Longtime Arizona Legislator, Husband, and Father: Rick Murphy Dies at Age 50

Rick Murphy, who represented the areas around Glendale and Peoria in the Arizona Legislature from 2005 to 2014, passed away Thursday, leaving behind his wife, Penny Murphy, their five children, and many foster children. Born with hemophilia, he received a tainted blood transfusion as a child that led to hepatitis and finally liver disease, which ultimately took his life at age 50.

His widow, Penny Murphy, who was married to him for 22 years, told The Arizona Sun Times, “He was so deeply loved by his family and friends. He was a loving husband and father. He cared deeply for all of us. Shortly before he got so bad, he insisted on a quick trip to the beach with just the two of us, and I believe that was his way of saying he knew the end was near. There is so much I could say about him but there are not enough words to say how much I loved him. A part of me died with him that day. He will forever be in my heart.”

Rick Murphy served in the Arizona House from 2005 to 2010 and in the Arizona Senate from 2011 to 2014, representing LD-9 and LD-21 in the West Valley. He served on the Peoria Unified School District governing board from 2007 to 2010. His other main career was as a realtor, and he became a political consultant after leaving the legislature.

Longtime Arizona Senate staffer Galen Kimmick told The Sun Times that helping children was a big priority for Rick Murphy, including a passion for raising foster children. “His priorities were sound budgeting, education opportunities for all, and health care for foster children,” he said. “Every session he would push for more educational opportunities for foster kids and disabled children to expand their opportunities to an education that was best for them. He understood firsthand, as a foster parent, how important a stable and supportive education structure was for these kids. No matter how far he moved the ball on ESAs [Educational Savings Accounts], he always wanted to do a little more to provide education choice to everyone.”

His widow told The Sun Times that Rick Murphy loved traveling to the beach and following Arizona sports teams. The past year, he was working toward getting a kidney transplant. “

He had many ups and downs, then a few weeks ago his kidneys failed and he was put on a ventilator,” she said.

The doctors tried all they could to save him but his body was just too weak.

“He was a strong man fighting to the very end,” she said.

Rick Murphy founded and served on the board of the local Hemophilia Association’s Camp Committee, which organizes a summer camp for Arizona children with bleeding disorders. He participated as a volunteer camp counselor there each summer. As a member of a local church, he volunteered as a junior high youth coach and led a weekly student Bible study.

Rick Murphy was dedicated to the community in politics as well, holding Republican Party leadership positions of 1st vice chairman for District 9, Congressional District 2 member at large, District 16 Republican 1st/2nd vice chairman, serving as a precinct committeeman, and chairing the Arizona Federation of Taxpayers. He was the recipient of a long list of awards, and conservative organizations consistently ranked him in the top 10 percent of Arizona legislators.

One of those organizations was the Center for Arizona Policy (CAP), a conservative family nonprofit. CAP President Cathi Herrod told The Sun Times, “Rick Murphy was one of the founders of the Arizona school choice movement. He sponsored bills and was a significant leader. More importantly, Rick and Penny had a heart for children in foster care. They lived out their faith in many ways.”

Rick Murphy also had a reputation as a fiscal hawk, Kimmick told The Sun Times. “While serving on appropriations, Rick always thought we were spending too much money,” he said. “He was a fiscal hawk before it was cool and a very true friend to the taxpayer. There would be times he would start a conversation with me about the budget and things he did not like that he thought were a waste.”

One of a collection of classic quotes from Rick Murphy on his website reads “It is an established fact of economics that any activity that is taxed will be performed less often. Taxing productivity (income) is counterproductive in the long term and always harms the economy.”

Rick Murphy was the primary sponsor of the first K-12 school choice voucher in Arizona history and the first K-12 ESA program in U.S. history. The 2005 Displaced Pupils Choice Grant provided up to $5,000 to send any child who is or has been in the state foster care system to any school of the parent or guardian’s choosing. Another bill he championed in 2007 which made it into law strongly discouraged cities from giving multi-million dollar tax giveaways to favored companies and developers. He successfully crossed party lines, co-sponsoring the Municipal Sales Tax Incentive; Penalty with a Democrat, former State Senator Ken Cheuvront.

Other issues Rick Murphy championed, with varying degrees of success, included reform in government agencies dealing with children, cutting taxes, criminal justice, and health insurance reform that would help those with health issues like hemophilia.

Rick Murphy explained his pragmatic approach to representation on his website. “When a particular issue is closely linked to a bedrock principle, and my position is based on that principle, no amount of calls or emails is likely to change my stance,” he said. “If people come to disagree with my principles, they are free to vote against me if they see fit. Principles don’t really mean anything if they aren’t consistent. However, many issues are matters of policy that aren’t necessarily driven by core principles. On those issues, I look forward to as much voter input as possible.”

During his time in office, he served in roles on various committees, as well as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, vice chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, vice chair of the House Healthcare and Medical Liability Reform Committee, and vice chair of the Public Safety and Human Services Committee.

A celebration of life is planned for 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, October 22, at Central Avenue Church, located at 725 N. Central Ave. in Avondale, followed by a reception at noon at Lakeview Recreation Center, located at 10626 W. Thunderbird Blvd. in Sun City.

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Rachel Alexander is a reporter at The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News NetworkFollow Rachel on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].



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