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With Flair for Dramatic, Murray Helmed Upset

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
E. O'Brien Murray's special-election win in the middle of the Big Apple makes him an exceedingly unusual political operative.

Since 2003, he has organized the Monday Meeting, a gathering of fiscal conservatives. Rep. Nan Hayworth (R-N.Y.) began attending those meetings before she was elected to Congress and considers herself a regular there.

"O'B is a champion at building networks, which is a critical gift" for politics and business, Hayworth said. "He has tremendous energy, a sense of humor, tact and savvy."

In the far reaches of upstate New York, Murray's first stint as a Congressional campaign manager was for the Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman in the 23rd district special election in 2009. Hoffman lost — barely — to Rep. Bill Owens (D), and there were plenty of lessons to be gleaned.

"I learned the importance of staying focused, staying on message, confronting the opposition," he said. "Prepare for a national race on a local race."

National Republican Congressional Committee Northeast Political Director John Rogers recommended Murray for the campaign manager job to Turner, thinking that Murray's business background, special election experience and fundraising connections would make him a good fit for the candidate and the short time frame of the race. He was also confident in Murray's ability to play ball on the national field.

"We needed somebody who, if and when the race got that national spotlight, could excel in that," Rogers said.

But even before the national spotlight reached the Queens- and Brooklyn-based district, Turner helped keep the media focused on his candidate.

"Every single time the Weprin campaign did something, we didn't let it go unresponded to. We stayed on message, and when they tried to take us off, we knocked it down and stayed on message," Murray said.

"I believe their strategy was to avoid the earned media, and by doing so, they gave us that playing field. I think they were just trying to protect the end zone," he explained.

The Weprin campaign substantially outraised the Turner campaign and was thus able to put more television ads on air and engage in substantial direct-mail messaging. But the Turner campaign certainly appeared to win the earned media race in the two-month special election, garnering consistent positive coverage from the New York Post, the Daily News and even the New York Times.

The Republican went on to win in an upset victory one week ago. Murray gave credit for the victory to Turner's relentless work ethic and the rest of his campaign team.

"It was the right team at the right time," Murray said.

But his flair for the strategically dramatic couldn't have hurt.

At the end of a Weprin press conference denouncing Turner for his comments opposing parts of the Zadroga 9/11 health care act, Murray thoughtfully positioned himself near the Democratic candidate.

"We'd be happy to answer questions," Weprin said, according to video from New York's NBC affiliate.

Murray popped up in the shot. "I'd be happy to answer questions, as well," he chimed in.

"No, what, uh," Weprin sputtered.

"It's a free street, I'd be happy to answer questions for Bob Turner, as well," Murray said, mugging to the cameras to scattered boos.

"This is our press conference," Weprin said with exasperation.

"It is not," Murray replied coolly. "It's a free street, David."

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