphy, a co-chair of the Blue Dog Coalition, said in a video announcement that she wanted to spend more time with her family, including her two children.

“These last few years have been some of the most rewarding moments of my life, but also some of the most challenging. Public service is not without personal sacrifice, and as a mom of two young children, my time away from them has been hard. For them. For me. And for our family,” Murphy said.

Murphy was first elected to the House in 2016 when she unseated a 12-term GOP incumbent, Rep. John Mica, the former chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. She was one of only six Democrats to unseat a House GOP incumbent that year, which was another disappointing election cycle for the party with former President Trump’s victory.

Murphy also became the first Vietnamese-American woman to be elected to Congress. She was born in Vietnam and escaped by boat with her family as an infant. The U.S. Navy later rescued them at sea when her father’s boat ran out of fuel.

Murphy went on to become a national security specialist at the Defense Department before launching a campaign in her Orlando-area district.

She emerged as one of the most prominent centrist voices this year as Democrats fought over the strategy and breadth of the bipartisan infrastructure bill and social spending package, the latter of which imploded over the weekend after Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) announced he would not support it after nearly six months of negotiations with the White House.

Murphy voted against advancing part of the social spending package in the House Ways and Means Committee in September, saying that some of the spending and tax provisions “give me pause” and would not “vote for the bill at this early stage.” Murphy did eventually vote for the House version of the bill when it reached the floor in November.

Murphy has also been at the center of investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, which has become one of the driving factors of the increasingly hostile and toxic environment on Capitol Hill. Earlier this year, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) tapped Murphy to serve on the select committee investigating the deadly attack.

A total of 22 House Democrats have now announced that they won’t seek reelection next year, which is expected to be a tough cycle for Democrats given historic midterm headwinds for the incumbent president’s party and narrow majorities in both chambers of Congress. Republicans only need to flip five seats to win control of the House.

Murphy, 43, acknowledged that her decision to retire would likely come as a surprise to some people, compared to other House Democrats who are calling it quits next year after serving decades in Congress.

“I know this may come as a shock to many of you, for someone to quote unquote ‘retire’ at my age from Congress — without scandal, without immediately seeking higher office, without fear of losing reelection, or without some lucrative job opportunity. I recognize this is a very rare thing to do in Congress, but I still strongly believe in a citizen Congress, where ordinary citizens run for office in search of duty and service, not in search of a career. And I never intended my time in Congress to become a career,” Murphy said.

But Murphy didn’t rule out returning to public service in another role down the road.

“Several years ago, I departed public service by leaving the Pentagon and moving to Central Florida to start my family. I knew then I wasn’t done with public service, just as I know now I am not done with public service. But my time in the U.S. House of Representatives has come to an end,” Murphy said.

Florida has not yet finalized its new congressional map under the decennial redistricting process. But one of the maps proposed by the state House would have made Murphy’s district more favorable to Republicans, while another map proposed by the state Senate wouldn’t have changed it as much.

Murphy had raised more than $1.3 million for her campaign as of the end of September, but her low third-quarter fundraising haul of just under $140,000 raised eyebrows about her future political plans.

Earlier this year, Murphy had considered challenging Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) in 2022. But Murphy announced in May that she wouldn’t run for Senate, clearing the way for Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.) to run instead.

Max Greenwood contributed. 

Updated 1:11 p.m.

Tags Donald Trump Florida Joe Manchin John Mica Marco Rubio Nancy Pelosi reelection Retirement Stephanie Murphy Val Demings

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