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Virginia Democrat Polled Voters on Her Own Weaknesses

Candidate for Va. Legislature asked voters how they feel about tax cheats, donations to ethically challenged officials

Kathleen Murphy / Kathleen Murphy for Delegate
• August 13, 2013 4:21 pm

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A Democratic candidate for a hotly contested seat in the Virginia legislature recently polled voters on her own political liabilities, revealing a history of penalties for late tax payments and donations to scandal-plagued politicians of both parties.

Those potential controversies were two of a litany of weaknesses that Virginia residents were asked as part of a poll reportedly commissioned by the Virginia House Democratic Caucus (VHDC) and the delegate campaign of Democrat Kathleen Murphy.

Murphy hopes to unseat Republican Virginia delegate Barbara Comstock in the 34th House District, which includes portions of Washington, D.C., suburbs in Fairfax and Loudoun Counties.

The race is expected to be close, though University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball gives Comstock the edge. President Barack Obama narrowly beat Mitt Romney in the district. Comstock won in 2011 with 55 percent of the vote.

Comstock is "often vilified by the left, but her spectacular fundraising abilities will once again make her difficult to beat in 2013," Geoffrey Skelley, a political analyst at UVA’s Center for Politics, wrote in Sabato's blog on Thursday.

Comstock’s formidability could explain why Murphy is conducting what could be considered a push-poll if it was commissioned by an opponent.

"The self-push poll is likely a sort of vetting process for what attacks from the GOP may be the most potentially dangerous to Murphy’s candidacy," Skelley wrote in an email.

That the vetting is taking place after Murphy entered the race reflects on the strength of her Republican opponent, Skelley said.

"I expect it was not easy for Virginia Democrats to recruit someone to run against Barbara Comstock," Skelley wrote. "So when Murphy decided to run, I’m sure the state party was willing to say ‘come what may’ when she probably told them about possible problems she might have in her background."

While the poll asked about Comstock’s vote against a controversial transportation bill in the state legislature, questions about potential attacks on Murphy focused on more personal issues, according to a transcript of a call one voter received.

According to that voter, who asked not to be identified by name, the pollster said the survey was conducted on behalf of "the Virginia House Democrat Caucus and Kathleen Murphy." Two other residents confirmed that they received the survey.

Neither the Murphy campaign nor the VHDC returned requests for comment.

"If the following statements are true and accurate, do you have very serious doubts, serious doubts or minor doubts about the candidate?" the survey asked. "Kathleen Murphy and her husband have failed to pay their taxes on time," it continued.

Tax records show that Murphy faced fines for a failure to pay taxes on time for multiple properties that she owns.

Virginia property tax records show that taxes for a McLean property co-owned by Murphy were not paid on time at least five times since 2005.

New York City records show that a Staten Island property owned by Murphy had an outstanding $1,392.67 property tax balance in 2010.

Murphy also owns a business, incorporated in Colorado, which has been delinquent since Sept. 1, 2011. The company  failed to file required annual reports with the Colorado Secretary of State’s office since 2011, according to the office’s website.

Skelley said the tax information could be damaging, "because all voters deal with taxes, which makes it easier to talk about if you’re the GOP." However, "if failing to pay taxes was a political death sentence, there would be some incumbents out of jobs right now, so it’s not game over for Murphy necessarily," he added.

The survey also asked for responses to the fact that Murphy "contributed thousands of dollars to candidates who have had ethics problems."

Federal Election Committee records show Murphy donated to the late Reps. John Murtha (D., Pa.), Charlie Rangel (D., N.Y.), Jim Moran (D., Va.), and the late Sen. Ted Stevens (R. Alaska), all of whom were subject either to ethics investigations or convicted of violations.

According to the poll, Murphy also skipped half of the meetings of the Fairfax County Human Services Committee, on which she serves, and proposed $5.4 million in cuts to mental health programs.

It also gauged responses to the claim that Murphy "is a tax-and-spend candidate who supports double taxation and sending $1.6 billion downstate."

One question said that Murphy "bragged about working for Charlie Wilson," the late Texas congressman who engineered the largest covert operation in U.S. history to oust the Soviet Union from Afghanistan in the early 1980s. Tom Hanks played Wilson in a 2007 adaptation of the book Charlie Wilson’s War.

Wilson, a notorious womanizer and occasional drug user, died in 2010. Murphy worked in his Washington, D.C. office—as one of the attractive female aides known as "Charlie’s Angels"—and wrote an obituary for the Washington Post after Wilson’s death.

Published under: Democratic Donors, Virginia