Republican primary candidate Morgan Murtaugh came in second in California's 53rd congressional district's jungle primary, advancing her to the general election. She will be challenging Democrat incumbent Congresswoman Susan Davis, who has held office since 2001.
I spoke with Murtaugh about the GOP primary, her San Diego-based district, the diminished Democrat Party "blue wave," and the widely unpopular California gas tax.
You edged into second place in your district against Democrat incumbent Congresswoman Susan Davis. That is no small feat with California’s rigged jungle primary system. At least to the public, the results were not released right away and it wasn’t until the next day that you had made it to the top. However, the race has not been officially called. Why is that?
Murtaugh: That night they had not called it and they still refuse to call it. It’s “too close to call,” even though I’m up by seven hundred votes. California has an odd law that refuses to call an election if it’s within a thousand vote range until a week later. They won’t officially call it until Tuesday at the earliest, but we are one hundred percent certain that it is not going to change.
It’s funny because we were at the Republican victory party until 1:00 in the morning waiting, checking the results. We were probably one of the last few people there. When we realized it wasn’t going to change, we decided to get some rest until the next morning.
You’ve lived in and around San Diego for most of your life, and Davis has represented the 53rd district for over 20 years. No doubt the Democrats were expecting a blue wave, even in California. How does going into the midterm election against an incumbent change the paradigm of your campaign?
Murtaugh: Congresswoman Davis has been in office, one way or another, for over 20 years. She is incredibly entrenched, but the only thing she has accomplished is renaming a post office. I want to really hammer in that fact. She’s been in for a long time and I am young, but it is time that we get someone who has the drive to make a difference. My opponent has shown that she does not care and that she’s only keeping the seat warm.
And a lot of people are concerned about my age, even Republicans. Despite the fact that I got endorsements from the Republican Party, Congressmen Darrell Issa, Matt Gaetz, and Carl DeMaio, all these politicians that people respect, voters were still concerned about my age. That’s why we saw my GOP opponent rise. He really did put up a good fight and I do think it’s because voters worry that I’m young, but it’s two years in office. I know I can do more than rename a post office in two years, let alone 20. The status quo is not good enough. Give me a chance and if I don’t do a good enough job, you can vote me out.
About this rumored blue wave, the Democrats underestimated the GOP. They were peacocking and grandstanding, thinking they were going to sweep in on raising taxes and making Nancy Pelosi the Speaker of the House again. Where did they go wrong?
Murtaugh: They’re running on a losing platform which is: "I’m not going to support the president." In what universe do you want someone in office who just wants obstruction? The Democrats are saying, "We're going to go in and not do anything for two years." It's a losing campaign platform because, to use my favorite analogy, you don’t get on a plane and hope for the pilot to crash.
If they don’t change their messaging, they’re going to lose, especially in California. There could be a red wave coming because people, on both sides of the aisle, are angry about this state gas tax. The majority of the voters hate it and they want to get the politicians who are responsible for it in Sacramento out of there.
Last time around, there were primarily two Democrats on the ballot because of the jungle primary. It’s not that way this time around. The GOP broke through. You think the gas tax had something to do with that.
Murtaugh: One-hundred percent.
Last question: You’re running for a federal office, how do you plan on getting the message out that Sacramento needs to lower the tax burden at the state level?
Murtaugh: At the federal level, President Trump’s tax plan helped a lot of Americans, but because of California’s state policy, it’s going to hurt us. A lot of people will see their taxes go up, so I want to work to fix that. I’m hoping that I can help reform the tax plan to alleviate some of those issues since we are already taxed too much by the state.
Another things is, I hear federal officials say, "Oh that’s a state issue I'm not going to comment on it." No! That’s a state issue, but it’s affecting your constituents. You should take a stand on it because you’re still a leader for the people in that area.
I may not be able to go to the capital and change the gas tax, but I can discuss it. I can get the point across that it is bad for the people of my district and the people of California, so we need to get rid of it.
For more information about Murtaugh, you can visit her website, morganmurtaugh.com.