The announcement Monday from Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Fla., that he will run for the seat of Republican Sen. Marco Rubio has opened up a rare opportunity for Republicans to pick up a U.S. House seat in Democratic hands.
Such opportunities are indeed rare because, with the redistricting of the 435 House districts following the 2011 Census, all but a handful of them are left that are truly competitive rather than "safe" for Republicans or Democrats.
The 18th District (Palm Beach area) won by Murphy in 2012 and '14 is one of the exceptions. In '12, as Mitt Romney was winning the district with 52 percent of the vote, first-time candidate Murphy eked out a 3,000 vote win over controversial GOP Rep. and "tea party" favorite Allen West.
In that campaign, Murphy was assisted by family friend Bill Clinton, who predicted to one audience that the young (29 at the time) House hopeful would be a future president, and by the wealth and contacts of his father, multimillionaire construction magnate Thomas P. Murphy.
The assistance given his son's political career by the elder Murphy (who was also Florida finance chairman for Republican Mitt Romney's presidential bid in '08) has led to frequent analogies to that given John F. Kennedy by his father, Joseph.
"[Murphy] could buy his son a congressional seat at 29, but he can't buy him a whole state for a Senate seat at 33," Larry Casey, West Palm Beach attorney and campaign manager to the late Rep. Clay Shaw, R-Fla., predicted to Newsmax.
With self-styled "Bill Clinton Democrat" Murphy relinquishing his seat to run for the Senate, most of the Democrats mentioned as potential successors are either too new on the political scene or have bases that are too small within the 18th District.
With only one major media market in the district, the race will surely cost several million dollars for anyone to win.
Democratic state Sen. Joe Abruzzo of Wellington represents an area far away from the major population hubs of the district. Another Democrat, Melissa McKinlay, is considered an attractive contender but was only elected to her current office as Palm Beach County commissioner in the fall. She has very few constituents in the 18th District and her donor base is small.
Another Democrat frequently mentioned for a House race is David Aronberg, Palm Beach State's Attorney and former state senator and state representative. Aronberg's problem is that he never represented any of the 18th District while in the Legislature.
The Republican most often boomed for Congress is state Rep. Patrick Rooney Jr. One of the present members of the famed Pennsylvania family that are majority stockholders in the Pittsburgh Steelers, Rooney, 51, is the older brother of Republican Rep. Tom Rooney, who represents the neighboring 17th District.
Considered a moderate conservative in the mold of brother Tom, Pat Rooney is well-connected in the area business community from his running of the greyhound racing mecca known as the Palm Beach Kennel Club. In addition, he is active in area charitable causes.
Two other Republicans who lost the primary in the 17th District to Tom Rooney in '08 are now mentioned for the open 18th: state Rep. Gayle Harrell, who had the backing of Mike Huckabee in placing a close second to Rooney, and third-place finisher Hal Valeche, now a Palm Beach County commissioner.
Also mentioned is Martin County Sheriff Bill Snyder, a former state legislator who gets high marks as a campaigner. But he would be up for re-election in the '16 cycle. Friends say Snyder likes his job and would need persuading as well as a clear Republican field.
Former state legislator and financial planner Carl Domino, who drew 40 percent of the vote against Murphy last year, has said he is considering another race. Domino, who is 71, spent more than $1 million of his own money on the race after the National Republican Congressional Committee publicly wrote off the race.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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