Editor's Note: For a story focused on the candidacy of Republican Tiffany Smiley, click here.
In the 1992 election, Patty Murray became the first woman to represent Washington in the U.S. Senate.
Thirty years later, the “mom in tennis shoes” — a title she’s long embraced after saying a state representative used the term toward her in a derogatory way — said she still has that down-home, relatable charm.
Murray has a background as an educator and was first elected as a school board member in Shoreline before serving in the state Legislature in 1988.
“I am still who I was when I was first elected,” she said in a recent interview with The Reflector. “I’m someone who cares about our families and our communities — every corner of our state.”
If voters re-elect Murray in the Nov. 8 general election and she serves out all six years of what would be her sixth term, she’s likely to become the longest-tenured woman in the Senate’s history. She’s already the sixth most senior member of the Senate.
This year, she said the two major issues Southwest Washington voters should keep in mind when they vote are reproductive rights and the fate of democracy.
Asked when she decided to run again, Murray said there wasn’t a doubt in her mind that the choice came from her experience on Jan. 6, 2021, during the attack on the U.S. Capitol, when she was “captured” in her office for two hours.
“It was terrifying. But the realization that I came away from was that a democracy doesn’t just happen because we live here. A democracy happens because we work for it,” Murray said. “We fight for it, we advocate for it and we make sure that we do everything we can to make sure that people use their voices and their votes to establish and direct policy and resources in this country, not brute force.”
A Democrat from Bothell, Murray, 72, said she respects her opponent and her family’s service to the country. A Republican from Pasco, Tiffany Smiley is the wife of the U.S. Military’s first fully blind active duty officer, thanks to Smiley’s advocacy.
“My dad was a World War II veteran. I respect anyone who uses their life to fight for our country and her advocacy for that. I respect that,” Murray said.
But, Murray thinks her own platform is more representative of Washingtonian’s beliefs, namely when it comes to reproductive rights, access to college, taxing the rich more and combating environmental issues.
“I love Washington state so much. We care about each other. We care about health care, we care about making sure our kids have what they need. We care about our environment and our quality of life, and we do great things,” she said. “To take those experiences back to Washington, D.C., to fight for them, for our state and for our country is an honor.”
In 2003, Murray wrote a statement condemning the George Bush administration’s tax cuts she said benefitted “the few.” She spoke of the $6.4 trillion of national debt and what it would mean for future generations who would have to pay it.
In 2013, Murray became the first woman to serve as the chair of the Senate’s budget committee.
Now with the U.S. national debt at $31 trillion and record inflation slamming the country, Murray hopes to show she’s as concerned for the American pocketbook as ever.
“But, the fact is, we had a global pandemic and we had to deal with that and (there were) very important ways to help get our economy moving again and get people back to work and our kids in school,” she said, referring to the American Rescue Plan Act stimulus dollars.
With the Inflation Reduction Act, she said the deficit will be reduced by $300 billion.
“I am still focused on that and working all the time to do everything we can to make sure we manage our federal dollars correctly,” Murray told The Reflector.
Listing the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Creating Helpful Incentives To Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) For America Act, Murray said one key to tackling inflation will be to bolster American manufacturing, limiting the need of reliance on a global supply chain that could be affected by a pandemic.
She also praised the Inflation Reduction Act for its effect on pharmaceutical costs, especially for seniors, but added there’s “still work to do.”
Murray said one of her main goals around inflation if re-elected would be to support affordable child care to support working families.
“One of the most important things we can do is have a child care system that works so people can get child care, go back to work and be productive,” she said.
Of the most commonly cited concerns for families of Southwest Washington is rising crime. When asked if that was a valid worry and, if so, what she’s doing to help, Murray called it a priority for everyone.
“From local community leaders to state to the federal government. And it’s absolutely a priority for me. We all want safer communities,” Murray said.
The American Rescue Plan Act, she said, provided resources to communities to hire more police officers. The federal government’s intervention to help community policing, she said, is critical.
Answering about crime, Murray also said gun violence is a big issue for her. Though she didn’t detail supporting restrictions for gun ownership, she said the federal government needs to do everything it can to support communities in the reduction of that violence.
“And finally, I would just say, the issue of mental health. This is something I worked on for a long time, and in fact, I am very close to working and helping to pass bipartisan legislation with Senator (Richard) Burr, (R-North Carolina) … to deal with mental health and substance abuse issues that contribute to crime in our local communities,” she said.
Murray has long opposed restricting American access to abortion, including in her voting down many attempts to criminalize abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, as reported by CNN.
“Women’s rights are on the line in this election, and having a voice that will fight, constantly, to make sure that women and their families make their health care choices — politicians don’t make them for them,” Murray said.
In 30 years in the Senate, she said, things always change — but her scheduled visits to Washington every weekend have not.
“One of the things that I am hearing now, very loud, is that people are afraid. For the first time in many of their lives, that their right that they always thought they had — which was to make their own health care decisions for themselves, with their doctor, with their faith, with their health care provider — has been taken away. And they don’t want that for themselves or their families or their communities or our country,” Murray said. “Taking those stories and understanding what that means back to Washington, D.C. is what I will do.”
In a polarized climate, how would Murray reach people across the political spectrum? She believes her work speaks for itself.
“I’m proud of all the bipartisan work that I have done representing our state,” she said.
Namely, supporting veterans, working with U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan in 2013 to pass a bipartisan budget and joining Republicans in the Senate to pass the Prevent Pandemics Act.
Veteran care is one of the things Murray has spoken about since the beginning of her career in politics, with Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, telling The Reflector earlier this year she and Murray “don’t agree on many things, but absolutely agree” on doing everything they can to support veterans. She later brought up work for veterans again when talking about passing federal legislation such as the Affordable Care Act and more recently, the PACT act to expand VA benefits for people exposed to toxic waste.
“I visit Southwest Washington. I talk to the employers. I talk to the employees. I want to make sure Southwest Washington thrives,” Murray said. “It is an amazing place. Great people, great businesses, great opportunities. And I want to make sure that people have what they need to help that grow.”
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