Former Wash. GOP senator born in Chicago
SEATTLE — Slade Gorton, a patrician and cerebral politician from Washington state who served as a U.S. Senate Republican leader before he was ousted by the growing Seattle-area liberal electorate in 2000, has died. He was 92.
Mr. Gorton died Wednesday in Seattle, said J. Vander Stoep, his former chief of staff.
Mr. Gorton was the Chicago-born scion of the New England frozen fish family. His fourdecade-plus political career began in 1958 when he won a legislative seat soon after arriving in Seattle as a freshly minted lawyer.
He went on to serve as state attorney general, a three-term U.S. senator and member of the 9/11 Commission — the last of which he considered the singular achievement of his life in public service.
Mr. Gorton was known for his aggressive consumer-protection battles as attorney general and for going to federal court to end SeaWorld’s capture of orcas in Puget Sound; for his defeat in 1980 of the state’s legendary Democratic Sen. Warren Magnuson at the height of his power; and for his work on the GOP inner team in the U.S. Senate. He twice saved professional baseball in Seattle, suing Major League Baseball in the 1970s to force it to bring a team to the city and arranging a deal to have Nintendo’s owner and local investors buy the Mariners to keep them in town in 1991.
Democratic Sen. Patty Murray, who overlapped with Mr. Gorton in the Senate, said they didn’t always agree but still worked together to strengthen clean-up efforts at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, toughen pipeline safety standards and expand health care for children.
Mr. Gorton, runner-thin to the point of gaunt, struggled with an image of an icy, aloof Ivy Leaguer. He was sometimes compared to the frozen fish sticks his grandfather once sold, and he squired under the nickname “Slippery Slade.”
Mr. Gorton graduated from Dartmouth, got a law degree from Columbia, and served in the Army and Air Force. He settled in Seattle so he could enjoy sailing and skiing nearby — and break into law and Republican politics.