News & Politics

Fighting the Power


When Mike Murphy, a 30-year-old Texan, decided to run for Congress in that state’s Fourth District, which includes part of Dallas, he didn’t have any money and knew squat about politics. He just thought the state Republican Party needed better direction, and with intoxicating images of Ralph Nader and Al Sharpton running around in his head, Murphy thought he’d give it a go and signed up for candidate school, which is where the biggies send the idiot candidates they recruit.

However, the Republicans didn’t like what Murphy was doing: He received a call from the Republican State Committee, more or less politely suggesting he get out of the race. Then, New York congressman Tom Reynolds, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, was on the phone pointing out that Murphy’s novice race would screw things up because the party was backing Ralph Hall, a right-wing Demo-crat who had been diddling the Republicans for more than a decade and had finally decided to become one. Why run against “an 80-year-old man who is a longtime friend of the president”? Reynolds said. He promised that if Murphy would just get lost, then House Majority Leader Tom DeLay “wouldn’t forget it.”

“Normally, with a party switcher, I’d deal with it myself or take it to the Speaker, but I took this one directly to Karl Rove because of the unique relationship the White House has with Ralph,” Reynolds later said. “That’s what started this whole thing.”

But Murphy was stubborn. A few days later, the novice got a phone call from Larry Telford, the NRCC’s “incumbent retention director,” who told Murphy, “Just consider what you’re doing now. You don’t want to have the freakin’ president of the United States mad at you for the rest of your life.” And, finally, Telford told Murphy: “It will help you immensely to not do something that won’t take you anywhere in a practical manner and that will really screw up your chances down the road. . . . If you step off this cliff, gravity never goes up, it goes down.”

The NRCC spokesperson denied any arm-twisting was going on and everything was misinterpreted. Trouble is Murphy taped his conversations with Reynolds and Telford and gave the tapes to the Dallas Observer, where this story first saw the light of day.

Additional reporting: Meritxell Mir, Alicia Ng, and Ashley Glacel

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