The Campaign Spot

Sleepless Nights to Come for the Feinberg Campaign

In Pennsylvania, Evan Feinberg is a long-shot GOP House challenger who might be worth keeping an eye on. The Keystone State still has to finalize its district lines and won’t hold its primary until next year, but Feinberg, having worked at some of the premiere conservative offices and institutions in Washington, is taking aim at incumbent Republican Tim Murphy in the state’s 18th District, which currently includes the suburbs on three sides of Pittsburgh.

Feinberg worked for the Heritage Foundation as a policy researcher in the areas of education and family policy, writing on the perils of federal micromanagement of local schools and the benefits of school choice. He went on to become a legislative assistant for health policy to Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., arguing against Obamacare and helping his boss offer substantive, market-based alternatives. Feinberg most recently served as a senior aide to Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. as Staff Director for a subcommittee of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. 

Feinberg is attempting to knock off a 5-term incumbent of his own party, never an easy task, after becoming a new dad in May. At least he’ll have a better reason than most candidates to have sleepless nights.

NRO: Why did you decide to run for Congress? Why should removing the incumbent, Tim Murphy, be a priority for conservatives?

“Our country is at a crossroads.  Over the last 10 years, the federal government has doubled in size.  Our national debt is nearly $15 trillion and we’re set to add $7 trillion – $8 trillion more, minimum, over the next ten years.  We need leadership that Tim Murphy can’t provide because he has always been a willing participant in our country’s fiscal catastrophe.  Murphy has voted again and again for massive spending increases, entitlement expansions, and bailouts like Fannie and Freddie or the auto industry.  It’s hard to claim to be anything but a liberal when you vote for Cash for Clunkers, $40 billion for green schools, and to preserve and increase funding for the National Endowment of the Arts.

If his spending record isn’t bad enough (and it is), his record on jobs would convince any conservative that he needs to go.  He consistently votes to kill jobs in an effort to line his campaign coffers with donations from Democratic special interest groups.  The best example is his resolve to eliminate the secret ballot in union elections, voting for the infamous “card check” bill.

By any measure, Murphy is one of the top ten most liberal Republicans in the House.  National Journal rates him the 7th most liberal, Club for Growth has him 5th from the bottom, and National Taxpayers Union gives him a terrible score of a C-minus.  Murphy does not run from his liberal record: he self-identifies with the Tuesday Group and the Republican Main Street Partnership, the liberal wing of the GOP. 

In contrast, I am a limited government, free market conservative.  I believe in less spending, lower taxes, and constitutional limits on government.  I have the experience and policy acumen to provide real solutions to our country’s fiscal problems.”

NRO: I realize the district’s precise lines may change, but tell me a bit about your roots & ties to the area… If you’re running an insurgent campaign in the primary, what communities and groups of voters are key?

“I was born and raised in the South Hills of Pittsburgh and my family owned independent shoe stores in the region as early as 1924.  I have season tickets to Pittsburgh Steelers games and would pit my Pittsburgh sports knowledge against anyone in the world.  Pittsburgh is and always has been my home, and I currently reside in Upper St. Clair township in Pittsburgh — which also happens to be where Murphy lives.  It is a great area to raise my family.  

The district is very conservative, an R+6 according to Cook Political Report.  The area voted overwhelmingly for Pat Toomey, almost two to one.  McCain won the district 55-44.  Bush won it handily in both of his elections.  There’s no reason for an Arlen Specter Republican to be holding this seat, and it’s only going to get more conservative after redistricting.  

 My candidacy is going to have broad support — conservatives, moderates, independents and Democrats.  Self-interested politicians like Tim Murphy are why Congress has an 11 percent approval rating.  Everyone is ready for a fresh face that will shake up the status quo.” 

NRO: Obviously, taking on an incumbent like this is a steep uphill climb even under the best of circumstances. What is your plan to handle the ground you need to make up in name ID, campaign funding, etc.?

“All politics are local, and I plan to mount a sophisticated ground game to take advantage of the groundswell of opposition to Tim Murphy.  But to bolster that local support, this is going to be a national race because Murphy is a national problem.  There are many influential conservative groups who are very interested in this race.”   

NRO: What is your response to those who would argue that you’re “too young” to represent the district? (Feinberg is 27.)

“My age is a huge advantage.  Washington, DC is full of politicians with long careers in politics, yet our country is at the brink of fiscal collapse.  These “experienced” politicians have an 11 percent approval rating.  I’m going to bring youth, enthusiasm and fresh perspective to a city and a country desperately looking for an alternative to the status quo.”

Murphy has a lifetime ACU rating of 72.75 out of 100, meaning he votes the “conservative” position as defined by that group roughly 7 out of 10 times. However, Murphy scored only a 50 in his votes in 2010, and 68 in 2009.

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