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U.S. Rep. Scott Murphy’s decision to vote "yes" for President Obama’s health care reform plan undoubtedly will be hashed and rehashed on the campaign trail between now and November.

Democrats and Republicans alike say it will make the 20th Congressional District more heated and more expensive than if Murphy had voted against it.

"Let the lines be drawn in the sand," said Saratoga Democratic Chairman Larry Bulman before the vote Sunday. "Either way, he was going to have an opponent whether he voted ‘yay’ or ‘nay.’ Now we’re going to have a defining issue to talk about."

Republicans said their ultimate nominee will now have an easier time distinguishing himself from Murphy, D-Glens Falls, who was elected in a special election just under a year ago.

Murphy has "up until this point been a little more independent," said Glens Falls Republican Chairman Jerrod Ogden. "But now he is showing his true colors where, because they (Democratic leaders) need his vote, he’s going to vote for it."

National Journal last month ranked Murphy as a "centrist," based on his voting record during 2009.

The magazine found Murphy voted with liberals 49 percent of the time and with conservatives 51 percent of the time.

Republicans have a heavy voter enrollment advantage in the 20th Congressional District, which stretches from Dutchess County north to Lake Placid, in Essex County.

Yet Democrats have won the last three congressional elections — Murphy winning last year’s special election and former U.S. Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-Greenport, in 2006 and 2008.

Health care reform was among the issues in all three races.

Gillibrand, in 2006 and 2008, called for allowing the general public to buy coverage under the federal Medicare program, a concept that became known as a "public option."

Murphy, last year, similarly called for allowing the general public to buy coverage in the plan that covers federal employees, including members of Congress. Neither of those ideas were part of the plan the House voted on Sunday evening.

Gillibrand and Murphy won their respective House races with strong grass roots and financial support from labor unions and social advocacy organizations.

By voting "yes," Murphy keeps that support, which can be essential in getting out the vote on election day.

"The voters of the 20th Congressional District, of which I am one, understand the need for health care reform," said Karen Scharff, executive director of Citizen Action of New York.

Scharff also is Capital District co-chairwoman of the labor-backed Working Families party.

Republicans, meanwhile, are hoping to channel the energy of the relatively new tea party movement, which helped get U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, a Republican from Massachusetts, get elected in a special election earlier this year.

Two prospective Republican candidates in the 20th Congressional District have secured endorsements for the party’s nomination: Chris Gibson, a newly retired Army colonel from Kinderhook in Columbia County, and Patrick Ziegler, a tea party activist from Burnt Hills in Columbia County.

Essex County Republican Chairman Ronald Jackson on Sunday floated the idea of the two candidates teaming up on the campaign trail this summer and fall — albeit only one would be the actual candidate.

"My fondest hope is that after the nominating process is over that whoever is the loser agrees to campaign for the winner and that we’ll have two great voices out there speaking and working hard to take the 20th back," he said.

No doubt Jackson is eager to avoid a scenario where a tea party candidate runs on a third party or independent line and splits the conservative vote.

Murphy’s decision to vote "yes" likely will result in his receiving more campaign contributions from labor unions and Democratic donors, meaning Republicans will have to work even harder at fundraising to be competition, Jackson said.

"Before this all came up I would say that they probably would have outspent us 2-to-1. Now it’s probably up to 3-to-1 or 4-to-1," he said.

Murphy had $726,374 on hand in his campaign fund as of Dec. 31, the most recent Federal Election Commission report on file.

Republican candidates just began fundraising in recent weeks.

The debate is already on between Democrats and Republicans.

"My personal opinion is he (Murphy) ought to be thanked for having the courage to vote his conscience after he really analyzed this carefully and is voting in a way that he thinks ultimately is in the best interest of his constituents and the country," said Todd Feigenbaum, a Glens Falls businessman active in local Democratic politics.

"I think it exposes Murphy to be the Pelosi Democrat he really is," said Warren County Republican Chairman Michael Grasso. "It’s obvious he’s owing to their pressure."


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