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Washington U.S. Senate race

As a three-term incumbent Democrat in a state that supported Barack Obama, John Kerry and Al Gore, Patty Murray theoretically should have an easy time winning a fourth term. But elections aren’t about theory, and Washington’s Senate race is anything but easy for Murray or Republican challenger Dino Rossi.

Both are well-funded and well-known, Murray from her tenure in the Senate and former state Sen. Rossi for his two unsuccessful runs for governor. Both are essentially running on Murray’s record, with a 180-degree difference in interpretation.

Murray’s support for health care reform, federal programs designed to stimulate the economy and changes to financial sector regulations are all reasons to deny her a fourth term, Rossi contends. He’d repeal health care reforms and replace them with medical liability reforms, access to out-of-state carriers and better health savings accounts. He dismisses stimulus spending as a failure that didn’t create jobs and financial regulation as a sellout to Wall Street at the expense of Main Street.

Health care reform needs time to work, counters Murray, but is protecting more people, particularly adults under 60. Stimulus spending was necessary to help dig out of a hole created by a Republican administration, save financially strapped states and put the brakes on rising unemployment, and the recently passed Wall Street regulations are a way to avoid the near financial meltdown of 2008-’09.

Each accuses the other of being in the pocket of lobbyists. In truth, both get money from special interests, and ignore that when castigating each other.

Murray touts her support for veterans and the Boeing Co. efforts to win a contract worth $35 billion or more for the next Air Force tanker. Rossi says veterans issues and Boeing’s airplane-making prowess are among their few areas of agreement. The position pays $174,000 per year, plus health care and other benefits.

• Patty Murray , 59

Incumbent Democrat

Bio: U.S. senator, 1993-present, fourth-ranking member Democratic caucus; state senator, 1989-’92; former kindergarten teacher; bachelor of arts, WSU, 1972. Married; two adult children.

Campaign promises: extend tax cuts for all but the top income bracket; stimulate the economy; expand veterans programs; support Boeing bid for new Air Force tanker.

Notable: In a year that has some voters angry over earmarks, Murray defends the practice as bypassing the bureaucracy to bring federal money to worthy projects.

• Dino Rossi , 50


Bio: Candidate for governor, 2004, 2008; state senator, 1977-2003; commercial real estate developer. Bachelor’s degree in business, Seattle University. Married; four children.

Campaign promises: Rein in federal spending, balance the federal budget without tax increases, continue tax cuts for all Americans, repeal recent legislation on financial and health care reforms.

Notable: Labeled the “establishment” GOP candidate in the state primary, Rossi easily beat tea party favorite Clint Didier.

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