Can pork save Murray’s bacon?

July 27, 2010


OLYMPIA, Wash. | Delivering dollars for Washington state is a point of pride for Democratic Sen. Patty Murray, whose efforts have helped her comfortably win re-election twice. Republicans insist that this November, it will be her downfall.

The GOP is looking to tap into voter angst over the $13 trillion national debt. “Tea party” members and fiscal conservatives have pushed to oust lawmakers who they say contributed to rampant federal spending that will bankrupt future generations. Mrs. Murray, once labeled the “Queen of Pork” by the watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense, is high on their list.

“The idea of dragging home pork is an old-school measurement of a senator,” said Republican Dino Rossi, one of Mrs. Murray’s rivals and the one pundits now see as the most likely to emerge from the state’s unusual “top two” primary system Aug. 17. “And right now, with Republicans and Democrats alike doing that, it’s bankrupting America. There’s nothing in the Constitution that says the job of a senator is bringing home pork.”

As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and chairwoman of its transportation subcommittee, Mrs. Murray has steered millions of dollars to Washington state for military projects, roads, veterans facilities and other projects.

She is unapologetic about her work as she travels across the state, highlighting federal projects she has steered home in a time of a stubborn economic downturn and a state unemployment rate of 8.9 percent, below the national average.

“You can opt out of that, but that means every community in our state is going to be left behind,” said Mrs. Murray, 59, who is fourth in the Senate Democratic leadership. “That money is still going to be allocated in the budget, but it’s just going to go to California or New York.”

This fierce election-year debate over federal spending is playing out in scores of congressional and gubernatorial races throughout the country, from Kansas to Florida. It’s certain to be a factor in the high-stakes outcome that will decide control of Congress and the future of President Obama’s agenda. Republicans need a gain of 10 seats to capture the Senate majority, a possibility if they can win seats in Democratic-leaning states like Washington and California.

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