Battle for 1st: Pat Murphy interview - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Battle for 1st: Pat Murphy interview

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -

The 1st Congressional District election in less than three weeks is big because it's up for grabs. The incumbent, Bruce Braley, is running for U.S. Senate.

It's also important because much of eastern Iowa falls in the 1st District.

Winning an election is about name recognition and there are many voters outside of Dubuque who know little about the two candidates: Democrat Pat Murphy and Republican Rod Blum. This week, KWWL is spending time with both candidates to learn more about their background and their vision for the district.

Let's start with Murphy, a father of four who was born and raised in Dubuque.  He says his wife jokes that they were on the fast track to Yuppieville when they made a key decision in 1989. "We wanted to be more involved in public service," said Murphy.

He then ran for office and was elected as a state representative, where he has served for 25 years. He says he's proud of what lawmakers have accomplished in that time, raising the minimum wage and expanding education, among other things. "There are 20,000 children with access to universal preschool because of what the legislature did in 2007," said Murphy.

Murphy's campaign ads paint himself as a common man, the right fit for Iowa's middle class. "I come from a union family. My dad was a 38-year union member," said Murphy.

Another campaign ad, from his opponent, has been one of the most talked about in Iowa this election season, regardless of the contest.  In it, you hear Murphy yelling on the legislative floor, "We shut down that switchboard. Shame on you."

KWWL asked him to characterize his reaction the first time he saw it hit the airwaves. "I don't care. The bottom line is what you see there is a person standing up for the middle class and I'm going to continue to fight for the middle class as long as I'm an elected official. Period," said Murphy.

If you watch the entire video from March 11th, 2011, you'll see Murphy claim the switchboard was not being manned the day lawmakers voted on changes to collective bargaining. He said, because of that, constituents could not call their lawmakers. "Whether we like what people have to say, it's our job to listen," said Murphy.

KWWL checked with the chief clerk for the Iowa House, Carmine Boal. Boal told KWWL the switchboard is answered by staff from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. When asked whether anyone was answering on March 11th, 2011, the day the video in question was made, Boal said, "We don't typically keep track of something that specific."

"I'll tell you right now. I'm a passionate person. I believe in fair play. I wouldn't change a thing about what I did," said Murphy.

If voters elect Murphy, he'll be faced with foreign policy questions right away.  KWWL asked him if he would support boots on the ground in Syria. "I don't have enough information to make that decision," said Murphy.

Another big issue is immigration reform. "The whole world is watching. I think America has always been a country that's done what's best, not just for this country, but especially for the children of the world," said Murphy.

Murphy has come under fire for an interview he did with Iowa Public Radio about immigration. Murphy says the U.S. should set up a pathway to citizenship, providing clothing, shelter and food for the thousands of children who have crossed the border from Central America.

When asked if he said he was concerned the U.S. might be establishing the next wave of terrorists if the issue was not handled properly, Murphy said, "No. No.  The problem is conservative talk radio went very far right on my remarks."

Here's the text of that interview with Iowa Public Radio: "We need to make sure that we take care of them, that we create a pathway for citizenship and set up education for them so they don't become the same problem that we're currently having in the Middle East, that they'll be a terrorist a generation from now," said Murphy.

KWWL asked Murphy to describe what kind of representative he would be for eastern Iowa if elected on November 4th.  "(I would be) a person who works to build the middle class and improve the lives of people here in Iowa and across the country, but along with that, tries to make sure the American dream is available to everyone, and not just the elite," said Murphy.

Now it's up to the voters to decide whether Murphy's vision aligns with theirs.

Thursday night on the KWWL News at 10 p.m., watch our story with the Republican in the race, Rod Blum.

Then on Saturday night, the two debate right here on KWWL in our studios at 7 p.m.

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