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“I’m an Apolitical Person”

The Gazette covers David Murphy as “apolitical” while insinuating left-wing candidates have an agenda.

By Will Meyer

When former City Councilor David Murphy announced he would run this year for an At-Large City Council seat after losing re-election for his Ward 5 seat to Alex Jarrett, The Daily Hampshire Gazette let Murphy describe his political beliefs in his own words. On March 3rd, then reporter Greta Jochem quoted Murphy who said, “I’m an apolitical person. I’m unenrolled. I don’t belong to a political party … Both parties do things well and don’t do things well. I do not have an agenda. I just want to see the city run as well as it can.” In the most recent Gazette coverage of the At-Large race, reporter Brian Steele advanced the same narrative, suggesting that Murphy is “apolitical” as he is not enrolled in a political party. Steele declined to comment for this article and Jochem is no longer with the Gazette. 

Murphy’s campaign has been built on this very narrative. In a recent short video, Murphy doesn’t flinch to immediately assert that being a City Councilor “is not a soapbox for your personal political views. Being a councilor is competently overseeing the operation of a 121 million dollar municipality.” His campaign pitch asserts that his experience and supposed non-political views make him an expert that won’t be swayed by personal beliefs. According to political organizer and Northampton resident Cherilyn Strader, Murphy’s campaign is designed to “uphold the status quo” and thus serves to “easily squash the visionary ideas of emerging leaders who are notably majority women candidates.” Steele’s article, however, emphasizes the political leanings of left wing female candidates, noting Michelle Serra’s affiliation to the Bernie Sanders campaign and Jamila Gore’s belief that the police department is “overfunded.” 

Despite Murphy’s posturing as above the political fray, his opinion writing, voting record, and traceable political donations suggest he leans Republican and reliably votes conservatively on the Council. 

During the lengthy process to vote on the ordinance restricting police surveillance cameras in the Downtown Business District, Murphy was one of two Councilors to support the police cameras and sided against the majority of his colleagues. 

According to publicly available Federal Election Commission information, Murphy gave $400 to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney’s re-election campaign in 2004, $100 to Senator Elizabeth Warren’s right-wing opponent Scott Brown in 2012, and $1,650 to notoriously anti-union Governor Charlie Baker over the course of seven donations spanning the years from 2010 to 2018. 

When asked for comment, Murphy insisted that he is unenrolled and has also given to Democrats including David Narkewicz, Jo Comerford, Pam Powers, Peter Kocot, and Stan Rosenberg. While this is true, the dollar amounts have been consistently less than Republicans and in at least one case (a 2018 donation to Lindsay Sabadosa’s opponent Diana Szynal) has been at the expense of the more progressive candidate. 

But one need not dig through campaign finance databases to understand Murphy’s political leanings given that he has used the proverbial soapbox of the Gazette’s very own opinion page to express them. After announcing his run for At-Large, Murphy contributed the column “Council is undoing 20 years of PD progress,” where he blamed councilors’ inexperience for “fallout” at the police department and criticized the council for inserting itself into police “labor disputes.” 

Murphy’s claims of apoliticality are standard fare for those who resent things like policing or housing being exposed as, in fact, political. If the only experience Murphy has to offer concludes that nothing in the city ought to change, it’s no wonder Northampton voters have already rejected him once before.

Murphy will face off against four other candidates today in a preliminary election for four spots in November’s general election. The other candidates running are Jamila Gore, Michelle Serra, Michael Quinlan, and Marissa Elkins.

Will Meyer is co-editor of The Shoestring.

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