You may recall that there weren't many Democratic senators who voted against the invasion of Iraq in 2002 -- only 21, as a matter of fact. It was a tough call, especially with everyone declaring the dissenters the equivalent of Benedict Arnolds who hated America.
For Patty Murray, who was standing for re-election two years later in a state where the military vote is significant, it was especially tough. But she did the right thing: she voted against the resolution authorizing the invasion. She did it because it wasn't paid for. Here's what she said on the floor of the Senate:
Mr. President, if we do take action in Iraq, there is no doubt that our armed forces will prevail. We will win a war with Iraq decisively, and, God willing, we will win it quickly. But what happens after the war? That will have as big an impact on our future peace and security. Will we be obligated to rebuild Iraq? If so, how? Our economy is reeling, our budget is in deficit, and we have no estimate of the cost of rebuilding. And with whom?
Talk about prescient.
I've been an admirer of Patty Murray since well before she was a U.S. Senator -- back when she was a state senator, she made a bit of a name for herself as a grassroots Democrat who organized to save preschool programs. When she announced she was going to challenge the Democratic incumbent, Brock Adams, in 1992, I was delighted and signed up as a supporter; when Adams stepped down mid-campaign, amid a flurry of stories about the senator sexually harassing and assaulting his female aides, I became a believer.
Patty has been perpetually underestimated in every election since, and she has always beaten the odds. In '92, the Democratic Establishment quickly trotted out former Congressman Don Bonker to be the "serious" candidate in the wake of Adams' withdrawal; she knocked him off handily in the primary. In the general, she went up against a popular Eastside congressman, Rep. Rod Chandler, and beat him 53-47, despite being ridiculously outspent too.
In every election since, she's been the underdog. And she's won going away.
She's not exactly the most physically imposing presence, but what makes Patty special is that she's the Real Deal: genuinely One Of Us. Her early schtick was that she was "a mom in tennis shoes": 18 years later and now a player in the U.S. Senate, it is oddly enough a label that still fits.
Patty met with a group of poor schlub bloggers last month in Seattle, and as Goldie put it at the time: "I came away convinced that if every voter in Washington state could have the same opportunity to sit down with Sen. Murray for half an hour, she’d win reelection in a landslide."
It's not that she's smooth or ultra-persuasive: Patty is just an ordinary person with extraordinarily good common sense.
This, in stark contrast to her opponent, the ever-oily schmoozemeister, Dino Rossi, who was licking his chops along with Sean Hannity the other night over recent (Rasmussen, FWIW) poll numbers showing him with a slight advantage.
Well, there's no doubt it's a close race. And there's even less doubt that Patty's Senate seat is a vital one -- not just for Democrats, but for progressives as well, as we saw in the Iraq War vote, and in the fight over health care, where Patty was a progressive public-option stalwart.
Republicans see Murray's seat as their chance to take over the Senate. We can't afford that.
And we can't afford to lose a reliable, common-sense progressive voice in the Senate like Patty Murray. Come chat with her and see for yourselves.