Tim Murphy Gets a Challenger

By Keegan Gibson, Managing Editor

Evan Feinberg

Rep. Tim Murphy will face a primary challenge next spring.

Months of recruiting efforts by a small, dedicated group of conservative activists has yielded challenger Evan Feinberg, a 27 year-old native of Washington County who spent the past five years working for various conservative causes in Washington, DC.

“I’m taking the necessary steps to consider a primary challenge against Representative Murphy,” Feinberg confirmed. “The people of western Pennsylvania deserve a true conservative who will put the interests of the country and his constituents before his own.”

Feinberg told PoliticsPA that he resigned his position in the office of Kentucky Senator Rand Paul on Wednesday. He, his wife and infant son will move back to the district on Monday. And as if to ensure he won’t be drawn out of Murphy’s district, he’s moving to the Congressman’s home turf in Upper St. Clair, Allegheny County.

“If I decide to run, I’m going to have going to have very extensive local and national support and I look forward to making this decision in the coming weeks.”

Sources close to Feinberg say that his candidacy is a certainty.

Feinberg has been called a “true believer” – fondly by some, derisively by others – and he has a resume to match. After graduating from Peters Township High School in 2002 and Grove City College in 2006, he started his career as a researcher with the Heritage Foundation. In March of 2008 he moved to the office of Senator Tom Coburn as a Legislative Assistant on health care policy, and in May of 2011 took a position as a senior aide on health care, education and labor policy with Sen. Paul.

Rep. Tim Murphy

He can expect long odds and a tough opponent in Murphy, who isn’t taking anything for granted. He’s retained GOP powerhouse John Brabenderas his campaign consultant, and the Congressman had over $720,000 cash on hand as of the most recent campaign finance report.

“Tim has always said he’s a temporary employee. With his strong record of representing his constituents, he’s looking forward to going before them and seeking their support to renew his two-year contract,” said Susan Mosychuk, Murphy’s Chief of Staff. “Based on his 67% approval rating in the last election, we’re confident that support remains strong throughout his district and frankly, far beyond its current boundaries.”

Mosychuk took direct aim at Feinberg’s residency issue.

“While we never expected someone would move to Pennsylvania from out of state to run here, we’re hearing tons of positive feedback and that just motivates Tim to continue his hard work on their behalf.”

Others took a harsher tone.

Feinberg is, “a career DC staffer, and at 25 or 26 years-old I use the term ‘career’ lightly,” said one source with knowledge of Murphy’s re-election effort. “This kid is in for a rude awakening if he thinks [Murphy] is vulnerable in a primary here. Most [southwest PA] Republicans I know come from union households.”

Sources indicate that Murphy has spent much of the past six months meeting with local party leaders and activists, like this one in July. He has also preemptively courted those in the highly Republican North Hills area, which is likely to join the 18th district after redistricting this year.

“Each time [Murphy] has run he’s done extremely well,” agreed Allegheny County Republican Committee Chairman Jim Roddey. “I would be very surprised if anyone could mount a successful primary campaign against him.”

Murphy won re-election by 33 percent last year, and perhaps more impressive won by 28 points in 2008. The 18th district has a Cook Partisan Voting Index of R+6, indicating a reliably conservative voting pattern. With the North Hills, the district will be a deeper red.

Critics argue that reliably Republican performance is why Murphy’s voting record is too liberal. They point to issue group ratings, like the Club for Growth stat that has Murphy as the fifth most liberal Republican in Congress in 2010 (right between Reps. Jim Gerlach and Charlie Dent), or his C+ grade from the National Taxpayers Union. And as of the AFL-CIO’s most recent ratings in 2010, Murphy was the fifth-most pro-labor Republican in the country.

They say that makes Murphy vulnerable. Ryan Shafik of Rockwood Strategies, Feinberg’s campaign consultant, was bullish about the young challenger’s chances – particularly given the possibility that national conservative groups might get involved.

“The aspect of Evan’s campaign that’s so exciting is that there are national groups that are looking at him and looking at this campaign and willing to invest in it and support his candidacy,” he said. “Not only that, people the district and throughout state are interested in helping him and contributing to his campaign.”

Shafik has a reputation for working with conservative primary challengers, including PA Sens. John Eichelberger and Mike Folmer. He also worked for Mike Smeltzer, who garnered only 30 percent of the vote in his bid against Rep. Todd Platts last year.

The Recruiters

Feinberg’s candidacy is in large part the culmination of recruiting efforts by conservative activists Greg Wrightstone, Jeff Steigerwalt and others. Though none of the three lives in the 18th district, each has had his eyes on a primary for months.

Wrightstone, President of the organization PA Coalition for Responsible Government, has been particularly interested in challenging Murphy.

“The Pennsylvania Coalition is very excited to have a conservative, limited government supporter that’s a viable candidate that will be challenge Representative Murphy,” said Wrightstone. “Congressman Murphy’s liberal voting record speaks for itself.”

Interesting note: Heritage Action, a cousin of the Heritage Foundation where Feinberg worked, rated Murphy the 3rd most conservative member of the PA delegation so far in 2011 at a rate of 58 percent. He was behind only Sen. Pat Toomey (87 percent) and Rep. Joe Pitts (83 percent), and 1 point below House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA).

Correction: The original version of this story listed Feinberg’s age as 26. He is 27. Additionally, Allegheny County Controller candidate Bob Howard says he was not involved in the recruiting effort.

“I am focused on the Allegheny County Controller race and not involved in the primary recruitment efforts described in your article,” Howard wrote in an email.

September 29th, 2011 | Posted in Congress, Front Page Stories, Redistricting Watch, Top Stories | 54 Comments

54 thoughts on “Tim Murphy Gets a Challenger”

  1. mombrown2 says:

    @Bob: You have to acknowledge Murphy’s record representing his district and casting conservative votes on the issues that really matter: Obamacare, Stimulus, and TARP. If you think you can find a representative who will vote with you 100 percent of the time, then you should probably get a divorce, quit your job, and withdrawal from society because no one is capable of satisfying your interests.

    SW PA voters will recoil at the idea of being represented by a puritanical 26 YO like Fineberg.

    The people who really win in circumstances when Republican incumbents have to spend large sums of time and money defending their seats are the Democrats.

    And who is behind the Lunatic Fringe that’s hell-bent on eating their young? Greg Wrightstone admits to being a socialist. Mombrown1 wants to weaken the State Committee so the Republican Party cannot endorse candidates and make it even more difficult for the party to coalesce. It’s like these clowns are Democrats in sheep’s clothing.

    If the GOP is too mainstream because its elected officials represent their district, and you so dislike the Republican Party that you want to destroy it, there’s a home for you…in the Constitution Party. From there, you can safely protect yourself from modernity and wistfully dream of the days when the John Birch Society was the exemplar of freedom and segregation. Go away.

  2. Duke says:

    Anyone know what the heck is Collin McKnickle’s problem with Murphy? It can’t just be disagreement over a few labor votes. His rantings are reminiscent of the proverbial “psycho ex-girlfriend” kind of stuff – it’s downright creepy.

  3. Piltdown Man says:

    The CEI and Club for Growth are “respected?” By who? Only by their acolytes.

  4. mike says:

    In 2012, we are suppose to make sure a republican wins pa and somebody beats casey. We are wasting time and money trying to beat murphy who has been an excellent representative. Feinburg is a joke and is not qualified to be on school board let alone CONGRESSMAN

  5. Jay says:

    Greg, do you even live in Murphy’s district? Last I checked, we are surrounded by Democrats. Why not focus on getting rid of Doyle, Critz, and Altmire? I find it silly that you would waste your time going after SWPA’s only Republican House member. Foolish, actually – and completely ridiculous because he doesn’t represent you. Save your breath, sport.

  6. Bob says:

    @Disappointed: Saying Rep. Murphy has a conservative record is as much of a joke as someone saying that Evan Feinberg is qualified to be a Congressman. Personally, I was hoping that Murphy would run against Casey so we could be rid of him once and for all, and replace him in the House with Kim Ward or John Pippy. Alas, he realized he had no chance. I guess we and his rotating crop of psychologically abused staffers are stuck with him until he retires.

  7. Trippi says:

    It was positively painful watching Feinberg being interviewed by Delano. My God. Nervous hands, pasty face and sweaty upper lip. Who could even listen to him bumbling about the constitution or whatever tripe he was struggling over when he looked like such a wreck on camera! Congressman Feinberg? Come now, Evan. Why are you embarrassing yourself like this. Go back to DC. Keep on fighting in those “trenches” and fetching Rand Paul’s dry-cleaning.

  8. Disappointed says:

    Wow, Greg you are really off your rocker. The best thing to happen to Murphy is having you behind the wheel driving Feinberg’s inevitable crash and burn. Your playbook is so far off. You think the Competitive Enterprise Institute is a Game Changer here? You’re grasping at straws. Murphy does have a conservative record and you know it. You’re just selectively manipulating things to create a picture that doesn’t reflect reality. Very snakelike of you to do that. I used to think better of you, but now I see I couldn’t have been more wrong about someone. You’re so negative. I’d vote for Murphy just to shut you down, but I have positive reasons to continue my support for him.

  9. Greg Wrightstone says:

    Well… You are correct that we can trust Murphy. We can trust him to stick up for any economic damaging pro-union bill proposed. We can trust him to support BIG GOVERNMENT solutions to every problem. We can trust him to support subsidies for solar, wind and ethanol.

    Our “hatchet jobs” reference evaluations by respected groups such as Competitive Enterprise Institute, Club for Growth and National Journal. These all confirm Tim Murphy’s status as the lowest ranked Republican in Pennsylvania and one of the lowest in the nation. The facts betray your portrayal of Murphy as a moderate. Nice try, but you fail, bring facts next time.

  10. Jerry says:

    Ok Greg, settle down. Tim Murphy “viciously attacked” you? You’ve got to be kidding. From what we can all see, the only attacks that are being launched are from you. I’m on your email lists and see what a hatchet job you do him. And notice Tim hasn’t engaged at all at your level. In all my years in Republican politics, Tim Murphy has been the one upstanding guy who you can trust and count on for anything. You have no idea how deep his support is here all thru his district. He gives his time to everyone – youth, to the returning soldiers, to the veterans, to the families here. He’s a part of our community in a way that your scorecard can;t rate. So Your rantings against him not only don’t resonate, We’re all just laughing at you because you sound like you need your head checked. Hey, you can always call Dr Tim – and you want to know what? Knowing Tim, I bet he’d offer to help even you.

  11. Greg Wrightstone says:

    I have stayed above the fray on this until now when I was “quoted” as Greg Wrongstone. That post was actually pretty funny.

    You are correct that the Congressman Murphy has come after me personally and viciously because I had the audacity to expose his awful voting record. His record of support of unions, support of big government solutions to every problem, his support of huge subsidies of uneconomic “green” energy all are more than troubling, they are evidence that he needs replaced.

    Tim Murphy tried to silence me through intimidation and threats. I will continue to stand up for freedom, limited government and excellent candidates like Evan Feinberg.

  12. Deb B says:

    Let’s get real everyone. This is a US Congressman VS Capitol Hill junior staffer. So It’s not an insult to say he’s not nearly qualified for the responsibility. I mean jeez, he has to pad his resume and the thing is, we don’t expect someone so young to have accomplished what someone 40 years his senior has. It looks foolish to see his postings up there about the paper he researched while he was an intern last year. Look, Representing 700 thousand people in Congress requires more than just loudly asserting your own personal dogma – it’s a huge undertaking and a huge responsibility. All this other stuff is just nonsense. Fienberg is way out of his league, and from the looks of his interview with Delano even he realizes it. Poor kid.

  13. Gregory Wrongstone says:

    I’m such a big deal now the President’s coming after me! Obama wants me fired. Evan – come save me!

  14. rock jock pa says:

    I was interested in what the heck this young guy had done to deserve our vote and found a good bit of info on him. He apparently has just completed Senator Rand Paul’s proposal to reform Medicare, which is quite impressive. I also found a link to his article that is critical on Clinton’s Education proposal from 2007 in Human Events. This guy is no light weight. http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=21950

  15. Gail says:

    I am surprised at many of the comments I read here. Mr. Feinberg has not officialy declared yet or held a campaign event yet Nathan believ es him to be a “Far Right Wing Candidate”. Congressman Murphy supporters are quite vitriolic for someone they appear to hold in complete disregard and view as not a threat. Why the contempt? I believe it is time we have an open and honest debate about what the constituents of the 18th district want in a Representative. If it is Congressman Murphy who triumphs with all of his experience, connections, supporters, good for him. Mr. Feinberg will have helped him sharpen his approach for the general election.If it is Mr. Feinberg that triumphs, it will be because his ideas, values and principles are what many citizens find lacking in their current representatives and he will be viewed as a “breath of fresh air”. At the end of the day, we the people win!

  16. mike says:

    Anyone can run for congressman if this kid can. Not a big accomplishment.

  17. Matthew says:

    @ Steve, who is the bigger loser, the one running for Congress or the one posting slanderous things about a person from behind a computer screen?

  18. Matthew says:

    Having graduated from Grove City College with Evan I can attest to his high moral character and solid principles. To say he’s not held a “real-world” job is unfair, considering he worked through college. Not only was he well-liked throughout the school he was a leader on campus. Never heard a word against him in all four years. My wife and I will be donating to his campaign and I suspect he will garner huge support from fellow Grovers that live in the Western PA area.

    Best of luck to Evan – kick this bum out.

  19. Just to be clear after my previous comment: I highly encourage primary elections and candidates who are young, energetic, and dedicated to making this country a better place. My larger point was that Murphy hasn’t done a poor job representing a very diverse district that leans heavily against his party in registration numbers.

  20. Steve says:

    This kid was the biggest loser in high school. I went to a party once where Evan was being a total choad so a pal of mine threw a glass of water in his face. Evan started to cry then left.

  21. Roy says:

    Talked to a few people yesterday. Democratic name that kept coming up was State Rep. Matt Smith.

  22. Piltdown Man says:

    This really is the battle of the inept. Tim “I can’t keep a staff person for more an a month at a time” Murphy is an arrogant pol in the worst tradition of DC. His repeated re-election has been more the fault of the Democrats to field a smart, electable candidate with deep pockets who could actually get on TV and radio and hammer Murphy.

    Feinberg does indeed sound like a true believer, the next wave of Scaiffe and Koch-sponsored right wing wannabees.

    Listen, Feinberg and his backers know he won’t win. This is just a move to get him into the loop, to teach him how to campaign and to “season” him a bit. He won’t win, but he won’t go away either….

  23. mkc8222 says:

    Excited for a young candidate to join the field. So many people complain about the current state of our country and political system, and yet don’t do anything about it (including their privilege to vote). Glad to know a man of upstanding character, with a solid education, and a clear passion for his country, exemplified by his service to his country through his past years working in the Capital – has chosen to make the sacrifice to make a run for office and get rid of people that are riding the political train and leaving their constituents behind.

  24. I grew up in that area and know the 18t District extremely well having campaigned throughout most of it over the years. I agree with the person above who said that it is a “conservative” area. However, there is a huge difference between Southwestern Pennsylvania conservatism that is centered around the values of common sense, prudence, and pragmatism than Ayn Rand-style Tea Party politics.

    Another commenter noted above that Murphy’s district is about 2-1 Democratic in terms of registration. He or she is right. The Republicans can win, and have been winning, races in that part of PA because they have wisely united the GOP with socially conservative Casey Democrats and those frustrated with the Democratic Party’s detachment from working class and middle class voters. Murphy isn’t perfect, but he can hold that coalition of voters in place because his approach works for Southwestern PA.

    If you put up a far right wing candidate it is conceivable that the Democrats can find a candidate similar to Jason Altmire or Mark Critz who reflect the views and values of the people of the region and may take the seat back for the Democratic Party. The Republicans need to court traditionally Democratic union voters, older voters who dominate the electorate, social conservatives, etc. to win. Murphy can do that without driving away part of that coalition.

  25. michael says:

    Congressman Tim Murphy is excellent representative of the people of the 18th district. He has been a leader in health care and energy independence. He also is a Navy Reservist serving our country during a time of war. Congressman Murphy deserves another term.

  26. Phil says:

    His wife’s a member of the Marine Corps Reserve?!? So what are you saying – that Evan’s “passed” the patriotism test or his wife wears the pants in the relationship? My first litmus test: a candidate cannot use their high school yearbook photo in their campaign lit. Yo, Evan: lay off the hair gel, kid, and wipe that shinola-eating grin off your face.

  27. Judy Brown says:

    Someone is posting under my screen name of mombrown1. I did not post that message.

  28. Judy Brown says:

    Evan Feinberg grew up in Peters Township. He is a graduate of Grove City College. His wife is a member of the Marine Corps Reserve. They have a baby about 4 or 5 months old. Has worked for the Heritage Foundation, Senators Tom Colburn and Rand Paul.

  29. itivino says:

    And how do you know he can’t provide for his family and run at the same time? If your savior obama is able to keep extending unemployment benefits, maybe he won’t ever have to worry about a job.

    Worked a day in the real world? What exactly does that mean? I’m pretty sure it wasn’t easy living off staffer salaries, living in one of the most expensive cities to live, and providing for a family.

    Evan’s got balls taking this on at his age despite the odds. Most “kids” as you refer to them are still living in their parents’ basements. He’s an inspiration for conservatives.

    Even if he does lose, at least he lost fighting for the right side.

  30. Anonymous says:

    No family man – Christian or otherwise – would uproot his wife and infant son and move them to a city where he has no job, no income, no support structure, and no chance, for a grueling and stessful campaign that will result in an embarrassing defeat. Evan will be left penniless and broken in spirit. He’s supposed to be a provider to his family first, but he’s abandoning them because some gasbags like Greg Wrightstone and Bob Howard keep pumping him up. But I guess Evan’s to blame, too. It takes a lot of chutzpah and an outsized ego for a 26YO kid who has never worked a day in the real world or lived here as an adult to think he could represent the interests of SW PA familes. All of these guys and kids should be ashamed of themselves. And his poor wife and child are the real victims. So much for conservative family values I suppose…

  31. Kevin says:

    I know Feinberg personally. He’s a bright man. I taught him in high school. Personally, I was always impressed at his ability to continually refine and revise his personal beliefs around new information – and respond with grace to those in opposition.

  32. Gordon says:

    A young man with a clear head vs. another sclerotic career politician who threatens to be the downfall of the republic. The choice is clear. Let’s send Herman Cain and Evan Feinberg to D.C.

  33. itivino says:

    Another Conservative, tea party primary challenger! this is exactly what we need and should be happening everywhere. Feinberg is a true conservative with incredible character.

    Feinberg 2012!

  34. TJ says:

    Finally! I’m going to change my registration from IND to Republican so I can vote for Feinberg in the primary. The ONLY reason Murphy has gotten my vote in the past 2 elections is because the Democrats insist on running some former felon, totally worthless candidate. If Feinberg has no criminal record and is not an out and out thief, he’ll get my vote in the primary, and if he doesn’t beat Murphy maybe the Democrats will find a trustworthy candidate to run against Murphy in the fall.

  35. TpartWHY says:

    One word (or is it two?) regarding Murphy’s so called conservative voting line heritage action wants us to believe. CARDCHECK!!!… What true conservative even under the influence of heavy narcotics would vote yes for cardcheck?!?!? That alone is reason enough to vote this bum out. GET EM EVAN!

  36. Super Voter Mom says:

    I am really excited to finally have a choice and get rid of a Congressman that would vote for a bad bill such as “card check”. In fact, he was one of the few Republicans that voted against the Republican alternative to “card check”. Why would we support someone that wants to strong arm the private sector and threaten workers if they do not wish to join a union?

  37. rock jock pa says:

    To Stop Drinking the Tea: This District actually IS conservative. The Cook Report lists it as plus 8 Republican. It voted for McCain by 10.5 points. These voters are yearning for a choice.

    A TRUE conservative that doesn’t back subsidies for ethanol and solar and wind like Murphy does will resonate with these voters. It probably also doesn’t hurt that Feinberg is not a lackey of the Unions.

  38. An Independent Voter says:

    I’m sorry, have we all not seen the stats? the only political party GAINING constituents are self labeled “Independents”.

    Many many people will vote for Feinberg because he worked for Rand Paul. That’s the beginning and the end of any reasoning they need – that he worked for a true fiscal conservative. In this day and age, Tim Murphy is just subpar – a bloated white man who brought this country to its knees by voting for spending bill after spending bill.

  39. Drew says:

    Couple of thoughts. I’m 26 and last time I checked I wasn’t a kid anymore. From what I understand Feinberg was born and raised in Pittsburgh. Tim Murphy was not. Tim Murphy though is annually in the top 20 most corrupt congressmen in the country. That’s a pretty damming accusation. He also is been under investigation more than once. That’s not the kind of man I want representing Western PA. We’re a proud and honest group of people who love our country and love the Steelers.

    http://www.citizensforethics.org/index.php/press/entry/crew-releases-fourth-annual-most-corrupt-members-of-congress-report/

  40. Susan says:

    Mr. Feinberg may not be successful, but Mr. Murphy has never been challenged and has become too comfortable in his position. He does fall all over himself to please Obama and is definitely not a true conservative.

    As Washington would say, “Let them compete on the battlefield of ideas,” and may the best man win.

    Everyone has the right to run, and I say good for him!

  41. Bob Howard says:

    Please note that I am not involved in recruiting an opponent to challenge Congressman Murphy in the primary. However, it is correct that I am a candidate for Allegheny County Controller.

  42. Bob says:

    Gotta love delusional candidates. Maybe Evan Feinberg and Marc Scaringi can do some joint campaign events!

  43. Stop Drinking the Tea! says:

    You guys must be thinking that this district looks like an ultra-conservative district in Utah. It’s not… it’s two to one Democratic, and Tim Murphy wins because he’s pragmatic, non-ideological, practical, and works with everyone. He’ll beat this guy badly in the primary and then stomp whoever the Dems put up.

  44. Puck says:

    I’ll hear what he has to say. I’m kinda tired of watching Murphy fall over himself just to touch Obama at big speeches. It’s embarrassing.

  45. Ryan says:

    I am not sure whose a bigger joker here… this guy or the line of Democrats to challenge Murphy over the years. I suspect he will meet a fate similar to them.

  46. Rock Jock PA says:

    Funny thing about attacking this fresh voice of reason and conservatism. They are attacking his residency and apparently Feinberg was born and raised in Peters Township.

    I recall that Tim Murphy was born and raised…. in CLEVELAND for crying out loud.

  47. RR says:

    Last I checked 58% is a failing grade. So that just means the rest of the representatives failed worse.

  48. Roy says:

    Have any Democrats come forward yet or have any been recruited/mentioned?

  49. Dan says:

    This is a joke. Tim Murphy is loved by his constituents, since he overwhelmingly wins his elections. While this is a conservative district, it is a majority Democrat district.

    This also makes Tim Murphy waste time dealing with a joke of a challenger, encourages Democrats to challenge him, and will cause some people to waste their time and money helping Tim instead of helping us defeat those that need to be defeated. The moment they find he moved back here to run, that will hurt him.

    It’s not like the conservatives shouldn’t be focusing on Altmire or Critz… You don’t worry about a papercut when you’ve been shot. Be picky about your Republicans when every seat is controlled by one.

  50. mblue says:

    A brainwashed kid who has never held a job in the private sector. I’m a registered Dem, but I respect Murphy as a decent member of Congress. It’s crazy how these hardliners are trying to take out reasonable elected officials and their only fault in the eyes of the hardliners is they are willing to find compromise to solve the problems the federal goverment faces.

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