Once considered a contender to become the next speaker of the House, state Rep. Charles Murphy plans to resign after the conclusion of formal sessions in July, bringing an end to a 16-year political career that brought him to the top of the legislative ranks and back down again.
Murphy, a 46-year-old former Marine and Burlington Democrat, became a lightning rod on Beacon Hill after falling out of favor with House Speaker Robert DeLeo earlier this session and losing his leadership positions.
He said he plans to stay through the end of July before taking a position as vice president of public policy and government affairs at Arcadia Solutions, a Burlington-based health care information technology consulting company.
Murphy has served in the House since 1997, representing the 21st Middlesex District, which includes Burlington, Bedford and a precinct in Wilmington. No one else has qualified on the ballot for the fall election from that district, creating the likelihood of sticker campaigns from interested candidates.
“It was an opportunity that presented itself. It just makes sense for me personally . . . and also the drama that went on in the building has affected things for me and I decided to move on,” Murphy said in an interview late Friday afternoon from Colorado, where he was campaigning for President Barack Obama.
Murphy said he was “at peace” with his decision to leave the Legislature and excited for the new opportunity, but said his departure, given the circumstances, was also “bittersweet.”
After helping DeLeo secure the speakership after Sal DiMasi resigned in 2009, Murphy was rewarded with the powerful chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee, giving him broad sway over state spending a policy. But after two years heading the budget committee, Murphy was reassigned in 2011 against his wishes to the post of House majority whip. DeLeo replaced Murphy with Rep. Brian Dempsey (D-Haverhill).
DeLeo came to believe that Murphy had been undermining his leadership by meeting with members to discuss succession, and implying that a federal probe into patronage at the Probation Department could hit close to DeLeo. Murphy denied being disloyal, or trying to round up votes to become the next speaker.
Nevertheless, Murphy resigned as majority whip last December after DeLeo called a special caucus where it was expected that the speaker would announce Murphy’s demotion from leadership.
Asked if would do anything differently if he had it to do over again, Murphy said, “Absolutely not. I look back at my two years at Ways and Means with great pride. I felt we did a good job under trying circumstances. I’ve never been afraid to speak my mind publicly or behind closed doors and I’ve done that my whole career.”
He continued, “I’m thrilled to be moving on. In life you pick your fights and play the hand you’re dealt. The company I’m going to is a great company that’s going to be growing aggressively and I will be part of it.”
Murphy’s departure comes as several of his colleagues in the House and Senate have traded in their public positions for private sector gigs this year, including Rep. James Vallee who resigned last week to join a Boston law firm.
Vallee, who had previously announced he would not seek reelection, was another member of DeLeo’s early leadership team who fell out of favor with the speaker. After serving as majority leader under DeLeo for two years, Vallee was removed from leadership and installed as chairman of Veterans Affairs the same year Murphy was moved out of Ways and Means.
After his demotion, Murphy openly criticized House operations under DeLeo, suggesting the institution was suffering from a top-down management approach, but his knocks on leadership did not appear to resonate with House members, perhaps in part because Murphy for so long was among the senior members of DeLeo’s team.
Murphy was one of the first House Democrats to reverse positions and support expanded gambling after DeLeo took over control of the House from former Speaker DiMasi, who led the effort to defeat an expanded gambling push by Gov. Deval Patrick during his first term.
The back-to-back resignations from Vallee and Murphy draw parallels to the departures of former Reps. William Nagle and Paul Haley, who moved out of the House and off former Speaker Thomas Finneran’s team before control of the House was ceded from Finneran to DiMasi.
“I’m going to miss him. I think he’s a valuable asset to the House and dear friend and I wish him well,” said Rep. Harold Naughton, a Clinton Democrat and fellow serviceman.
This program aired on June 22, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.