Patty Murray's story is oft-told and thus familiar. After being condescendingly informed that she was just a "mom in tennis shoes" and could not make a difference politically, Murray decided to jump into local politics. Eighteen years ago, she won the Senate seat in Washington State that she is now fiercely defending against Republican challenger Dino Rossi.
When she first entered the political arena, Murray was like so many of the current crop of outsider citizens-turned-political-candidates. But after 18 years in the Senate, Washington voters will decide whether the ultimate outsider has become the ultimate insider.
This election cycle has had a strong anti-appropriations tilt to it, and Murray, who sits on the influential Appropriations Committee, sensed this mood from the beginning. She did not take this race for granted and, due to the fact that the recession has not hit Washington as hard as it has other areas, Murray's foresight may give her another term.
In many ways, Murray is trying to turn her greatest liability (her reputation for "bringing home the bacon" during this anti-pork election cycle) into a strength. Case in point: When Rossi was non-committal at best about whether the subsidies Airbus receives should be taken into account when the Air Force decides on awarding its tanker contracts, Murray saw blood and pounced. She accused Rossi of not caring about an important issue affecting jobs in Washington. She hinted that Rossi, after having received money from a political action committee run by Sen. Richard Shelby, an Airbus proponent, was putting outside interests before the state's. Rossi clarified his statement, of course, but not before Murray's jabs had landed.