WASHINGTON (AP) — The Democratic Senate campaign committee endorsed Rep. Patrick Murphy on Monday as its candidate for the Senate seat being vacated by Republican Marco Rubio of Florida, who is running for president. The endorsement comes even as another Democratic congressman, Alan Grayson, is eyeing the same seat.
It's the latest move by establishment Democrats to unite behind Murphy, a moderate in his second House term who represents portions of Florida's east coast. There are concerns that a run by the liberal and unpredictable Grayson could hurt the party's chances in a major swing state.
In a statement, Senate Democratic campaign chairman Jon Tester called Murphy, 32, a promising rising star. "His track record of fighting for Florida's working families, seniors and the environment make him the strongest candidate to win the Florida Senate race and flip this seat," said Tester, D-Mont.
Grayson has said he's very interested in running but hasn't declared yet. In a statement he dismissed the move by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
"Florida Democratic voters choose our party nominee, not out-of-touch party bosses sipping cognac in a smoke-filled room in Washington, D.C.," Grayson said.
On the GOP side, a number of House members and others are eyeing the race although several promising potential candidates have taken a pass. In a statement, National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman Matt Connelly said that the Democratic campaign committee's endorsement of Murphy "will backfire with Florida's families who want an independent leader."
The DSCC has been picking and choosing where to make endorsements in states where the Democratic primary is contested or has the potential to be so. The committee has also endorsed in Ohio and Nevada but has held off in Illinois and Maryland.
Democrats are hoping to retake the Senate in the 2016 elections after a bloodbath for the party last fall. It is an uphill fight that would require picking up a net of five seats — four if Democrats retain control of the White House, since the vice president casts tie-breaking votes in the Senate.