PHOENIX — Twice defeated in congressional races and rebuffed by voters in his bid to change election laws, radio station owner Rick Murphy is now trying to become the state's chief executive.
The Lake Havasu City resident filed initial paperwork Thursday with the Secretary of State's Office to wage a nonpartisan race for governor. The move came moments after he dropped his Republican Party affiliation.
In general, Independents have fared poorly in Arizona races. But Murphy, who has not been shy in the past about using his personal wealth to advance political causes — including $500,000 in a failed 2006 initiative to create a total vote-by-mail system — thinks he can generate enough support among what he said is a public increasingly disillusioned with the two major parties.
And this time he may not have to dip into his own pocket, as Murphy said he is weighing whether to pursue public financing, a move that would get him a check for $1.3 million if he collects the necessary $5 donations.
Murphy also could end up as the same kind of political footnote as Democrat-turned-Independent Bill Schulz. His $2.2 million largely self-funded 1986 gubernatorial race likely siphoned votes from Democrat nominee Carolyn Warner, enabling Republican Ev Mecham, who was later impeached and removed from office, to get elected with a plurality.
Murphy, however, dismissed the possibility that he could play the same spoiler role in 2014 and undermine whoever is the GOP nominee.
“I think that, probably, based on the stand that I'm going to take, I'll take as many votes from (presumed Democrat nominee) Fred DuVal as I will anybody,” he said.
“I'm a pretty moderate guy,” Murphy continued. “I don't subscribe to the hard left or the hard right policies.”
Murphy said, though, that his platform is still under development, but he has left a trail.
In a press release announcing his unsuccessful 2012 Republican bid for Congress, Murphy said he supports lowering taxes, minimizing government “and, most importantly, repealing Obamacare.”
On Thursday, Murphy said he still believes the Affordable Care Act is “a disaster.”
“But that horse has gotten out of the barn,” he said. And rather than pushing to repeal it, which has been a GOP goal, Murphy said Republicans should work to fix it.
Murphy also said he is a supporter of the Second Amendment right to bear arms, but said he supports waiting periods and background checks.
And while saying he personally opposes abortion, Murphy said the state should not stand in the way of a woman who chooses to terminate her pregnancy, at least prior to viability of the fetus.
A political independent could benefit from several factors.
The most recent voter registration figures show politically unaffiliated voters make up 34.1 percent of those registered. That's less than a percentage point below Republicans — and more than four points more than Democrats.
There are also signs of a potentially divisive and bruising GOP primary. Candidates include two current state elected officials — Secretary of State Ken Bennett and Treasurer Doug Ducey — along with state Sen. Al Melvin of Tucson, former web site hosting company GoDaddy general counsel Christine Jones and former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas.
Incumbent Jan Brewer has also not taken herself out of the picture, insisting she can run for a second full term if she wants to despite constitutional language which suggests otherwise, and Mesa Mayor Scott Smith is weighing his own options.