The air was electric Friday as campaign volunteers waited for the arrival of U.S. Sen. John Thune at the Republican “Victory Center” office in Springfield. Thune stumped for Mitt Romney, U.S. Senate candidate George Allen and, a name less well known, Patrick Murray, who is hoping to unseat Congressman Jim Moran in the 8th District.
But Murray’s name is better known this year than in 2010, when he unsuccessfully challenged 22-year incumbent Moran. Murray campaign volunteer Laura Arth, who was at the Thune event Friday, spoke enthusiastically about Murray.
“Within the last couple of weeks, the energy in Virginia has just really picked up as the Romney campaign has really put the pedal to the metal with regard to getting volunteers, securing the phone-banking and scheduling of events,” she said. “Patrick’s happy to participate with everything because the top of the ticket helps Patrick win in Virginia’s 8th.”
Murray, a retired U.S. Army colonel and Alexandria resident, is counting on a wave of support for Republican candidates and better name recognition this time around, as opposed to the 2010 race.
“I was a brand-new candidate, and no one knew who I was,” Murray told Patch. “And I had to get out my own vote. That’s not going to be the case this year, because I’m a little bit better known now with voters, and also we’re going to have a presidential race and a hotly contested Senate race. … We’re happy about that.”
Extensive Military Career
Murray, an Oklahoma native, received his bachelor’s degree in economics from Oklahoma State University, where he joined the U.S. Army ROTC. He went on active duty after graduation, living at times in the Washington metropolitan area and “falling in love” with Alexandria. He also holds two master’s degrees, in history and Russian studies.
When Murray, 53, joined the Army, the Cold War was still in full swing. He served in various capacities in the Army, including as an armor officer on the border between East and West Germany, and spent time in the former Soviet Union and in the Balkans. His Army career includes serving as a foreign area officer in defense intelligence and as an attache in various embassies.
In 2007, Murray served a tour in Iraq, working in strategic planning under General David Petraeus. He was also stationed at the U.S. State Department and worked with the staff of U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. He retired from the military in 2009.
Locally, Murray serves on the board of directors for the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria. He’s worked with the city on a committee regarding the Torpedo Factory, and he’s also working to help create a military museum near Woodbridge.
Focus on Jobs, Economy
Much of Murray’s focus falls on the economy and the national debt. He favors fewer government restrictions on small business, which he says prevents them from creating jobs.
“I think the government’s role in this isn’t to create jobs,” he said. “It’s to provide a fair and balanced platform, playing field, so businesses can flourish. We’ve seen that happen in the past. We have good examples of that happening. Right now, that’s not what’s happening, and it’s not what my opponent wants.”
Murray also likes to talk energy. He supports a greater role for the free market in the energy sector and favors greater exploitation of oil and natural gas, including hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”
Murray also supports a federal balanced budget amendment and has flirted alternately with the ideas of a fair tax, or consumption tax, and a flat tax. Taxes need to be simplified, with fewer exemptions, he said.
“If you’re a ‘60s generation Democrat, Moran’s your guy, and that’s fine,” he said. “They know they’re going to get their Social Security. They’re not going to have to worry about this debt. They’re pretty much starting to go into retirement.
“But if you’re 25, 30, 35 years old, and you’ve got a mountain of student loan debt, and you’re looking at a mountain of federal debt, you’re going, ‘Who the hell is going to pay for that?’ They are. They look in the mirror and they see they’re going to be the ones to pay for it, and that’s why we need a balanced budget amendment.”
On social issues, Murray is pro-life. He believes gay marriage should be left to the states but supports same-sex civil unions.
Targeting Independents, Swing Voters
Murray spends much of his time knocking on doors. He was campaigning door-to-door in the Fort Hunt area recently, after many residents lost power from the derecho that tore through the area, followed by a heat wave.
“They said, ‘Hey, if you’re out walking and knocking on doors this morning, we like that,’ ” he said. “So, we’re targeting independents and swing voters, voters who have voted both parties the past four or five cycles.”
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Murray has raised just shy of $100,000 in the race. That pales in comparison to Moran, who has amassed more than $800,000. Independent candidate Jason Howell has raised only about $10,000.
For what Murray lacks in funds, he hopes to make up for in his message in traditional, online and social media. During the last election, his campaign raised about $430,000, and he hopes to beat that number this go-round.
Murray’s campaign remains largely grassroots in nature, said campaign spokesman Reece Collins.
“We still feel like we’re ahead of pace from where we were two years ago,” Collins said. “In terms of the main ways of getting the message out and communicating, there’s a big grassrooots effort, lots of phone calls, lots of door knocking. But we’re also doing the new media communications, as well, whether it’s Facebook or Twitter or email. I think, overall, we feel good about the progress made.”
Jay McConville, chairman of the Fairfax County Republican Committee, sees hope in Murray’s candidacy. His qualifications include personal integrity, a deep understanding of defense issues and a pro-business outlook, he said.
“What Patrick has got to do, and is doing, is contrast the type of representative he’ll be and the type of congressman Moran has been,” McConville said. “ … People really need to take a look at him, because he’s a good man, he has a distinguished record, and in the 8th District, we deserve someone better than what we have today.”