Might as well get this over with.
John Murphy knows Citrus County politics nearly as well as anyone. He knows the players, he knows the history.
As chairman for eight years of the chamber of commerce’s government affairs committee, John is right in the thick of things.
Other than Josh Wooten, the former commissioner who heads the chamber, there are few in business that are as well connected with county and state government than John. That’s him on the left in the picture with Senate President Wilton Simpson.
Murphy is successful, having a leadership role in his place of work for over 2 decades. He’s invested in the community. Murphy’s one of those Boy Scout leaders you see walking with Scouts during the Christmas or Veterans Day parades.
I’ve known John for many years. I consider him a friend.
Honestly, Citrus County would be most fortunate to have John Murphy as commissioner.
There’s just one little hitch. It’s that newspaper connection thing.
John’s wife is Trina Murphy, publisher of the Citrus County Chronicle, my former employer. And that makes things somewhat complex.
So I’m going to look at this from two angles.
No. 1: Is this a conflict for Murphy and the Chronicle?
Answer: Depends how they play it.
On the outset, sure seems like one. Everyone kept telling me in recent weeks that Murphy was going to get in the race despite the clear potential for conflict. Notice I said “potential”. While I doubt there’s a newspaper in America whose publisher is married to an elected official or candidate (and I know you’ll correct me if I’m wrong), I always want to give people the benefit of starting right and proving me wrong.
So that’s what I’m doing here. I’m starting under the assumption that John, Trina and the Chronicle gang have figured it out so that it’s not a conflict for them or other candidates.
But God help the Chronicle reporter who has to cover that race. I know what it’s like.
Many years ago I worked for an assistant editor who thought it was a good idea to challenge the incumbent clerk of court. Even though he took a leave of absence, every story I wrote with that guy’s name in it caused me great anxiety.
He lost the race and blamed me.
One big difference between that and this: Murphy doesn’t work in the newsroom and, he told me Monday, has no role in the news gathering or reporting process.
So back to the question about conflict. That’s for John Murphy and the Chronicle to figure out. Every fiber in my being tells me this is trouble, especially if Scott Adams gets in the race as is expected. Seems like fodder for a guy like Adams.
And that leads to the second question: Despite all that, is Murphy a good county commission candidate?
All the stuff I said about him is true, but what he brings to the campaign is knowledge. And knowledge leads to insightful debate, which is our goal here at Just Wright Citrus.
I mentioned last week that we needed candidates in both county commission districts. At the time I wrote that, each district had just one candidate. Now District 2 has two and District 4 has three. So we’re on the right track.
What makes Murphy such an excellent candidate is his grasp of the community and the issues it faces. His knowledge will raise the bar for all other candidates, in both districts, which raises the level of insightful conversation and debate in the community.
That means we all win no matter who wins. Insightful debate, that’s the goal.
I consider the 2022 county commission races the most significant of my 35 years in Citrus County. We are at a crossroads and the two commissioners elected in the fall need to show up on day one ready to work. We’ll need candidates who will rise above the noise and stay focused on the task at hand.
So there you have it. John Murphy is an excellent candidate with unusual circumstances.
We’ll all be watching how our hometown newspaper covers this race. (By the way, I’ve already heard a suggestion that the Chronicle should not endorse in District 4. Logical for sure, but hardly fair to the other candidates who covet a Chronicle endorsement for their own campaigns. This is just one example of the head scratchers my former colleagues will have to figure out.)
The 2022 election season just got a whole lot more exciting. Can’t wait to see what comes next.
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