No one could ever say Brianne Murphy fell into a career in politics. Against all odds, the Syracuse, New York attorney has overcome adversity by establishing her own law practice. It is this same determination which has inspired her bid to become the first Irish-born woman in Congress.
Born in Tralee, Co. Kerry, Murphy, 31, is running for a seat in the House of Representatives for New York’s 25th Congressional District. A registered Democrat, she will go head-to-head against Tea Party incumbent Ann Marie Burkle next November.
“Washington is broken and people are hurting,” Murphy recently told the Irish Voice.
“People are tired of the extreme and partisan politics of Washington, which are out of touch with our values in Central New York.”
As I witness her charm the crowd at a recent event in New York City, it’s apparent that her strong ties to Ireland are something she treasures. I immediately get the sense she is not the kind of person to let an opportunity pass.
Within the first five minutes of meeting Murphy, she has outlined her goal to end up on Capitol Hill, a dream that started when she was just a young girl.
“I was four and a half when we moved from Kerry to Syracuse,” Murphy told the Irish Voice. “My mother instilled in me an interest in politics at a very young age.”
When her late mother Lynn, an Irish American, went on vacation to Kerry, a romance blossomed with a local farmer from Abbeyfeale. After a long-distance relationship, Lynn relocated to Kerry where the couple married and had four children, Brianne being the second eldest.
However, the marriage soon ended and Lynn decided to move back to the New York and settle in Syracuse. A single mother in a strong Irish American community, she instilled strong values in her children.
“After moving from Ireland, we settled back in Tipperary Hill, the neighborhood my mother had grown up in,” Murphy recalls.
“Being Irish American in Tipperary Hill is a point of pride, tradition and community. The resilience of the Irish is evident in the generations of hard-working Irish Americans living and owning small businesses today in Tipp Hill.
“My mother, like many single mothers, was an incredibly hard worker. While balancing a full-time job and raising four children as a single mother, Lynn embodied community service bringing me and my siblings with her to community meetings, participating in marches and canvassing for local candidates.”
As a high school student Murphy interned with her future adversary, Republican Congressman Jim Walsh, a man who has previously described the emerging Democrat as a remarkable person and a hard worker.
Years later, while enjoying dinner with his wife in Washington, D.C., Walsh was surprised to recognize his friendly server as Murphy, waiting tables at a popular steakhouse to fund her undergrad degree in George Washington University.
After graduation she put herself through law school at Brooklyn College, during which time her mother suddenly passed away in 2002. She puts her interest in law down to the experience of her own life challenges.
“From a very young age I was fascinated by the legal profession because it represented an opportunity to fight for the underdog,” she says. “As a labor and employment attorney that is what I have been able to do. I have fought for hard working people experiencing discrimination, sexual harassment, and workers fighting for better conditions and fair representation.”
She also worked on the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign in 2008 and describes the Tea Party as being out-of-touch.
“The incumbent has been solely focused on advancing her social agenda rather than the economic interests of CNY,” says Murphy, who insists she is committed to creating jobs.
Some of her key priorities include providing support for struggling families, expanding payroll tax cuts under the American Jobs Act, as well as investment in transportation and infrastructure in central New York.
“Repairing bridges, investing in high speed rail and updating our transportation and infrastructure will improve safety,” Murphy said.
“This will allow us to once again competitively move goods and services into the flow of commerce, while immediately creating jobs.”
The Democratic candidate also wants to focus on education, quoting access and quality as the benchmark to allow the next generation to be competitive in a global economy.
A focus on education for the budding politician is something she herself can closely relate to. Murphy put herself through college, and it’s clear her work ethic is something she inherited from her mother.
Regarding the lack of females in politics, Murphy says it is important to her that representatives are reflective of the population.
“While we have made considerable strides in increasing the number of women running for elected office over the last several decades, the U.S. still ranks 90th worldwide in the percentage of women serving in the national legislature,” she says.
Inspired by the encouragement she has received so far, this is something she is committed to changing in next year’s race for Congress.
“I know how important it is that we support working and middle-class families with strong public policies that create good jobs,” Murphy says.
“I have received a lot of really positive feedback from people in Central New York who want to make sure their voices are heard by someone who understands their struggle.”