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As Washington state’s senior Senator, Patty Murray has a proven track record spanning more than two decades of fighting for Washington state
families in the United States Senate. Serving as a member of Senate Democratic leadership since 2007, Patty has established herself as a tireless and effective leader on education, transportation, budget issues, port security, healthcare, women, and veterans issues. In addition to being the first female Senator from Washington state, Patty served as the first female Chair of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee during the 112th Congress and currently serves as the first female Chair of the Senate Budget Committee.
Patty was raised in Bothell, Washington. Her dad ran a five and dime store on Main Street, where she and her siblings all worked growing up. As a twin and one of seven children, she quickly learned the value of a strong work ethic and a country that supports those who fall on hard times when her father fell ill when she was 15. Patty’s father – a World War II veteran and a Purple Heart recipient – was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and in a few short years, his illness got so bad he couldn’t work anymore. Patty’s mother, who had stayed home to raise their family, had to take care of him while also working to support their family. She found some work, but it didn’t pay enough to support Patty and her six brothers and sisters—and a husband with growing medical bills. Thankfully, they lived in a country where the government didn’t just say “tough luck.”
Patty’s family received some help from the VA for their father’s medical care, but for several months her family had to rely on food stamps. However, thanks to a program established by the federal government, Patty’s mother was able to go back to school in order to find a better paying job. And thanks to federal grants and student loans, Patty and her siblings were all able to attend college. While attending Washington State University, Patty took an internship in the psychiatric ward of the Seattle VA. It was there she personally witnessed the sacrifices of young Vietnam War veterans.
Never planning to enter politics, in the 1980’s a state politician told her she “couldn’t make a difference” when she went to Olympia as a parent to advocate for a local preschool program targeted by state budget cuts. Patty responded by organizing a grassroots coalition of 13,000 parents that fought successfully to save the program. Patty went on to serve on the Shoreline School Board, and in 1988 was elected to the Washington State Senate. In 1992, she ran for the United States Senate as a voice for Washington families who were not being heard. Dramatically outspent, Patty ran a grassroots campaign of family, friends, supporters, and public interest groups to beat a 10-year veteran of the U.S. House of Representatives. Patty was re-elected in 1998, 2004, and 2010.
As a unique voice in the United States Senate, Patty is known for her down-to-earth, determined style. She’s been called “a workhorse, not a show horse” by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer for her intense, behind-the-scenes efforts to get the job done. She has also been described as “tenacious” in her work to address Washington state’s needs by the Seattle Times. Patty is often looked to by colleagues and the media in Washington D.C. for her ability to articulate how complex issues affect every day American families. Recently, Patty reflected on her life experiences and how that impacts the decisions she makes as a U.S. Senator today:
“I know the support we got from our government was the difference between seven kids who might not have graduated from high school or college—and the seven adults we’ve grown up to be today—all college graduates, all working hard and paying taxes, and all doing our best to contribute back to our communities. So this is the primary prism I view our nation’s budget through. And it’s what guides me as I work in the Senate to impact the choices we make. Not that government can or should solve every problem—of course it shouldn’t, and it can’t. But that we are a nation that has always come together to stand with families like mine. To invest in our people, our communities, our future—and to build the most robust middle class the world has ever seen.”