Former Democrat takes on actor in GOP primary for U.S. House seat

DOVER — The two candidates in the U.S. House of Representatives Republican primary share many of the same goals and are supportive of President Donald Trump’s policies.

But while neither Lee Murphy nor Scott Walker has held elected office before, Mr. Murphy is considered by the Delaware GOP to be a more serious candidate and seems to be the favorite in Sept. 6’s primary.

The winner of that election will face Democratic Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester in November as she seeks her second term.

Lee Murphy

Mr. Murphy, an actor who has appeared in commercials and had a minor role in the Netflix political thriller “House of Cards,” has previously run for state Senate and New Castle County Council.

Mr. Walker sought the Democratic nomination for the state’s open seat in the House in 2016, garnering about 5 percent of the vote. State GOP Chairman Mike Harrington last week termed him unqualified.

Despite that past affiliation with the Democratic Party, lack of support from the Delaware GOP and lawsuits alleging he, as New Castle County officials put it in a 2014 letter, “operated unlicensed group homes providing sub-standard housing to county citizens, exploited the county’s most vulnerable citizens and abused the judicial process,” Mr. Walker is confident he will defeat Mr. Murphy and then Rep. Blunt Rochester.

“I’m guaranteeing you I’m going to win,” he said.

Mr. Walker said he ran as a Democrat two years ago because the Republican Party did not believe he could win over voters in Wilmington, despite his confidence black voters would go to him en masse. In 2016, he said he would win the six-way primary “in a photo finish.”

Needless to say, that did not happen. Few took his candidacy seriously, and that appears to be the case this time around.

Scott Walker

But the 67-year-old still expresses self-assurance he can sway voters, especially black ones.

“I can walk down any street in Wilmington and people know who I am,” the Milford resident claimed.

His opponent, Mr. Murphy, is a retired railroad engineer living in Wilmington and making a bid for office out of frustration with what he sees as a “very, very, very liberal agenda” supported by Rep. Blunt Rochester.

“I support the president,” Mr. Murphy, 66, said. “I support his policies, and quite frankly I want to help President Trump in Washington, D.C., and I want to bring that prosperity back to Delaware where I feel we’re languishing behind the rest of the country in jobs, education and just stuck in neutral here.”

He backed the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and efforts undertaken by Republicans to eliminate some regulations, which he believes stifle business growth. Like many Republicans, he believes Delawareans aren’t getting their money’s worth in regard to education and wants to shift power away from the federal Department of Education back to the states.

Mr. Murphy is also concerned with stopping the deadly spread of opioids, which contributed to the deaths of about 49,000 people in the United States in 2017, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Drug abuse is a subject he unfortunately knows far too well: His daughter Christie battled addiction for more than two decades before dying in 2014.

“We went through just about every experience known to man as far as rehabbing and getting better,” Mr. Murphy said.

He said the attempts to combat the problem are not focused enough, instead being spread between federal, state and local efforts. Advocates and policymakers need to continue working to remove the stigma around addiction and to create rehab centers that can treat individuals for longer than 30 days, possibly even years, he said.

While Democrats outnumber Republicans in Delaware and the state has had an all-Democratic congressional delegation for the past eight years, Mr. Murphy believes the time is ripe for change.

Many people, he said, feel the Democratic Party has shifted to the left and “does not represent me or my family or most of my friends.”

On that point, Mr. Walker is in agreement. The Democratic Party has increasingly begun rejecting free-market capitalism, despite the fact that other states are flourishing by getting government out of the way, he said.

“Socialism ain’t give you the American dream, man. It’s not,” he said, echoing a common Republican refrain of labeling Democrats as socialists. “It’s going to take it away from you.”

He supports President Trump’s policies but not his rhetoric, which he said has helped spark anger in the country. Despite Wilmington being majority black and Democratic, Mr. Walker expressed confidence he will appeal to many voters.

“As a Christian, we share a lot of values that we don’t realize that we do,” he said.

He said he has turned to religion over the past two years and has been touched by God.

After the 2016 election, Mr. Walker said, he nearly died from diabetes and high blood pressure. He said he left the real estate business and now owns a flower-planting business called Gardens of America, although Google and Delaware business license searches show no company by that name in Delaware.

He no longer rents out homes, which he said is because of a settlement with the state after he was sued for consumer fraud. Despite several court cases going against him, Mr. Walker said the lawsuits were the result of “corrupt building inspectors” and neighbors angry he was renting to people of different races.

According to Mr. Walker, he taught himself law in order to argue cases before the courts and those same cases are now “the leading case law source for disparate impact in discrimination.”

His handmade signs, featuring American flags stapled to wood, dot the major roadways of the state. However, they are in violation of state election laws, which require campaign signs to indicate who paid for them.

Mr. Walker acknowledged he’s said “outrageous” things, admitting he’s made bold and strange comments on radio programs to get attention. Doing so, he said, could boost his name recognition, perhaps giving him a better chance to win election.

He has not filed a campaign finance report.

Mr. Murphy had about $5,700 on hand as of Aug. 17.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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