Exclusive interview: Journalist behind prank on Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is on the ballot in New York’s 26th congressional district
Ian Murphy has been at the lonely work of gonzo journalism for a while now, but it’s only recently that he’s achieved a level of national notoriety from his perch atop New York publication The Buffalo Beast. Others might call it infamy.
Well, Murphy has a new project: He’s running for Congress.
When Gawker published shirtless photos that New York Republican Congressman Chris Lee sent a woman he contacted on Craigslist, Murphy didn’t see red like so many other voters living in New York’s 26th congressional district. He saw green.
Today, less than two months out from a special election, Murphy has secured a place on the ballot as the Green Party’s nominee: a nod he won by a unanimous vote.
In his candidacy announcement, Murphy sits by a fireplace smoking a pipe, reading off his hand (à la Sarah Palin) and intentionally flubbing his talking points for laughs.
“My platform is threefold,” he explains on YouTube. “Number one, tax cuuuu … Two: Reduce the de … the decibels. And three: Anger. Is that right? Yeah. Anger.”
“So, you probably want to know some other stuff about me,” Murphy wrote. “Well, I’m an art school dropout who’s done some drifting both geographically and career-wise. I’ve worked as a landscaper, cashier, shopping cart pusher, butcher’s assistant, janitor, cow-milker, milkshake engineer, building manager, drywall installer, plumber, carpenter, painter, illustrator, door-to-door salesman, dish washer, paperboy, paperman, and some other illustrious gigs.
“The narrative is bound to be that I’m not qualified to serve in Congress. Bullshit. I’m a blue-collar guy from Buffalo. I have common sense and authenticity on my side. I’m a real guy who won’t sell you out for a quick buck. And I’ll fight like a cornered wolverine to make the voice of the people heard.”
It’s not (entirely) a joke
Though he doesn’t expect to win in the largely Republican district, Murphy told Raw Story in an exclusive interview that he plans to use his temporary platform to give voice for more than just comedy.
“I want to make the country better,” he said. “I mean, it’s corny, but that’s actually the truth.”
Though his campaign platform is littered with jokes and sideswipes at the culture of the nation’s capitol, Murphy said that’s really just “a bit of sugar to help the medicine go down.”
Murphy’s run is inspired, at least in part, by journalist Hunter S. Thompson’s run for sheriff in Aspen, Colorado, on what he called the “Freak Power Party.”
In media appearances, Thompson would jokingly pledge that he’d not allow police to eat mescaline while on duty, and that the selling of drugs would be punished by death so as to encourage giving them away for free. Meanwhile, he also became virtually the only candidate in a his generation to seriously address problems caused by America’s war on drugs: an entirely serious and even depressing issue.
Part joke and part serious, Murphy is following in those footsteps, wisecracking his way to making a point. Behind the riffs on politicos and what he calls his “tranny afficinado” former Congressman, Murphy says he really means business.
(He also claims to mean “tranny” — an offensive slur targeting transgender women — “in the most loving way possible,” and calls using it his first major scandal.)
“I’m going to have a billboard up soon,” he said, adding that he plans to campaign door-to-door in his district and publish more on YouTube.
“I don’t want to reveal too much, but it’ll be a multi-pronged attack,” he said. “The only bad thing about this is that I don’t have my own, like, Beast Party.”
And what are Murphy’s issues? He advocates for a reduction in military spending, increased taxes for the wealthy, greater access to health care and education, and an end to corporate personhood — to name a few.
Other items on his campaign platform include being “pro-Craigslist transsexuals,” “pro-adorable puppies,” “pro-comedy” and anti-”that annoying guy at work” (who he promises will feel his “wrath” if elected).
But his biggest issue, he said, is “the truth.”
“That truth is, the reason people don’t have anything in this country is because the public’s money is being given away to corporations and the super-wealthy,” Murphy said. “That’s my biggest concern.”
Asked how he would he sell himself to voters who might have missed his pranking of Gov. Walker in Wisconsin, he was quick to fire back.
“I am not a witch!” Murphy said with a laugh. “But if you want to go with something more serious, I’m just a normal guy. I want to try to make normal people’s lives better. That’s it.”
Republican Assemblywoman Jane Corwin was seen as the candidate most likely to win the heavily GOP-led district. She and Murphy also face Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul, running as a Democrat, and industrialist Jack Davis, an independent seeking the support of tea party Republicans.
The special election in New York’s 26th congressional district is scheduled for May 24.
Image: Campaign-related photo illustration by Ian Murphy, satirizing former Republican Congressman Chris Lee.
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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