WSU alum Patty Murray sworn in as president pro tempore

Murray was first elected to public office in 1988 and has served in the United States Senate for over 30 years



U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., giving a speech at the Chinook Student Center in April 2016.

JOSIAH PIKE, Evergreen news co-editor

Senator Patty Murray was sworn in as president pro tempore of the United States Senate on Jan. 3. She is the first Senator from WA to hold this title in 42 years, and is the first woman to hold this title in the Senate’s history.

Murray was born on Oct. 11, 1950 and raised in Bothell, WA. According to, she worked as an intern in a Veterans Administration psychiatric hospital. In 1972, she graduated from WSU with a bachelor’s degree in physical education.

After attending college, Murray found a career teaching at the Shoreline Community College preschool program and community college, and according to her website, decided to enter politics, “When local officials planned to close her kids’ preschool program due to state budget cuts.”

Murray was first elected to the WA State Senate from the first district in 1988. Lonnie Johns-Brown, owner of Johns-Brown governmental relations, first met Senator Murray during her tenure in the Washington State Senate.

“At that time I was lobbying for the National Organization for Women,” Johns-Brown said. “Her background as an education advocate meant that she really was well grounded in local issues and then her work in the State Senate.” 

Johns-Brown said Murray’s major focuses in the State Senate were to build support for issues affecting families, such as childcare and early learning programs for kids. According to her website, Murray began considering a United States Senate run in 1992.

“She first started reaching out to folks including myself in early spring of ‘92,” Johns-Brown said. “We hadn’t yet elected a woman to an office of that type, so that was a barrier. She wasn’t a well-known name.”

Johns-Brown said the campaign was a challenge early on since, while the seat had no incumbent seeking another term, which was an advantage, Murray was not a well-known name and it was not known how much money it might take to run the campaign.

“She ran her campaign on the ideas to focus on the needs of families in our state,” she said. “Things like the need for a federal family leave, the increased expansion of Boeing and Microsoft, as well as federal support for businesses.”

Murray won the Democratic party’s nomination and defeated the Republican nominee, Rod Chandler, Congressman from Washington’s 8th district, by a margin of eight percent. According to Washington State Magazine, she became the first female senator from Washington. 

“She never took for granted that she was going to win, she always went all out,” Johns-Brown said. “Spoke to people, raised the money, made the appearances, all the things you need to do to get in contact with the voters and get your message out there.”

Johns-Brown said Murray has maintained issues affecting families, such as childcare and paid family leave, throughout her time in the US Senate, but has also taken on a critical role on the Senate Budget Committee and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

During her time in the US Senate, Murray has supported free-trade agreements, raising the federal minimum wage and codifying Roe v. Wade. On foreign policy, Murray opposed authorizing the Iraq War in 2002.

In 2022, Murray was elected to her sixth term and was inaugurated as President Pro Tempore the following January. Johns-Brown said she could not predict Murray would ascend to this office when she first sought the senate seat 30 years ago.

“It’s kind of difficult to predict what someone’s path will be when they first run,” Johns-Brown said. “I was not surprised to see her rise through the ranks with more important duties in the Democratic caucus in the United States Senate. I think it became clear in the last 10 years that she has a key leadership role.”

As for the citizens of WA, they will be represented by the second highest-ranking official in the US Senate for the first time since Warren Magnuson’s tenure as president pro tempore from 1979 to 1981. Junior marketing major Bryce Harrison said he is happy to have a Washington citizen hold that position.

“I would think it’s a good thing that someone from Washington has that, but I don’t know much about the position,” Harrison said. “It’s cool to have Washington representing.”

Senior marketing major Madeline Neigel said she thinks it is cool that a Senator from WA holds that position and hopes she can do some good to help the government work more harmoniously.

“It’s kind of cool that it’s someone from Washington,” she said. “I’ve been focused on local stuff that happened here and all the nonsense with the House of Representatives.”

Neigel said in her new position, she hopes Murray can help influence members of Congress to work together without so much gridlock.

“I think she can try to keep things running a little smoother than they were with the House being in a standstill for four days,” Neigel said.