Sen. Chris Murphy never promised anyone, at least publicly, that he’d finish the walk across Connecticut that he launched at 1:40 on Monday afternoon at Voluntown town hall near the Rhode Island state line.
“We’ll see how far I can get by Saturday,” was all he would say about distance.
The idea was to experience the people and the place in a way that busy U.S. senators, and for that matter most people, never do – one step at a time, up-close, largely by himself.
Greenwich was the goal and he made it from one of the state’s poorer cities to the backyard of billionaires by late Saturday morning – after a week totaling 126.5 miles, featuring two days in the 30-mile range.
“It has been so much more interesting than I ever would have thought,” Murphy said as he approached the finish, Roger Sherman Baldwin Park on the Long Island Sound.
There’s “something disarming,” he said, about approaching people in shorts and a T-shirt. “These are people that probably wouldn’t be so forthcoming with me if I was in a suit with a Senate lapel pin,” he said.
On gun control, Murphy’s signature topic since the Orlando tragedy, he noticed a change from the rural eastern towns – where many people believe, incorrectly, that he wants to confiscate firearms -- to the cities and more affluent towns further west.
That’s not surprising; what shook Murphy deeply were stories of people’s daily struggles.
“I’ve talked to so many people who are working and are unable to feed their kids, or are working and just had their electricity shut off,” he said. “Those are people who don’t have lobbyists.”
There was James, working as a drywall installer 50 or more hours a week.
“He’s got a kid with cerebral palsy who’s blind and he’s got a kid with autism,” Murphy said. “He went through it with me, he said, ‘There’s a point every month where we run short on food,’ and he makes a decision some months whether to pay the rent in time or fill his kids’ lunch boxes.”
The plight of the working poor, he declared, is “a real hidden crisis in this state.” Of course it’s not hidden to them.
And clearly, Murphy has talked with many struggling people before and knows the statistics. But seeing it on foot, without staffers and a waiting car, “has opened my eyes in a different way.”
Physically, the 43-year-old Murphy called the six days “a bell-curve of pain,” with his legs “in shutdown mode” during the longest days in the middle, before rallying at the end.
“I was pretty damn enthusiastic about this state to begin with,” he said, “but…I feel like you fall in love with this state all over again when you walk it.”