Patricia Lynn “Patty” Murray was born as Patricia Johns on October 11, 1950 in Bothell, Washington. She earned a BA degree in physical education from Washington State University in 1972, and subsequently worked as a pre-school education volunteer from 1977-84. Murray also taught a parenting class at Shoreline Community College from 1984-87, and was an activist lobbying for environmental and educational issues from 1983-88.
In 1985, Murray ran for a seat on the Shoreline School District board of supervisors. Claiming, without evidence, that a local politician had derided her as “just a mom in tennis shoes” who was unqualified to hold public office, Murray ceremoniously adopted that phrase as her campaign slogan and rode it to victory. After serving on the board of supervisors for four years, she recycled the slogan for her successful 1989 campaign for the Washington State Senate. Three years later, she defeated Republican Rod Chandler, a ten-year veteran of the House of Representatives, in a race for U.S. Senator from Washington – a post that Murray continues to hold.
When Murray first ran for re-election in 1998, B. J. Mangaoang, chairman of the Communist Party of Washington State, said it was particularly important “to … re-elect Democratic Senator Patty Murray.”
While addressing a Washington high-school audience in December 2002, Murray offered the following assessment of how terrorist leader Osama bin Laden had managed to win the support and admiration of so many people in the Middle East: “He’s been out in these countries for decades, building schools, building roads, building infrastructure, building day-care facilities, building health care facilities, and the people are extremely grateful. We haven’t done that. We haven’t been out in many of these countries helping them build infrastructure. How would they look at us today if we had been there helping them with some of that, rather than just being the people who are going to bomb in Iraq and go to Afghanistan?”
In 2003, Murray served on the advisory committee of the Progressive Majority.
In 2010, Communist Party USA members Tim Wheeler and Joyce Wheeler worked for Murray’s third Senate re-election campaign. That October, Fox News reported that “dozens of volunteers – many of them illegal immigrants” – were “canvassing neighborhoods in the Seattle area trying to get naturalized citizens to cast a ballot for … Murray,” who was locked in a tight race with Republican Dino Rossi.
In October 2010 as well, The Seattle Times published a damning exposé detailing Murray’s extensive ties to the lobbying industry. “When Sen. Patty Murray announced earlier this month that she had inserted $57 million in earmarks in the 2011 defense appropriations bill,” said the Times, “she … didn’t mention … that at least nine of her defense-bill earmarks — worth $19.5 million — were awarded to clients of her former aides who now work as lobbyists. At least 17 former Murray staff members have slid over to the lobbying sector, capitalizing on insider knowledge and connections to win favor for their clients, including lucrative earmarks.… In Murray’s case, the staffers-turned-lobbyists and their clients who got earmarks in the 2011 defense bill have given $80,000 since 2006 to the senator’s campaign and to … her political-action committee.”
National Review, meanwhile, noted: “Murray’s position on the Senate Appropriations Committee has allowed her to steer hundreds of millions in federal dollars to organizations of her choosing…. Murray supported 190 earmark projects worth $220 million, the ninth most of any member of Congress. Citizens Against Government Waste gave her an annual rating of three percent, with a lifetime rating of 11 percent.”
As head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Murray in 2011 chaired a bipartisan, 12-person “super committee” whose mission was to identify $1.5 trillion in cuts that could be made to the U.S. federal budget. But nearly 100 registered lobbyists – all of whom had a vested interest in procuring federal money and evading the super committee’s budget scalpel – were former employees of the 12 super committee members. Indeed, Senator Murray’s office alone had once employed 17 of those lobbyists.
In May 2015, Murray was one of 14 U.S. senators who signed a letter urging President Barack Obama to allow 65,000 people from the war-torn, terrorism-ravaged nation of Syria to enter the United States as refugees, even though the FBI had acknowledged that there was no way to properly vet them for possible ties to terrorism.
In 2016, Murray – along with fellow Democrat senators Maria Cantwell, Ed Markey, Al Franken, Jeff Merkley, and Elizabeth Warren – co-signed a letter asking President Obama to “redouble” his efforts to scale back America’ arsenal of nuclear arms.
In November 2016, Murray was elected as Assistant Democratic Leader, the number-three position in the Democratic Senate hierarchy. She promptly became one of the Senate’s most vocal opponents of newly elected President Donald Trump’s cabinet nominees.
In an October 2017 Senate hearing about free speech on college campuses, Murray said: “When you look at who we have in the White House right now [President Trump]—some of the rhetoric he has used and continues to use, some of the people he has hired, and some of the groups he has encouraged—it should not come as a surprise when we see an apparent resurgence of hate, bigotry, xenophobia, and misogyny on our campuses.” Charging that “leadership in this country have made disparaging public comments against Mexican Americans, women, and Muslims,” Murray concluded that hate groups had found, in Trump, “a voice they could rally behind.”
In October 2017 as well, Murray heaped praise upon the Hamas-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations, saying: “I am proud to stand with an organization that has dedicated itself to upholding some of our country’s most important values, including equity, justice, and civil rights protections for the most vulnerable American citizens.”
Murray is a passionate supporter of Planned Parenthood and unfettered abortion rights. When House Republicans sought to cut federal funding for Planned Parenthood in 2011, Murray said she was “really stunned” and “angry as a woman” that they wished “to deny women access to health care in this country.” In 2015, Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards affirmed: “Nobody is more deserving of our endorsement than Senator Patty Murray, a true champion for women and families.”
In April 2018, Murray was one of 12 U.S. senators who sought to punish the Sinclair Broadcast Group – widely perceived as a conservative media company – which (a) consisted of 193 television stations and 614 channels in 89 markets nationwide, and (b) had recently announced plans to acquire the Tribune Media Company’s 42 TV stations in 33 markets, a merger that, if completed, would extend Sinclair’s reach to 72% of all American households. The twelve senators included Murray, Independent Bernie Sanders, and 10 other Democrats: Tammy Baldwin, Richard Blumenthal, Cory Booker, Maria Cantwell, Edward Markey, Jeff Merkley, Tina Smith, Tom Udall, Elizabeth Warren, and Ron Wyden.
In a letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Ajit Pai, these senators expressed concern over the fact that Sinclair had recently aired an ad showing its various local anchors reading from a corporate script extolling the virtue of “balanced journalism”; stating that “truth is neither politically ‘left or right’”; emphasizing the importance of a “commitment” to reporting that “seek[s] the truth and strive[s] to be fair, balanced and factual”; criticizing “some members of the media” for “us[ing] their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control ‘exactly what people think’”; and condemning “the troubling trend of irresponsible, one sided news stories plaguing our country.”
Viewing the Sinclair ad as an implicit defense of President Donald Trump, who had long been under withering attack by media outlets nationwide, the senators wrote in their letter: “We are concerned that Sinclair is engaged in a systematic news distortion operation that seeks to undermine freedom of the press and the robust localism and diversity of viewpoint that is the foundation of our national broadcasting laws.” “We have strong concerns,” they added, “that Sinclair has violated the public interest obligation inherent in holding broadcast licenses. Sinclair may have violated the FCC’s longstanding policy against broadcast licensees deliberately distorting news by staging, slanting, or falsifying information.” The senators also demanded that the FCC put on hold its review of Sinclair’s potential merger with Tribune.
In his response, Pai said he “must respectfully decline” the senators’ request “in light of my commitment to protecting the First Amendment and freedom of the press.” “I understand that you disliked or disagreed with the content of particular broadcasts,” he added, “but I can hardly think of an action more chilling of free speech than the federal government investigating a broadcast station because of disagreement with its news coverage or promotion of that coverage.”
According to a 2017 analysis by GovTrack.us. Murray is ideologically farther to the left than 86 of her 99 Senate colleagues.
A breakdown of the political contributions Murray has received from various industries and sectors, as compiled by Open Secrets.org, can be viewed here. The organizations, corporations, and unions that have been her leading donors can be viewed here. Among these donors are EMILY’s List, the League of Conservation Voters, the Council for a Livable World, the Service Employees International Union, the National Education Association, and the American Federation of Teachers.
For an overview of Murray’s voting record on a variety of key issues, click here.
For additional information on Patty Murray, click here.
Further Reading: “Patty Murray” (Bioguide.Congress.gov, SOS.wa.gov, KeyWiki.org); “Another Win By a Woman, This One ‘Mom’” (NY Times, 9-17-1992); “Patty Murray: The Stupidest Person in America” (by Ann Coulter, 9-29-2010).