Patrick Murray is gearing up for a tough general election fight, but many supporters of the candidate he defeated in Tuesday’s GOP primary still haven’t moved on from what they say was a dishonorable finish to the campaign.
Supporters of Matthew Berry have taken to the comment section of the local Republican politics website RedNoVA to vent their frustration.
Said one: “People I’ve spoken to in the last three days are shocked and disgusted by Murrays tactics… There is no better chance that I will [support] Murray than there is of Murray defeating Moran. Period.”
Another wrote: “Upon losing you pause for a moment and then shift gears to throw your support behind the winner. In the end, we’re all Republicans, right? Well not this time for me. I saw the ugly, inside game Murray put up especially the final 96hrs and I refuse to reward that with my vote in the fall.”
Much of the controversy revolves around a mailer sent out by the Murray campaign on the eve of the election. The last-hour mailer didn’t explicitly point out that Berry is openly gay, but it included statements like “Matthew favors Gay Marriage in Virginia,” and “Matthew, who has never served in the Military, supports change of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
RedNoVA called it “one of the most foul mailers ever.”
Murray, however, disputes the notion that his campaign did anything morally objectionable.
“I want us to be nothing but positive,” Murray said during an interview at his victory party in Alexandria Tuesday night. “There was a little ugly back and forth… but I’m very confident and comfortable that we stayed on the high ground the entire time.”
Murray had an explanation for the last-minute timing of the mailing.
“I delayed the sending of our one mailer — we only did one mailer — I delayed it for days to the aggravation of my campaign staff… because I got involved to investigate in painstaking detail that we were being accurate with my opponent’s position… and we were,” he said. “I feel comfortable about what we did, and I wouldn’t do it otherwise.”
Murray campaign manager R. Brandon Shultz’s view of why his candidate won had nothing to do with the mailer. In an email, Shultz touted the campaign’s grassroots support.
Our campaign was about bringing in people that are not the party insiders. We wanted to expand the volunteer group to average citizens not just those who go to the usual meetings. We brought in a lot of volunteers who had never gotten involved in a campaign before. We had a lot of precincts covered in the morning and afternoon, many of which did not have any Matthew [Berry] supporters there working the poll.
Murray said his campaign is now focused on the November face-off with ten-term incumbent Democrat Jim Moran.
“We don’t have any time to waste, we’re going right back to work and retooling our campaign for the general election,” he said during an interview with WTTG (Fox 5) the morning after the election. Murray says his campaign will retool by trying to attract a different voter than the typical primary voter.
“As far as policy, nothing changes — I am who I am. But there’s a different focus on different voters now. I’m going to go after independents and moderate Democrats. And you know what? I am very, very confident that when I sit down and talk to them over the course of the summer, we can bring votes our way.”