New London - When U.S. Sen.-elect Chris Murphy entered Muddy Waters Café Thursday, local Democrats - from state senators to poll workers - greeted the new congressman with applause.
"This is a coffee shop full of true believers,'' said Murphy, the future freshman senator who will begin orientation next week in Washington, while he finishes out his term as the state's 5th Congressional District representative.
"These are the people that make it all worthwhile,'' said the casually dressed and relaxed congressman, who took time to talk and shake hands with about 30 people in the restaurant. "These are the people that make you realize why you do it."
Murphy, who defeated his Republican opponent Linda McMahon in Tuesday's election, won big in New London, where 5,684 voted for him, compared to 1,851 for McMahon.
"It was an amazing turnout, and New London was off the charts,'' he said. "I wanted to tell people of southeastern Connecticut to make sure they know loud and clear, they are a priority.''
During the campaign, he stopped in several times at Muddy Waters, where he was always greeted by a crowd.
"He's been here a half-dozen times,'' said owner Barry Neistat, who kept the café open past the regular 3:30 p.m. closing time Thursday to let Murphy mingle. "He's a very approachable person.''
Murphy will replace Sen. Joe Lieberman, who is retiring after four six-year terms. He said he plans to rely heavily on Lieberman for advice and guidance during the transition.
Among those who greeted Murphy Thursday were state Sen. Andrea Stillman, D-Waterford; state Rep. Ernest Hewett, D-39th District; New London Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio; Democratic Town Committee Chairman William Satti; and dozens of city residents who volunteered during the campaign.
"We have to get to work now,'' Murphy said to Finizio as the two men shook hands.
Stillman, who was returned to Hartford for a fifth term representing the 20th District, said she was nervous about Murphy's election during the last few days of the campaign, but added, "I knew people would come to their senses."
"I'm so excited,'' she said. "It's the next generation of folks representing the state and southeastern Connecticut in the U.S. Senate."
Murphy, who said he was going on a mini-vacation this weekend with his family - somewhere north and far from cellphones - also stopped by cafés in Norwalk and New Haven Thursday to thank constituents for their support.