Former U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton died Aug. 19 in Seattle at age 92.
Gorton’s political career spanned 40 years in Washington state and Washington, D.C. He won his first legislative seat in 1958 soon after arriving in Seattle. Starting in 1968, he served three terms as the state’s attorney general, during which he broke with fellow Republicans in publicly calling for President Nixon’s resignation, according to the Associated Press.
Gorton was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1980, running as a Republican against legendary Democratic Sen. Warren Magnuson. Gorton’s electoral career ended in 2000 with a razor-thin loss to Maria Cantwell, a Democratic state lawmaker from Edmonds.
Gorton has been described as a cerebral and principled leader. He demonstrated absolute command of the granular knowledge of electoral politics.
“He could drive around Washington state and off the top of his head tell you what precinct you were in and how they voted in an election,” said Secretary of State Kim Wyman. “I think his brain really worked like a computer.”
His intellectual capacity extended into every nook of policy-making he entered.
“He won so many things on the details,” said Bill McSherry, a Boeing Co. executive who worked on Gorton’s 1994 campaign and then four-plus years on his staff.
Local leaders felt that Gorton was vested in the kitchen table issues affecting the masses, like how long it might take to get to and from work and how to ease that commute.
“His legacy and hallmark was the ability to reach consensus and reach across the aisle, something I think we are missing today on all sides,” said Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring, who’s also chairman of the Mainstream Republicans of Washington. “It’s something we can learn from Slade’s life and try to recapture that.”
In a statement, King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn said he will remember Gorton’s work in preserving the Mountains to Sound Greenway.
“Slade Gorton was a political giant whose magnanimity shone through until his final days” Dunn wrote. “He was one of the greatest minds to have ever served Washington State in elected office, and the significance of his life’s work will be felt long beyond his time on Earth.”
On Aug. 11, with Gorton hospitalized and unable to have visitors due to COVID, alums of Team Gorton gathered on Zoom to collectively record their personal goodbye messages.
In the course of three hours, 80 people spoke of the values and lessons imparted from the man they considered a mentor not a boss.
“Contrary to the stereotype, he was one of the ultimate people persons that I’ve ever met,” McSherry. “Every interaction with Slade was a teaching opportunity and a learning opportunity.”
This report contains information compiled from the Associated Press and the Everett Herald.