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Murphy, a leader of House Dem centrists, won’t seek reelection

Rep. Stephanie Murphy, a leading voice of House Democrats’ moderate wing, announced Monday she won’t seek reelection next fall in another stinging loss for her party.

The Florida Democrat — who flipped a GOP-held battleground seat in 2016 and helped write the party’s playbook for its House takeover two years later — said she is leaving the Hill to spend more time with her family, including her two school-aged children.

“It’s been a real honor for me to serve in Congress, but it does come at a personal sacrifice. My time away has been hard on my family and my kids and on me,” Murphy told POLITICO.

A leader of the centrist Blue Dog Coalition, Murphy once mulled a challenge against Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) next fall. Instead, she said she will leave after finishing her current term in the House, where she and other moderates hope to help salvage President Joe Biden’s climate and social spending bill.

Murphy said she hopes “to open a new chapter in my life, one in which I can spend a bit more time with my family.”

Murphy is the 22nd incumbent House Democrat to forgo a reelection bid next year. The growing wave of departures comes as historical and political headwinds suggest a likely GOP midterm takeover, and as the House itself becomes a more toxic and stressful environment amid the twin calamities of Covid and the Capitol insurrection. Murphy, a member of the high-profile investigation into those Jan. 6 riots, has faced a dramatic uptick of threats against her and her family.

This spring, Murphy had privately planned for a Senate bid against Rubio, but dropped it after fellow Floridian, Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.), announced her own run. But while she publicly committed to running for reelection in the House, Murphy’s lackluster fundraising haul — just $140,000 in a quarter — fueled speculation that she had changed her mind. Some allies have suggested she could seek a statewide run in 2024 against Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.).

In an interview announcing her departure, Murphy did not rule out a run for a different public role in the future: “We’ll have to see what happens in the future.”

“When I left the Department of Defense, I knew then my time in public service wasn’t over. And I kind of feel the same way now,” Murphy said.

Party leaders have sought to downplay the rush of retirements this year, as they attempt to hold onto their majority next November despite worsening political headwinds. But the Florida Democrat acknowledged that her departure is unlike many of her colleagues, who are leaving after decades in office or to seek higher office.

“I think it’s hard for people in politics and especially in Washington to understand that someone at my age would quote unquote, retire … without having some sort of scandal or without fear of losing a reelection or without, immediately running for another position or job,” Murphy said. “But really, right now I need to be with my family.”

Murphy insisted her decision was not based on her own reelection chances — where the odds of her seat being winnable appear to have improved in recent weeks — nor the Democrats’ overall ability to keep the House in 2022.

“I’ve won every race I’ve ever run, in the face of really tough odds,” Murphy said, adding about her potential successor: “I am confident that I could win if I ran, but I’m not so arrogant as to believe I’m the only Democrat who can win.”

Murphy’s newly redrawn district is still likely weeks, if not months, from being finalized.

Florida is in the process of drawing new maps, and the state legislature will not meet until early next year to select a final version. At least one of those proposed maps from the state House would nuke Murphy’s central Florida district, but the state Senate drafts left Murphy with a clear path in a similar version of her current district.

“I think I could win in every one of the maps that has been proposed,” Murphy said.

Though the state’s two chambers will have to compromise on a map, Murphy’s fate does not look as bleak as some initially predicted. The state Supreme Court, which is likely to weigh in on Democratic challenges to the GOP-drawn maps, took a sharp turn to the right since Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis took office. That left some Democrats worried that Republicans in the legislature would aggressively seek to undo the effects of the court-ordered 2015 redistricting that created Murphy’s current seat and that of Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist, who is now running for governor.

Murphy was first elected in 2016 thanks to that mid-decade redistricting, which boosted her bid against then-GOP Rep. John Mica. She was advising the DCCC on possible challengers to take on Mica when they decided to recruit her for the race instead. She beat Mica by 3 points in an otherwise disappointing cycle for Democrats and easily won two more terms.

Three terms later, Murphy has decided to bow out.

“It wasn’t an easy decision for me. But it was the right one for me personally,” Murphy told POLITICO.

Murphy has several GOP challengers who have already posted strong fundraising numbers. Cory Mills, a businessperson and Army veteran, had nearly $500,000 in the bank by the end of September. Also running: Navy veteran Brady Duke and state Rep. Anthony Sabatini, though Murphy allies noted she has more cash on hand than her GOP opponents combined.

Ally Mutnick contributed to this report.

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