Voters In Florida's Swing District Weigh In On Impeachment Inquiry

Oct 11, 2019
Originally published on October 11, 2019 10:12 am
Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Many members of Congress are away from Capitol Hill on recess right now. But the impeachment inquiry looms large even back in their home districts.

NPR's Greg Allen caught up with Florida's Stephanie Murphy, a moderate Democrat who represents a district that is evenly split between Republicans and Democrats.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: For months, Democrats in Florida and elsewhere pushed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to open an impeachment investigation of President Trump. Stephanie Murphy, however, held out. She calls herself a moderate and represents a swing district in and around Orlando.

Murphy changed her stance last month after the White House released a memo detailing President Trump's call to the president of Ukraine, asking him to investigate political rival Joe Biden. Murphy explains why she was one of the last Florida Democrats to endorse an impeachment inquiry.

STEPHANIE MURPHY: It has the potential to tear our country apart. At the end of the day, it cannot be seen as a political act.

ALLEN: Murphy says the report by a whistleblower from within the national security establishment gave the charges against the president serious weight. Murphy, the first Vietnamese American woman to serve in Congress and a former national security specialist herself, says she's been incensed by the attacks on the unidentified whistleblower by the president and his allies.

MURPHY: Never once when I was working in the Department of Defense did we ever talk about politics. It was very much mission first. And so I find it a little offensive to insinuate that this is somehow politically motivated.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: I'm so proud of you.

MURPHY: Oh, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

ALLEN: Back in her district, Murphy spoke in Orlando this week at a League of Women Voters panel on gun safety. It remains a compelling issue in Orlando, where three years ago, 49 people were killed in the Pulse nightclub shooting. Afterwards, discussion among League members - most of them women and most Murphy supporters - turned to impeachment.

Mary Scott from Orlando said she understood why Murphy at first was reluctant to endorse an impeachment investigation.

MARY SCOTT: My initial thought was, don't go there - because if we're not going to be able to really make a difference this time, make it stick, we shouldn't do it.

ALLEN: Scott says she's come around and supports an impeachment inquiry, as has her friend, Mary Lou Basham. I ask Basham what changed her mind.

MARY LOU BASHAM: I think the whistleblower. I don't think anyone would do that lightly. That's what democracy is about. Whistleblowers are generally heroes.

ALLEN: Elsewhere in Stephanie Murphy's district, a different gathering and a different view of her decision to support an impeachment inquiry.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) No more socialists. No more socialists.

ALLEN: Outside Murphy's district office in Sanford, the head of Florida's Republican party, State Senator Joe Gruters led a rally calling for her ouster in next year's election.

(SOUNDBITE OF RALLY)

JOE GRUTERS: Representative Murphy pretends to be a moderate in rhetoric only...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Liar, liar.

GRUTERS: ...When it comes time to act, Representative Murphy turns around and votes with the socialist squad.

ALLEN: Mike Steinke lives in nearby Casselberry and agrees. Murphy, he says, is no moderate.

MIKE STEINKE: I call her a wolf in sheep's clothing. There's nothing moderate about her. She votes, like, 98% with Nancy Pelosi and - but what brought me down here today is she just recently signed on to impeach our president.

ALLEN: In the last Congress, Murphy actually voted with the House speaker 87% of the time. The National Republican Congressional Committee believes Murphy's support for an impeachment inquiry makes her vulnerable in next year's election. Murphy says she's not concerned.

MURPHY: I'm not going to let the national Republicans bully me out of doing my job. My job includes defending the Constitution, doing what I can to defend our democracy, whatever the political consequences are.

ALLEN: After flipping the district from red to blue in 2016, Murphy was reelected easily last year. So far, Republicans haven't announced a significant challenger to her bid for a third term in 2020.

Greg Allen, NPR News, Orlando.

(SOUNDBITE OF CLOUDKICKER'S "EXPLORE, BE CURIOUS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.