Racing ahead in her tennis shoes
By Jean Godden
Washington's own Sen. Patty Murray has been described as "the most important politician you've never heard of." That may be true in the streets of Manhattan and the cotton fields of Texas, but it's certainly not true here in Murray's home state.
In the Evergreen State we know we have one of the most powerful U. S. senators and that, once, more she's done something game changing. Teaming with Connecticut's more effusive Rep. Rosa DeLauro, the quiet, low-key Murray managed to get child tax credits tucked into Biden's $1.9 trillion stimulus package.
For years, the two lawmakers had been crafting a child tax credit proposal. When they realized it wasn't part of Biden's stimulus package, they went to work to lobby top White House officials. Their success at getting the tax credits into the package is now projected to cut child poverty by as much as half. It has been called "the most aggressive federal intervention to help poor children since the New Deal."
Murray's dedication to issues like child poverty may be surprising nationally but not to those of us who know the senator. Not unlike the late Sen. Warren Magnuson whose Senate desk she still uses, Murray has been called "a workhorse not a show horse."
She has had an astonishing career for someone who started modestly. She was one of seven children born into a family that once relied on food stamps when her dad fell ill with multiple sclerosis, making it impossible for him to continue managing a Bothell five-and-dime store. Murray, a twin then known as Patricia Lynn Johns, worked her way through Washington State and settled down with husband Rob Murray and their two children.
During her first foray into politics, leading a group of moms and dads to beat back state cuts to a preschool program, Murray was confronted by a hostile state legislator. He told her to "go home." He said she couldn't make a difference and was "just a mom in tennis shoes."
She embraced the phrase and has campaigned on it ever since. She ran for and won a Shoreline School District board seat, then a state Senate seat. In 1992, provoked by the Anita Hill hearings, she filed to run against Sen. Brock Adams, a popular Democrat. Not a winning bet. But fate intervened: Adams, faced with accusations of sexual assault and rape, decided not to run for reelection. The height-challenged Murray (less than five feet) defeated tree-top-tall Republican Congressman Rob Chandler.
She continues to make good use of the "mom in tennis shoes" meme when she holds her annual Golden Tennis Shoe luncheon honoring little-known state citizens who do extraordinary things for others. Work on behalf of ordinary families has been Murray's focus throughout her 29 years in the U. S. Senate where she is now chairs the Health, Education and Human Services Committee and is the third most senior Democrat.
She has a long list of accomplishments including working with Rep. Paul Ryan in 2013 to produce a rare bipartisan budget. She was prime sponsor of 31 bills that made it into law and she's worked tirelessly for women's health care, environmental concerns and veterans' issues. She's famous for her "earmarks," using her powerful position to deliver generous benefits to her home state.
Patty (as her constituents know her) has often said she's focused on "policies that ensure Americans feel there's a place for them in this country that allows them to work and take care of their families at the same time." Staffers say children are the reason she wakes up every day.
She remains that same "mom in tennis shoes." And -- full disclosure -- I'm not apt to forget that phrase as I have a pair of Patty's tennis shoes, size small, on my book shelf. She donated those tennies to a local charity auction and I was the secret high bidder.
Can't believe she's been there all those years She's done and is
doing a great job...