The Tea Party followers can boast about their first elected official.
Dean Murray, a 45-year-old Long Island, N.Y., businessman who organized Tea Party protests, will be sworn in as the new Republican state assemblyman representing Long Island's eastern 3rd Assembly District on Monday, after being certified the winner of a special election held last Tuesday.
Murray defeated his Democratic opponent, 28-year-old Lauren Thoden, 51 to 49 percent, making him what is believed to be the first Tea Party organizer who has attained public office. His district has been in Democratic hands for the last 13 years and he is the third Republican to hold the seat in the last 37 years. The assemblywoman he replaced, Patricia Eddington, resigned to take another post as a town clerk.
"I'm thrilled," Murray told Fox News after a week-long recount in the close race. "The phone's been ringing off the hook and the e-mails are coming in like crazy."
The final tally, according to the Suffolk County Board of Elections, shows Murray pulled it out by 160 votes from over 8,600 cast: 4,396 to 4,236 for Thoden. He has to run for a full term in November's election.
A request for comment from the Thoden campaign has not yet been returned.
Murray has been active with the Tea Party movement since last year, first organizing the Medford, Long Island Tea Party rally on April 15, 2009, one of many held by Tea Party protestors that day across the country. He also was involved with another rally in September and credits the movement with helping him over the top.
"It was a combination of the issues and of the Tea Party movement," he told Fox News. "It is the message that is resonating from ordinary, everyday tax-paying citizens. Whether they are active in the Tea Party movement or not, we want a smaller government, we want fiscal responsibility, we want accountability from our political leaders and we want personal responsibility. I think that is what the Tea Party movement is about and that is what we finding we are not getting and that certainly played a role."
Murray is the publisher of free supermarket publications and also founded "The Fugitive Finder," a giveaway that features the photographs and rap sheets of locally wanted criminals accused of crimes ranging from murder to passing bad checks. The publication has so far led to the arrest of more than 230 suspects in Long Island's Nassau and Suffolk counties.
He said he hopes to bring what he calls the Ronald Reagan message to Albany, the state's capital, and urge the state Legislature, frequently accused of being dysfunctional, to "get back to basics."
Murray has one son, Tony, who is now serving in Afghanistan. He is a staff sergeant with the Air National Guard working as a crew chief for A-10 "Warthog" attack planes.
"My son is in Afghanistan right now to preserve the freedoms we have," Murray said, adding that his election shows how democracy works when "a regular businessman" can run and win as he has.
Until now, the Tea Party movement has largely influenced races, most notably the surprise election of Sen. Scott Brown in Massachusetts who succeed the late Edward Kennedy. But a plethora of Tea Party followers are now running in Republican primaries across the country, either for open seats or challenging incumbents in Alabama, California, Illinois, Michigan, Mississippi, Ohio, Texas, Utah and elsewhere.
The congressional district that includes Murray's assembly district also faces a spirited race. Seven Republicans are vying for the GOP nod to face four-term Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop in November. The hopefuls include the 30 year-old grandson of former President Richard M. Nixon, Christopher Cox. Cox is the son of Nixon's daughter Tricia and her husband, Ed Cox, currently chairman of the state's Republican Party.
In a Fox News Channel interview before his election was certified, Murray said there is a strong and wide misconception that the Tea Partiers are some sort of radical movement.
"What this movement is about is ordinary citizens, taxpayers, hard working people who have just had enough," he said.
Murray said his candidacy was an indication that "the people are speaking out now and are coming to the polls. When they pull that lever, they are starting to be heard."
Murray's Tea Party affiliation became an issue during the campaign. A group called the Long Island Progressive Coalition said the loss by Attorney General Martha Coakley to Brown in Massachusetts "shows progressives that who is elected matters and that special elections can send a powerful message that resonate well beyond state or district borders. ... Dean Murray, is a Tea Party organizer. If he is elected to a seat held by a Democrat, it will only embolden the Tea Party right and hurt progressive causes throughout Long Island."
Murray said hopes his special election triumph will indeed send a message beyond his district's borders.