Tea Party-backed U.S. Rep. Allen West trailed with 157,872 votes, with 100 percent of the precincts reporting.
No winner officially has been declared yet, however, and West has filed an injunction against Palm Beach and St. Lucie counties supervisor of elections to impound their voting machines and paper ballots. West also is demanding a hand recount in St. Lucie County.
The turnout for Murphy surprised many who were sure West would go to Congress for a second time, said Robert Watson, a Lynn University professor of American Studies who provides election commentary on air for WPTV NewsChannel5.
"I was surprised. I had been saying all along that West would win because of his fundraising advantage and name recognition in a Republican district," Watson said. "He's a tea party darling, and all the polls showed him with a comfortable lead. So yes, everyone was thinking West was going to win."
Throughout his campaign, West, a former Army lieutenant colonel, pitched himself as a military veteran who would overhaul Medicare and create jobs.
Murphy, a certified public accountant, promised to be the opposite of West, who he said has a reputation of being a hostile, party extremist.
West raised more than $17 million — mostly from groups and big organizations outside the state. Murphy brought in $3.6 million, also mostly from outside the district. The money for both campaigns was used to run brutal ads against each other: Some of West's ads showed a mug shot of Murphy from a 2003 arrest for disorderly intoxication and fake identification. Murphy also attacked with ads, including one that highlighted West's illegal actions while in the military.
"This was the most negative congressional election I've seen in years, or ever, but West was much more negative than Murphy," Watson said. "He outspent Murphy by over 4-to-1 in terms of money, but the far majority of his campaign ads were negative. If you're running somewhere like Miami or New York, a negative ad will do one thing. But on the Treasure Coast, a quieter place used to old-fashioned type of retail politics, it does something else."
Watson said West focused his campaign so much on Murphy, it gave the Democrat recognition in an area that had never before heard of him.
"He gave the other candidate name recognition by going after him with such a vengeance," Watson said. "This is not a place to run a campaign on negativity. The Treasure Coast is a place where Mark Foley would shake hands at coffee shops, and everyone knows a candidate's parents. West is not from here. He hasn't read books at the local elementary school or handed out cans of soup on Thanksgiving. He should've made his connection with the public and earned his vote. Murphy didn't do that either."
"I think a vote for Murphy wasn't a vote for Murphy, though, it was a vote against West. It was a vote against fear, negativity and that sense of entitlement that came from West," Watson said.
Murphy, however, is confident his campaigning played a big role. The Murphy campaign targeted the moderate Republican vote, a group that earned Martin County Sheriff 15,758 votes against West's 45,790 in the Republican primary.
Murphy pointed out he courted swing votes well enough to outperform President Barack Obama in Martin County. Obama lost by about 23 percent, which was 9 percentage points wider than Murphy's margin.
"That to me is a strong indication that we were getting that moderate Republican vote, that cross vote, which is great," Murphy said. "Having the endorsement of Sheriff Bob Crowder I think was a big help in that."
Crowder said voters had a tall task sorting through negative advertising to get a better idea about who Murphy was.
"I just think there was a general awakening as to who was the real genuine person," Crowder said.
"I think we won because the voters spoke; they are tired of the extremism and the divisiveness, and they want someone willing to put the country first," Murphy said Wednesday afternoon. . "That's what we represent, that's what this campaign is all about and that's who I am."
Staff writer Jonathan Mattise contributed to this report.