Few politicians would ever admit this, but Sen. Chris Murphy (a Connecticut Democrat so boyish he has been mistaken for a junior staffer) says he was unfocused, a bit adrift, after being elected to the upper chamber in 2012.
Then came Dec. 14, 2012, and Murphy’s senatorial adolescence ended in an awful instant. He was on a train platform in Bridgeport, en route to see the Rockefeller Christmas tree with his wife and two young kids, when he got the news that 20 schoolchildren had been murdered in Newtown, a 15-minute drive north.
Story Continued Below
Murphy sent his family home, showed up at the firehouse near Sandy Hook Elementary School where the families of the slain were gathering, and discovered the cause — gun control — he believes will forever define his career. The 43-year-old former congressman, who led a filibuster in June after the Orlando massacre, thinks the gun issue should now be a “litmus test” for being a Democrat.
“There wasn’t one issue that was driving me to get up every day and go to work. There is today,” Murphy admitted during an interview for POLITICO’s “Off Message” podcast, as the Democratic National Committee was wrapping up.
This was a something I’d never heard before — a thought that a real person, someone with civilian self-awareness, not a senator, would say. A few minutes later, Murphy followed up by lamenting the churn of meaningless tasks his job entails, especially fundraising: “There’s just a ton of bullshit with this job,” he said.
In that sense, Sandy Hook wasn’t just a national tragedy, but a personal summons. “This was something different, right, in part because my son just graduated from first grade,” he added. “I’m the same age as all of these parents. I walked out of that tragedy feeling like I had just been handed my mission in public service, that if I wasn’t able, in my career in the Senate, to do something meaningful to pay homage to those kids and those teachers, then I had failed.”
Murphy was elected to the House, after a decade in Connecticut politics, in 2006 – defeating …