Issue No. 7: Morgan Murtaugh (R) U.S. House of Representatives, CA

August 29, 2018 // Issue No. 7

 

Hello everyone, we hope you’re enjoying the final days of summer wherever you are. We’re getting back in the swing of things ourselves and are excited about today’s interview.
 
But first - a record number of women have won House primaries. The New York Times calculated that after the 2018 midterms women could hold up to 177 seats in the House (up from 84 - the highest number to date). With Oklahoma’s primary runoff earlier this week, just over 200 women have won their primaries for the House, with just over 270 still in the running.
 
This week we sat down with another aspiring record-breaker: Morgan Murtaugh, the youngest candidate for Congress, who’s running to represent California’s 53rd Congressional District in the House. At only 25, Murtaugh would be the youngest woman to ever serve in Congress. As we noted in our last interview with Brandy Chambers, it might be more accurate to call this “The Year of the Democratic Women.” As a young Republican woman, Murtaugh is definitely more of an outlier. This election cycle, women make up 33 percent of all Democratic candidates, compared to only 14 percent of all Republican candidates.
 
The divergence between Democratic and Republican women running for office as a proportion of their party started around 1992, the last “Year of the Woman.” Danielle Thomsen from the Center for American Women and Politics (hands down one of the best sources for data about women running for office) has noted that the Republican women in Congress in the 1980s and 1990s were almost all “ideological moderates.” As those moderates have largely disappeared from the Republican Party in Congress, that in turn has had a big impact on representation for Republican women.
 
The atmosphere for Republican women running for Congress is drastically different than the one for Democratic women. Meghan Milloy, the co-founder of Republican Women for Congress, has even told a lot of moderate Republican women not to run this year. In a New York Times interview Milloy confessed, “We’ve told them, ‘You’re a great candidate, if it were any other year you would win.’ We don’t want these women, who have such potential, to lose and get down and get out of politics.”
 
Murtaugh is one of those more moderate Republicans Milloy is talking about. She considers herself fairly socially liberal, and thinks that if the GOP doesn’t take a hard look at its stances on social issues, it’s going to be in some deep trouble moving forward. Her advice to the GOP? The Republican party should accept what the Supreme Court has already ruled on, and focus on economic issues.
 
It’s been much easier for us to gain access to Democratic women running for office - partly a product of the higher number of Democratic women running. However, in the spirit of genuine discourse, here at Eleanor + Anna we think it important to feature a diversity of viewpoints, Democrat, Republican, Independent, you name it. Sometimes we’ll agree, and sometimes we won’t. That’s the point.
 
In sitting down with Murtaugh, a San Diego native, we learned about how the city’s non-hyper-partisan identity is helping her find supporters across party lines. We chatted about her rather productive 25 years, stint as a karaoke DJ (yes, we are jealous), and running as a Republican woman in 2018.
 
Lightly edited for length and clarity.
 

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E+A
We’re excited to talk with you, Danielle grew up in Fletcher Hills -

 
Murtaugh
My district!
 
E+A
Yes! So let’s dive right in - what inspired you to run for office?

 
Murtaugh
Quite frankly I was upset by the state of affairs in DC, and the fact that no one was having a conversation about coming to the middle anymore, because, most of America is in the middle. The fact that we can’t seem to have a conversation, it’s super hyper partisan in DC - that to me is unacceptable. I’m a moderate person and I want to be the voice for coming to the middle and having conversations, harnessing what it really means to be American.
 
E+A
So tell us a little about your experience in DC.

 
Murtaugh
My experience in politics in general started when I was 15, I volunteered for McCain’s campaign. After that I worked for the Navy for three years. And then when I was 19,  I started my blog called “Republican Girl Problems.”  I ended up having 15 contributors, my own website, an app, and all that fun stuff. I tried to give young conservatives a voice in satire, because I felt we didn’t really have that. I went to GW and got my degree in political communication. As I did that I interned on Capitol Hill. After that I worked on Carly Fiorina’s campaign, I did digital on her team and then I moved back to San Diego because there’s no place like home. And then I started working at One America News and then I became a political commentator on a talk show host.
 
E+A
Well you’ve been pretty productive in your 25 years.

 
Murtaugh
Yeah (laughing).
 
E+A
So you’re the youngest candidate running for the House, and if you win you’d be the youngest woman to serve in Congress. We’re curious what that means to you? And also, what that’s been like in your campaign - how have constituents or potential voters reacted to your age?

 
Murtaugh
So overall, I get a pretty positive reaction. I notice that the only time people have kind of a negative reaction where they look at me and they’re like, “Well are you even old enough to run for Congress?”- it tends to be older men. And, to me that is not only a sign of sexism, but ageism. You would never, ever, ever, look at a 74-year-old Congresswoman and say, “Aren’t you a little old?” That’s so rude. So why would you say that to the youngest one running for Congress?
 
E+A
Not to mention everyone’s like, “Oh millennials are so politically unengaged.” And you’re like, “Well I’m doing this.” You can’t win.

 
Murtaugh
Yeah, so the biggest problem is older white men. That’s the problem.
 
E+A
We were reading this interview with Meghan Milloy from Republican Women for Progress where she was talking about how they’ve been discouraging a lot of moderate Republican women from running this campaign cycle, saying any other cycle you’d be great, but because of the gender and political dynamics going on right now, it might be a waste. What has your experience been running as both a Republican and a woman in this climate?

 
Murtaugh
So I think one thing a lot of people don’t realize is that San Diego is pretty apolitical. San Diego is very purple, people aren’t hyper-partisan for the most part - they vote the person not the party. And so, I think that that has actually been helpful for me. People are like, “We need more young people involved in politics. We need more women involved in politics.” They meet me, they like me, they don’t care what party I am. Again, the only people who ever ask me my party affiliation tend to be people over the age of 38. So people who are not millennials ask about party affiliation. Other than that, not one really cares. They just care about who you are as a person.
 
E+A
The 53rd district is interesting politically- in terms of  the types of Republicans and the types of Democrats. As you mentioned, it’s not necessarily hyper-partisan. So, over the course of your campaign, have you had a lot of Democratic support?

 
Murtaugh
Yeah, I’ve actually had a lot of Democrats tell me I’ll be the first Republican they ever vote for. But at the same time I’ve also had a lot of Democrats tell me they’re going to vote for me and not ask me what party I am. And I know they’re a Democrat because I have access to all that information when I go talk to them in the first place, and then they’re like, “Oh, I’m voting for you, you took the time to come talk to me.” Another thing I’ve been doing is I’ve been calling voters on their birthday and wishing them a happy birthday. And no one ever expects that.
 
E+A
That’s pretty innovative. So in talking to constituents, what are some of their top priorities right now?

 
Murtaugh
Number one in San Diego right now, which is something I’ve been learning on the trail, is that people are very concerned about the housing crisis and the homelessness issue. People are upset about the gas tax, and immigration and border security. But number one across the board as I walk and talk to people is homelessness.
 
E+A
That’s interesting, especially since your district isn’t in an high-density, urban area.
 

Murtaugh
Right, but the homelessness issue has gotten so bad in Southern California and in San Diego. I live next door to a preschool and there’s a grassy area where homeless people sleep sometimes. So it’s gotten to the point where it’s no longer only in urban areas.
 
E+A
 What kind of policy solutions are you standing behind when it comes to the housing crisis and homelessness?

 
Murtaugh
So when it comes to housing and homelessness I want to help encourage development and encourage developers to develop in San Diego and in Southern California. What we’re seeing with California state policies is that it makes it really hard and really expensive for said developers and business owners to really find success in California, which is why we’re seeing this mass exodus of business owners and developers. They’re leaving California because it’s not cost effective for them to be here, so why would they? So what I would want to do policy-wise is help encourage developers to come to California and build affordable housing in San Diego, because that’s something we’re really lacking.
 
E+A
In terms of your platform, are there any other issues you’re super passionate about?

 
Murtaugh
Yeah, border security is something I’m super passionate about, as someone who’s been down at the border several times. And I’ve seen first hand what conditions border patrol agents are working under. It’s not the type of conditions the federal government, or the state of California, would ever allow any other employer let their employees work in. Yet our border patrol agents work in the toxic waste of the Tijuana River Valley. Everyone knows how bad it is out there, everyone gets sick. Yet our border patrol agents walk through it every day. Our border patrol agents are getting soft ball sized rocks thrown at their heads when people try to jump over the fence. The guy who gave me a tour got hit with a soft ball sized rock and was out cold and had a traumatic brain injury. So I think that there’s a lot more to the issue than what people realize. And border security is national security. Securing our border is completely a separate issue from immigration reform. It’s closing the seal so that we know who’s coming into our country, and then we can move forward from there.
 
E+A
So in terms of immigration policy, what are your bullet points on that?

 
Murtaugh
Number one would be securing the border. But after we secure the border, I really think we need to find a way to provide a pathway to permanent residency for productive citizens of our society. Because there are a lot of people here who are very good people and very productive citizens of our society, and in my personal opinion, and I think a lot of people agree, if you violated our sovereignty by coming here illegally, you shouldn’t have the right to vote. But you should have the right to live here peacefully and live your life and not fear getting deported. So a pathway to permanent residency over a pathway to permanent citizenship is something I would want to do.
 
E+A
And how does your own family’s history of immigration influence the way you’re coming to this issue?

 
Murtaugh
So my family immigrated here 50 years ago. And the fact of the matter is, it’s a slap in the face to me and my family, and to people who have gone through the process and come here legally, to say we’re just going to grant a pathway to citizenship for all the people who cut the line. I mean, I very much understand the want and the need to provide a better life for your family in coming here. We have an amazing country. I don’t blame you for that. I do however take issue with granting you citizenship to our country when you have violated our sovereignty and there are so many people who truly want to be citizens and have gone through the right avenues and protocols to do that. So that’s why I take the stance that I do.
 
E+A
What has been the most rewarding part of running for office?

 
Murtaugh
Meeting so many people that I never expected to know. The amount of people who meet me, and even if they’re Democrat, it doesn’t matter party lines, people are just so loving and open when you give them the opportunity to be. It’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done and I can’t imagine doing anything else in my life after this.
 
E+A
What are some of the challenges for the GOP moving forward, especially with young voters?

 
Murtaugh
I think that if the GOP doesn’t take a hard look on the inside and reevaluate our social stances, then we’re going to have a hard time with young people. I’m very socially liberal. I’m more of  a libertarian in my viewpoints. If the Republican Party finds a way to accept what the Supreme Court has already ruled on, and kind of do what we can to focus on stuff economically, then we’ll have a better shot at the future.
 
E+A
Let’s move away from the nitty gritty of the campaign and talk more just about you. What do you do for fun when you’re not running for office?

 
Murtaugh

So I used to be a karaoke DJ -
 
E+A
Oh my gosh, that’s awesome.
 

Murtaugh
I love karaoke. It started because I’d go out to do karaoke, I love to sing, I’m a singer-songwriter. Then one of the guys who manages a company was like, “You have a great personality, you’re a singer, you should do this.” I was like, “You mean get paid to do this? Absolutely!”
 
E+A
What’s your favorite karaoke song?

 
Murtaugh
Ooooh, that’s tough, it depends on the mood. But my go-to crowd pleaser ‘Lose Yourself’ by Eminem, I know every word and I change gender pronouns, so everyone loves that one. But I also love Alicia Keys.
 
E+A
Can’t go wrong with that. We’ve been asking a lot of candidates this question because we love having this conversation. What woman has had the biggest impact on your life, and why?

 
Murtaugh
Okay. Politically I would say Carly Fiorina. But just in life, definitely my mom. My mom is the strongest, hard-headed, strong-willed person I have ever met in my life. But she also has the biggest heart of anyone I know. So that strength with that compassion has really given me a really good role model to follow. And my mom is conservative, and right now she’s currently suing the entire United States Navy for sexist hiring practices. So, there is a way to be a conservative but still be a good person.
 
E+A
You should put that on your website. Do you have any other big things on your bucket list, now that you’ll be able to check off running for office?

 
Murtaugh
Yeah. So I definitely don’t see myself as a career politician, because I don’t think I want to be in Congress my whole life. I’m only 25, there’s a lot I want to do in life. I want to travel the world, I want to be able to see the world. Another thing I really want to do, which sounds pretty funny, is I want to be on The Voice. So I aspire to have a political career but also a music career. I don’t think I’ll stay in politics too long, and I hope I can ignite change through pop culture eventually.
 
E+A
So how will you be celebrating if you win?

 
Murtaugh
Oof. I will be celebrating by probably going down to Mexico for a week and sleeping on the beach. Because I haven’t slept much.
 
E+A
We can imagine. And so finally we ask all of our guest three, and in our opinion, very important questions. First, dead or alive who would you take to dinner, why, and what would you ask them?

 
Murtaugh
So this is cliché and cheesy, but I would take Ronald Reagan because he went from being a Democrat to a Republican and then became the biggest voice for the Republican Party and Republican movement. To me he is what I would want to be: someone who has ignited change through pop culture, but was also a great leader.
 
E+A
Is there anything in particular you’d ask him?

 
Murtaugh
Just listen. I’d literally just say, “Tell me about your life. Why did you do what you did?” I just want to hear it all. I’m not the type of person who’d want to talk to him. I wouldn’t want to tell him about my life. I’d just want to hear what he’d have to say to me.
 
E+A
So in the spirit of the original Eleanor and Anna Roosevelt Radio Program, what is your favorite drink, and also, what is your favorite type of dog?

 
Murtaugh
Well my favorite dog is my dog. His name is Maverick. He’s a Catahoula German Shepherd mix. And so he looks like German Shepherd, but he has black and grey spots. He’s pretty cute. I wouldn’t change him for the world.
 
My favorite drink is a tequila soda with two limes.
 
E+A
Very classy. Something you can drink on the beach once the campaign is over.

 
Murtaugh
Exactly.
 
E+A
So last but not least, if you had a silver bullet to solve any world problem, and it can’t be world peace, what would it be, and why?

 
Murtaugh
Any world problem … I think I’d solve world hunger. Because I don’t think anyone should be hungry.
 
E+A
Hard to argue with that. Well we really appreciate you taking the time to chat with us. We were really excited to finally feature a Republican candidate. It’s been much tougher than you would think.

 
Murtaugh
I know a lot of Republican women running for office - they don’t do media. Which is weird to me, because I say yes to any and every interview. But that’s because I was in the media and I understand the importance of it.


 

Beth Carter