Another big winner: Sen. Patty Murray
 

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posted Friday, November 9, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 45

Another big winner: Sen. Patty Murray
As DSCC chair, she led Democrats to victory in Senate

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

While Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell was coasting to victory over her conservative Republican challenger, Michael Baumgartner, her Senate colleague Patty Murray also emerged as an Election Day winner.

Murray was not up for re-election herself this year, but her task was arguably harder than Cantwell's. As chair of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee (DSCC), Murray was responsible for getting Democrats elected to the U.S. Senate in a year when all the early polling showed Republicans making gains.

A MAJOR CHALLENGE
With 33 seats up for grabs, Democrats had to defend 21, plus the seats of two independents who caucus with the Democrats. Republicans had to defend only 10 seats. In addition, six incumbent Democrats were retiring, most of them in red states where Republicans could expect to be helped by their presidential candidate's coattails. Democrats were also burdened with a lagging national economy and a president who was widely believed to be in political trouble.

Only one month ago, Republicans were confidently predicting they would win control of the Senate, and at the time, there was no apparent way to stop them. Nevertheless, Democrats picked up a net gain of two seats, winning three former Republican seats while losing only one they had previously held. It was a stunning triumph for Murray and her DSCC team.

'When we started this campaign, no one, and I mean no one gave us a chance,' Murray said in a statement. 'But we went out and built the best Senate campaigns in the history of the country. We recruited some of the highest quality candidates, including a record number of women. Democrats never let up and now we will retain our majority in the United States Senate.'

MORE WOMEN THAN EVER
Four new Democratic women were elected: Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin, Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts, Mazie Hirono in Hawaii, and Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota. With newly elected Republican Deb Fischer of Nebraska, they bring the number of female senators to an all-time high of 20.

The victories of the Democratic women were especially sweet considering their opponents. Baldwin, the first openly Lesbian U.S. Senator, beat former Wisconsin governor and Bush-era cabinet secretary Tommy Thompson, and Warren ousted incumbent Tea Party favorite Scott Brown. Hirono trounced former Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle, who vetoed her state's civil union law in 2010. Heitkamp's win was the big surprise of the election, as she narrowly edged out her opponent in one of the reddest of red states.

Democrats also successfully defended the Senate seat held by Claire McCaskill of Missouri, which was believed to be an almost certain Republican pick-up.

SAVING SEN. MCCASKILL
Republicans sought to portray McCaskill as a rubber stamp for Obama, who is not popular in the state. Murray and the DSCC 'localized' the campaign, allowing McCaskill to distance herself from the national election and capitalize on ignorant anti-choice statements made by her Republican opponent, Todd Akin. She ultimately beat Akin by 16 points.

Anti-choice rhetoric also played a role in Indiana, where Democrats picked up a Senate seat formerly held by six-term Republican Richard Lugar. One of the last Republican moderates in Congress, Lugar lost a primary challenge to Tea Party candidate Richard Mourdock.

After Mourdock later asserted in a televised debate that 'even if life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen,' his campaign sank. Joe Donnelly ultimately beat Mourdock by six points to capture a Senate seat that Democrats had not held since 1974.



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