Connecticut’s 2012 U.S. Senate race season began at Yale on Thursday evening in the Dwight Hall common room.

Rep. Chris Murphy of Connecticut’s fifth District, one of four candidates competing in a Democratic primary in the race to replace the retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman ’64 LAW ’67, spoke to a group of about 20 students about his candidacy. Hosted by the Yale College Democrats as the first guest of the their “2012 Senate Series” he laid out his view of America’s economic position and took questions on issues ranging from Occupy Wall Street to foreign policy.

Murphy told the students that the critical question for America in coming years is “whether we want a middle class.”

By outlining a speech he gave on the House floor two weeks ago entitled “America is Not Broke,” Murphy explained his belief that financial disparity and the lack of an appropriate governmental response has created America’s current economic turbulence. Murphy said that America still has more wealth than any other nation — the country is going “broke by choice,” he said.

Murphy pointed to economic data that shows that less regulation and fewer taxes have not always been correlated with American economic success. Current tax rates are “certainly too low to run a functional government,” he said. Those who are advocating a reduced role for national and local governments have “a fundamental misunderstanding of what made this nation great,” he added.

“We grew because we were putting money into education,” he said, and added that America’s wealth gap shrank when investments in education increased. Instead Murphy said he sees a country where the top 400 income-earners possess more net wealth than poorest 100 million families.

He said that America needs a “smarter and leaner government,” explaining that spending by the Departments of Defense and Agriculture would be at the top of his list to receive budget cuts. His priorities if elected Senator, he said, would be making college more affordable and rebuilding the country’s “crumbling infrastructure.”

When asked about the Occupy movement, he said he hopes the protests “remind Democrats who we should be fighting for.”

If elected, Murphy said he hopes to emulate Sen. Ted Kennedy’s role as both an ideological leader for his party and someone who could broker compromises.

When asked what he had learned by being in Congress, he said the lack of communication between members of different parties of Congress makes it difficult to accomplish shared goals.

“It’s easy to scream at the other side if you don’t know anyone,” he said.

David Carel ’13 said he appreciated Murphy’s efforts at bipartisanship, and thought his economic analysis “was not too surprising,” it was “very well explained.”

Murphy also said he hopes that Yale students will get involved in his campaign. He invited the students gathered to continue the dialogue with him and contact him to share their ideas.

Lincoln Mitchell ’15 said he really enjoyed Murphy’s “pragmatic view,” and his message that “simply cutting taxes isn’t the way to go.” He said he hopes to possibly get involved with Murphy’s campaign.

While Murphy said he is not optimistic for substantive legislation to get passed in the next year, he said he is looking forward to 2013.

State Representative Roland Lemar, who represents New Haven, and Ward 1 Alderman Michael Jones ’11, who connected Murphy with the Dems, also attended the event.