Patrick Murphy, Congress's No. 1 Male Feminist, Is Running for Senate to Protect Women's Rights
With just over two weeks until the election, Representative Patrick Murphy (D-Fla.) is still trying to guarantee one thing in his race for the Senate: That every Floridian knows his name. "Florida's such a big state," the congressman said recently. "I've been traveling from Pensacola to Key West, doing rallies, doing events, doing interviews, to try and make sure people know who I am and who I stand for."
A basic primer will tell you that Murphy — who began his career at his family's Florida-based construction business, Coastal Construction, before taking a role at accounting powerhouse Deloitte and Touche — was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2012 and announced his candidacy for the Senate in March of 2015. The primary race between Murphy and fellow Florida Congressman Alan Grayson was often contentious, but Murphy ultimately won a commanding victory and became the Democratic candidate on August 30.
Though Murphy's opponent, Marco Rubio, is no stranger to Florida voters — or the general American public — it's not necessarily for the best reasons. His attempt at the Republican presidential nomination was stalled from the onset. After a primary season marred by juvenile sparring with Donald Trump (who could forget the Lil' Marco and hand size exchange at the final GOP debate?), Rubio suspended his campaign on the night of his crushing defeat in his home state's primary and was expected to finish out his Senate term without seeking reelection.
In late June, however, Rubio reversed his original pledge and decided to go for a second term. Floridians, however, may not be all that eager to have him back. Current polling has Murphy within striking distance of Rubio, and the Democratic candidate just earned the endorsements of four of Florida’s major newspapers. Even with reports of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee decreasing ad spending in Florida, the likes of President Obama, Vice President Biden, and Hillary Clinton have all voiced their support for Murphy — which means getting his name, and message, out there may be less challenging in the remaining weeks.
Billed as a moderate Democrat, Murphy has built his senate campaign on stalwart progressive ideas like combating climate change, overturning Citizen's United, enacting campaign finance reform, and protecting women’s health care. This is a sharp contrast to his opponent, particularly on the issue of reproductive rights. As Republicans attempt to further limit women’s control of their health decisions, Marco Rubio is at the forefront of the movement and has vowed to ban abortion, even in the cases of rape, incest, or a mother infected with Zika.
Murphy, however, has fought to preserve abortion access nationwide, make contraception more accessible, and keep health care decisions between a woman and her doctor during his time in the House and his Senate campaign — earning him endorsements from both Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America. "Congressman Murphy has gone above and beyond not just in looking for opportunities to highlight how issues of reproductive freedom are fundamental human rights for women, but also to understand, as a man, why that’s the case,” said NARAL President Ilyse Hogue. “It became obvious to me in the way he was spending his time in the House that he was someone who could be the voice of male feminists."
Ahead of the November 8 election, Glamour recently chatted with Murphy about his commitment to protecting women’s rights, his frustrations with his opponent (and the Republican party as a whole), and the first actions he would take if elected to Senate. Here's what the Democratic Senate hopeful had to say.
Glamour: So we're only a few weeks away from the election—how are you feeling?
Representative Patrick Murphy: I’m feeling great. I'm very excited. Our numbers are looking really good. The latest polls have us all within the margin of error. And if the revelations of Donald Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women — and how many women are coming forward that are survivors of this — are not bad enough, to have my opponent Marco Rubio double down on his support of Donald Trump is shocking in so many ways. But that’s not the only issue that we are so different on. I think voters are starting to see that there is a very clear difference between the two of us.
Number one, I'm going to show up to work and be there to fight for Florida on many issues. Marco Rubio is not. People already know that Marco Rubio doesn’t show up to work, [but] what they’re now learning is that he’s going to do what he thinks is best for his own career, even if that means supporting a misogynist who brags about sexually assaulting women. He will go that low. That’s unconscionable to me.
Glamour: You've championed securing abortion access and protecting women's reproductive rights during your time in the House and transitioned them into a cornerstone of your Senate campaign. What about these issues makes you feel so passionately?
PM: It has been a cornerstone because it’s something that is very important to me and very important to a lot of people that I speak with every single day. The bottom line is, I’m a millennial. I’d be the first millennial elected to the U.S. Senate. Like so many of my generation, I trust women to make their own health care decisions. For my generation, we've always felt like this was an issue that was decided — we weren't going to have to be arguing about it. I think many people in our generation almost take it for granted. I’m proud to stand up and fight, and I know that we have to double down on these efforts and make sure more people know that it is under attack.
I’m proud to have NARAL’s support. I’m proud that they’ve included me in their “Men for Choice” program. I’m also proud to stand up to so many Republican attempts to defund women’s health organizations like Planned Parenthood. It’s critical that more people realize that there is a full-fledged attempt right now to take women's health care backwards and really roll back the clock. I don’t think enough people realize how pivotal this election is for that very issue. The way I look at it, we live in a world where more women are the breadwinners for their families. More and more families are dependent on two incomes to make ends meet. We live in a world where reproductive rights are more important than ever not only to women, but to entire family entities and the entire economy that’s sustained by them. This is an issue that — to a millennial — is such a no-brainer and I’m shocked by how many Republicans are trying to take us backwards.
Glamour: You've spoken about how pro-life politicians who attack reproductive freedoms tend to have "misplaced priorities" and don't trust women to make decisions about their health and bodies. What kind of message do you think that sends to their constituents and to women throughout the country?
PM: To me, these attacks on women’s health care and reproductive rights, and [Republican] attempts to make these decisions for them, are just the beginning. Many — whether that’s Donald Trump or Marco Rubio — feel threatened and want to have that element of control. There's no other explanation for it. You look beyond reproductive rights to what Donald Trump said, that because he is a celebrity he can get away with kissing and groping women, that's really how his mind works. When you hear these allegations [of sexual assault], he is the epitome of an abuser — of someone that’s going to take advantage of not only women but many other groups. We should take him at his word.
Glamour: I want to go back to how your opponent, Senator Marco Rubio, has a definitive pro-life stance and does not concede exceptions of rape and incest when it comes to abortion access. With the spread of the Zika Virus — especially in Florida — and the increasing risk of microcephaly, what are your thoughts on a politician adopting such a cut-and-dry stance on abortion — especially if a mother is at risk of delivering a child born with such a devastating neurological condition?
PM: I would say that, with Senator Rubio, he has tried to come off as a moderate in his tone and demeanor, but examples like this make it clear that he is an extremist. He doesn’t support women’s health care. He doesn’t support Planned Parenthood. He would put his ideology in front of even keeping the government open—he supported the government shutdown over Planned Parenthood. To your point, not supporting a woman’s right to choose — even a mother with Zika — shows, to me, what an extremist he is and how concerned he is about a potential primary when he runs for president again.
I think he is doing everything he can to shore up the right-wing for his next presidential bid, and I think he’s worried about a Ted Cruz [type of candidate] that could get to the right on an issue like this. It’s critical that people know where he really stands. If that’s what they like, then OK, fine. But this is a very extreme position and this is a major step backwards for our country. When I talk to people in Florida — Republican, Democrat, Independent — this isn't what they want from their senator. They trust women to make their own health care decisions.
Glamour: You've sponsored the Affordability is Access Bill and supported the Each Woman Act as ways to make contraception and abortion access available — and affordable — for all women, even those who might be part of lower income households or federal employees and whose insurance coverage may limit them. As someone who's an advocate for these things, what was it like for you to see Secretary Clinton come out as the first presidential candidate against the Hyde Amendment?
PM: It was a major step forward for our country. There are certain beliefs and [misconceptions] around women’s health care, and it has been used as a wedge issue for many. To me, it’s a matter of simple health care and making sure everybody has access to it. It should not matter what income bracket you’re in, you should get basic health care. Just because you're in a lower income bracket doesn't mean you shouldn’t have access to health care or be able to make the decision to have that choice. I think it’s important that we move in that direction and get over that stereotyping and misinformation that’s out there.
Glamour: At this point, I think it's pretty safe to say that you're a strong ally for women's reproductive rights. What do you think the standard should be in words and practice for all men who support a woman's right to choice — whether they're in government or not?
PM: I think it’s simple: It’s the acknowledgment that it’s not their decision — it's her decision. Why are men in suits in Washington, D.C., primarily making these decisions? I can almost count on any debate that Marco Rubio and I have where we get asked this and you’re going to hear two men in suits debating on this. Why in the world is that even happening? It should be out of men’s hands. It should be up to a woman, her family, her doctor — and if she wants to contact her faith leader, that’s fine too. It’s all in her hands, not the politicians' — and especially not the men’s. That’s the basic threshold, and that’s the starting point for this next discussion.
Glamour: Shifting gears, you were formerly a member of the Republican party but became a Democrat after the emergence of the Tea Party. As someone who thought the Tea Party's message was too extreme, what is it like seeing the rise of Donald Trump and his unapologetic supporters?
PM: It’s scary to me. Forget being a public servant and a politician—how frustrating is it to see the dysfunction in Washington, D.C.? But it’s now gone onto a whole new level of racism and bigotry with xenophobic folks — I would say nativists — who are really trying to divide this country. That’s not who we are. We are stronger united. We are stronger as one nation: with immigrants, with different religions, with different backgrounds, with different beliefs. This is a great melting pot where we can all come together, respect each other's ideas, and move forward. There are some [politicians] right now in Washington—and many running for office—that are trying to divide our country and take us backwards.
Not only is that dangerous for who we are as a people, it’s dangerous for Washington, D.C. I think the greatest thing holding us back right now is the partisanship and the finger-pointing. That’s what’s holding this country back with our economy, with education, with employment, with reducing the debt, with protecting veterans, and with protecting women. So many of these things are being held back because the right-wing, Tea Party base has created gridlock. You see Paul Ryan and John Boehner struggling to walk this line. Are they going to be pandering to the Tea Party or are they going to be more moderate and try to get things done? You see that cripple our entire country. I hope that this is the end of this. I hope Secretary Clinton has a convincing win to show those folks that’s not who we are as a nation.
Glamour: Senator Rubio has had a…difficult relationship with the Republican nominee, and his current position seems to be along the lines of "I denounce everything he's ever said or done...but I'm still backing him." With the latest round of scandals plaguing Donald Trump, what kind of message do you think Rubio is sending to his voters—especially to women?
PM: Look, if Marco Rubio can’t stand up to Donald Trump as a candidate, he’ll never be able to stand up to him as president. Marco Rubio has tried to get away with saying he’d be a check and balance [candidate], but even after Donald Trump bragged about sexually assaulting women, he stood by his side. One hundred and sixty GOP leaders stood up and disavowed Donald Trump and 16 U.S. senators have unendorsed him. Marco Rubio went in the other direction and doubled down on his support of Donald Trump, showing me that he will always put his own political ambition in front of what he knows is best — in front of what so many Republican leaders with a backbone know what’s best. He doesn’t stand up to anybody. He puts his finger in the air and decides what’s going to help his political future.
Glamour: You had a fairly contentious primary season, and faced numerous attacks on your professional experience, as well as your vote for the House Benghazi committee, from both the media and your opponent. As we get closer to the election, have there been any challenges in uniting Florida Democrats while out on the campaign trail? What kind of energy do the crowds have?
PM: I feel a lot of enthusiasm for Secretary Clinton and for our campaign as well. I certainly haven’t seen or sensed anything bad carry over from the primary. I think the party has united in Florida not only to rally around myself, but around Secretary Clinton and all the down-ballot races that are so important in making sure that Secretary Clinton has a majority to work with once elected. Right now, what I need to continue is introducing myself. Even all the Democrats don’t know who I am. Florida’s such a big state. We’re doing everything we can to continue campaigning.
I announced my race in March of last year. I’ve been traveling from Pensacola to Key West, doing rallies, doing events, doing interviews, to try and make sure people know who I am and who I stand for. As we continue to do that, and, especially in the days leading up to the election as more people are paying attention, I think we’re going to see not only more consolidation with the Democrats and more support, but even more support amongst Republicans. I am proud to have an independent voting record. I am proud that I’m always going to do, say, and vote what I think is best for the country and the state. I think I’ve proven that in my time in the Congress.
Glamour: And finally, if you're elected to the Senate on November 8, what would be the first action you'd take after being sworn in?
PM: The first thing action I would take would be to find an area of agreement between Secretary Clinton and some moderate Republicans that I could work with on. I think we have some great threats: Number one, income inequality. The middle class is disappearing. We have to do more to rebuild it. I don’t think we have 10 to 15 years to get that right. To me, that means, doing more to invest in education, to invest in infrastructure, to raise the minimum wage, and enact tax reform. Being a CPA, I think tax reform is critical. Regulatory reform is critical. All those together need to be looked at to rebuild the middle class. Number two, is climate change. Again, I don't think we have 10 to 15 years to get this one right. I see the impacts of climate change every single day, everywhere I go. I know we can do more to address it. And then I’d say national security is an area where we can find some real common ground, Republicans and Democrats, to make sure we protect our country not only from terrorism and ISIS and these lone wolf attacks, but to [increase] cybersecurity, and prevent the privacy hacks of government, businesses, and individuals.
We need to make sure we are monitoring the capabilities of states like North Korea, Russia, Iran, and Pakistan, and fortify our own capabilities so we are the strongest country in the world. In order to do that, we’ve got to be able to work together. We can have our disagreements, we can have our fights, but at the end of the day, we have to put America first and say it’s not about Republicans, it’s not about Democrats, it’s about this country. You’re never going to be able to get 100 percent of what you want, but if you get 80 percent of a deal, let’s take that deal and move on to the next issue.
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