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May 13, 2024

Democrats nominate a ‘joyful’ Chris Murphy to third term

MARK PAZNIOKAS / CTMIRROR.ORG Sen. Chris Murphy exits a backstage holding area to to accept the Democratic nomination.

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy accepted an uncontested Democratic nomination for a third term Saturday, celebrating his status as a newly baptized bipartisan dealmaker in a divided Washington, while declaring Donald J. Trump a threat to American exceptionalism as a multicultural democracy.

On a glide path to what is expected to be an uneventful reelection in a blue state, Murphy told 1,400 delegates at the Democratic State Convention at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville to think broadly about what is at stake as Trump practices a polarizing brand of politics in trying to recapture the White House.

“Donald Trump wants to end our democracy as we know it,” Murphy said. “Even worse, he wants to convince Americans that our multiculturalism or inclusivity is a danger, not a defining strength of our nation. This isn’t overblown hyperbole, he’s got a detailed plan to destroy the rule of law and turn us against each other. We were born in this time, in this place to stop him.”

His 18-minute acceptance speech was an exercise in balance.

He was eager to attack the Republican presumptive presidential nominee, a defendant in a hush-money trial involving an alleged affair with a porn star, while aspiring to build on a new role as a Democrat who can do business with Republican senators on gun control and immigration reform..

“I know that it feels a little soul draining to live in a political moment where the news is filled with porn-star hush money and puppy assassinations,” Murphy said. “But I feel joyful every day because I have a job where I get to go to work every day engaged in the work of preserving and improving the greatest country that has ever existed. And part of the reason that I feel joy is because I have seen democracy work. I have seen President Joe Biden make it work.”

Under Biden, Congress passed a gun bill filed by Murphy that, while falling short of the universal background checks Connecticut requires, requires a stricter scrutiny of gun purchasers by young buyers, funds violence intervention programs, and makes straw purchases of firearms a federal offense.

Murphy praised the Democratic president for passing an infrastructure and climate bill that was beyond the reach of Trump. But he stepped lightly in addressing an international crisis that is causing domestic challenges for Biden and other Democrats.

The senator acknowledged both the horrors of the terrorist attack by Hamas on Israel, as well the resulting Israeli attack on Gaza that has claimed more than 34,000 civilian lives, as well as those of terrorists.

“We are all still feeling the devastating pain of the attacks in Israel on October 7,” Murphy  said. “But I fundamentally just do not believe that we have to make a choice between wanting accountability for those attacks and accepting thousands of innocent people having to die in Gaza as a consequence.”

The delegates gathered for a brisk three-hour convention applauded.

Gov. Ned Lamont, Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, state Sen. Mae Flexer and others addressed the convention, sounding themes certain to be played over the summer and fall, most notably the erosion of abortion rights by a Supreme Court dominated by Republican appointees.

U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes, a Democrat who holds Murphy’s old seat in the 5th Congressional District, was one of the featured speakers, a reflection of running in the most competitive district. Murphy expects to spend significant time in the district.

U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, who was elected to Congress in 2006, the same year as Murphy, said the convention Saturday was the first Democratic nominating convention for U.S. Senate in his eastern Connecticut district.

Once the wunderkind of Connecticut politics, Murphy is standing for reelection as a 50-year-old, still the youngest member of the delegation. (Hayes is 51.)

His 12 years in the Senate is by far the longest stop in a peripatetic career: Elected to the state House at age 25, the state Senate at 29, the U.S. House at 33 and the U.S. Senate at 39. The junior senator has settled into middle age, albeit in a Senate where the median age is 65.

Four years ago, an admiring 10,000-word profile in Vox pronounced him “Senator of State, recounting his rise as a progressive voice in foreign policy and the significance of his time traveling with John McCain to Ukraine in defiance of Russia. It all but begged him to play the long game as a senator.

On Saturday, he sounded very much like a politician who has settled on a political home and role — the bipartisan dealmaker.

“That’s a relatively new role for me, but one that I think I’m good at, and one that I hope to continue in my third term,” Murphy told reporters before his acceptance speech.

Murphy brokered passage of the first significant gun safety law in 30 years and the crafting of a border security and immigration deal, only to see the latter undone in a Republican-controlled House at the insistence of Trump.

“I was proud to negotiate the immigration compromise, the most significant bipartisan border security bill in 40 years,” Murphy said. “It didn’t ultimately get across the finish line. But I hope to be somebody in my third term in the Senate that is looked upon as a dealmaker, as somebody who stands up for his convictions, but can find a unique way to bring Republicans and Democrats together.”

On the convention stage, Murphy’s new role was recognized by Blumenthal, the state’s senior senator.

“Chris Murphy gets things done,” Blumenthal said, noting that the immigration bill was set for passage “if Donald Trump hadn’t torpedoed it.”

Murphy arrived early for the convention, an anachronism in an era of campaigns dominated by television, social media and micro-targeting. The conventions are  reunions for the political, opportunities to network and catch up. Murphy happily mingled, posing with delegates for selfies.

“The Democratic Party is a community,” Murphy said. “So part of this is just your friends, seeing friends, sharing ideas, recommitting ourselves to being Democrats and being vocal and active in an era where a lot of people are sitting on the sidelines.”

It was not quite, however, a place where everyone knew his name. 

He entered the exhibition hall in the vast casino complex unadorned by credentials around his neck, and a young women employed by the casino challenged whether he was authorized to attend.

He smiled and assured her he would be welcomed.

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