Slade Gorton

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Slade Gorton
Slade Gorton, official Senate photo portrait.jpg
United States Senator
from Washington
In office
January 3, 1989 – January 3, 2001
Preceded by Daniel J. Evans
Succeeded by Maria Cantwell
In office
January 3, 1981 – January 3, 1987
Preceded by Warren Magnuson
Succeeded by Brock Adams
14th Attorney General of Washington
In office
Governor Daniel J. Evans
Dixy Lee Ray
Preceded by John J. O'Connell
Succeeded by Ken Eikenberry
In office
Personal details
Born (1928-01-08) January 8, 1928 (age 86)
Chicago, Illinois
Nationality American
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Sally Jean Clark (1958–2013, her death)
Residence Clyde Hill, Washington
Religion Episcopalian

Thomas Slade Gorton III (born January 8, 1928) is an American politician. A Republican, he was a U.S. senator from Washington state from 1981 to 1987, and from 1989 to 2001. He held both of the state's Senate seats in his career and was narrowly defeated for reelection twice as an incumbent: in 1986 by Brock Adams, and in 2000 by Maria Cantwell after a recount. Gorton was twice both Senior Senator (1983–87, 1993–2001) and Junior Senator (1981–83, 1989–93).


Gorton was born in Chicago, Illinois and served in the United States Army from 1945 until 1946. He then attended and graduated from Dartmouth College. He graduated from Columbia Law School, and served in the United States Air Force from 1953 until 1956, continuing to serve in the Air Force reserves until 1980. Meanwhile, he practiced law, and entered politics in 1958, being elected to the state legislature of Washington, in which he served from 1959 until 1969, becoming one of the highest-ranking members. He was then Attorney General of Washington from 1969 until he entered the United States Senate in 1981. During his three terms as Attorney General, Gorton was recognized for taking the unusual step of appearing personally to argue the state's positions before the Supreme Court of the United States and for prevailing in those efforts.

He married Sally Clark Gorton on June 28, 1958.[1] On July 20, 2013, Gorton's wife of 55 years, Sally Jean Clark died of breast cancer at the age of 80 surrounded by family and friends.[1]

U.S. Senate campaigns[edit]


In 1980 he defeated longtime incumbent U.S. Senator and state legend Warren Magnuson by a 54% to 46% margin.


He was narrowly defeated by former Congressman Brock Adams.


He ran for the state's other Senate seat, which was being vacated by political ally Dan Evans, in 1988 and won, defeating liberal Congressman Mike Lowry by a narrow margin.

In the Senate, Gorton had a moderate-to-conservative voting record, and was derided for what some perceived as strong hostility towards Indian tribes.[2][3][4] His reelection strategy centered on running up high vote totals in areas outside of left-leaning King County (home to Seattle).[5][6]


In 1994 he repeated the process, defeating then-King County Councilman Ron Sims by 56% to 44% . He was an influential member of the Armed Services Committee as he was the only member of the committee during his tenure to have reached a senior command rank in the uniformed services (USAF).

He campaigned in Oregon for Gordon Smith and his successful 1996 Senate run.

In 1999, Gorton was among ten Republican Senators who voted against the charge of perjury during Clinton's impeachment, although he voted for Clinton's conviction on the charge of obstruction of justice.


In 2000, Democrat Maria Cantwell turned his "it's time for a change" strategy against him and won by 2,229 votes.[7][8]

Furthermore, Washington's Indian tribes strongly opposed Gorton in 2000 because he consistently tried to weaken Indian sovereignty while in the Senate.[9]

Twice during his tenure in the Senate, Gorton sat at the Candy desk.

His resistance to the Elwha River Restoration Act has put him in a bad historical light. The river is the site for the largest dam removal project in history. The Elwha Ecosystem Restoration project is the second largest ecosystem restoration project the National Park Service has attempted, after the Everglades. The Elwha River Ecosystem and Fisheries Restoration Act of 1992 was signed by the first President Bush after Congress passed it in 1992. The act authorized the Secretary of the Interior to acquire and remove two dams on the river and restore the ecosystem and native anadromous fisheries. The 108-foot (33 m) tall Elwha Dam and the 210-foot (64 m) tall Glines Canyon Dam began dismantling in stages starting in September 2011 with complete removal in September 2014. Gorton's oppositional role, particularly once he folded the Elwha River restoration effort into the ugly fight over the lower Snake River dams, can hardly be overstated. He held almost all the cards, and was willing to ignore not only the legislation but also the advice of the local community via the Port Angeles Advisory Committee, to prevent such an important and precedent-setting move as these dam removals represent. It is important to note that the opposition has been overcome. And while it has taken longer than many had anticipated, the very lag period that is regretted by many Elwha advocates makes the Elwha River restoration even more powerful and important. [10]

Post-Senate years[edit]

In 2002, Gorton became a member of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (popularly known as the "9/11 Commission") and the commission issued its final report in 2004. [3]

In 2005, Gorton became the Chairman of the center-right Constitutional Law PAC, a political action committee formed to help elect candidates to the Washington State Supreme Court and Court of Appeals.

Gorton is an Advisory Board member for the Partnership for a Secure America, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to recreating the bipartisan center in American national security and foreign policy. Gorton currently serves as a Senior Fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center.[11]

Gorton serves on the Board of Trustees of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, which is a museum dedicated to the U.S. Constitution.[12]

Gorton represented the city of Seattle in a lawsuit against Clayton Bennett to try to keep the NBA franchise formerly known as the Seattle SuperSonics in Seattle according to a contract that would keep the team in KeyArena until 2010. The city reached a settlement with Bennett, allowing him to move the team to Oklahoma City for $45 million with the possibility for another $30 million.[13] For full article, see Seattle SuperSonics relocation to Oklahoma City.

In 2010, the National Bureau of Asian Research founded the Slade Gorton International Policy Center. The Gorton Center is a policy research center, with three focus areas: policy research, fellowship and internship programs, and the Gorton History Program (archives).[14] In 2013 the Gorton Center was the secretariat for the ‘Commission on The Theft of American Intellectual Property’, in which Gorton was a commissioner.[15] Gorton is also a Counselor at the National Bureau of Asian Research.[16]

In 2012, Gorton was appointed to the board of directors of Clearwire, a wireless data services provider.[17]

Gorton is a member of the board of the Discovery Institute, notable for its advocacy of Intelligent Design.


  1. ^ a b "Civic leader, political wife Sally Clark Gorton dies". The Seattle Times. July 22, 2013. Retrieved July 17, 2014. 
  2. ^ Westneat, Danny (September 14, 2008). "Where has McCain's honor gone?". The Seattle Times. Retrieved September 15, 2008. 
  3. ^ "Senator Slade Gorton's bill is an assault on sovereignty". Indian Country Today (Lakota Times). May 1998. Retrieved September 15, 2008. [dead link]
  4. ^ Kelley, Matt (April 30, 2000). "Tribes’ Top Target in 2000: Sen. Slade Gorton". Los Angeles Times. pp. B6. Retrieved September 15, 2008. 
  5. ^ Hendren, John (September 10, 2000). "Tough re-election race is nothing new to Gorton". The Seattle Times. Retrieved September 15, 2008. 
  6. ^ CONNELLY, JOEL (September 10, 2000). "GORTON IS ALREADY LINING UP PIECES FOR RE-ELECTION IN 2000". The Seattle P-I. pp. A3. Retrieved September 15, 2008. 
  7. ^ Balter, Joni (April 24, 2005). "Who is Maria Cantwell?". The Seattle Times. Retrieved September 15, 2008. 
  8. ^ "Maria Cantwell (Dem)". The Washington Times. September 15, 2008. Retrieved September 15, 2008. [dead link]
  9. ^ Getches, David H., Charles F. Wilkinson, Robert A. Williams, Jr. Cases and Materials on Federal Indian Law (2005). St. Paul: Thompson West. 5th ed. p. 29.
  10. ^ Finding the River: An Environmental History of the Elwha, by Jeff Crane, Dec 2011, Oregon State University Press.
  11. ^ [1] "Senior Fellows, Bipartisan policy Center"
  12. ^ "National Constitution Center, Board of Trustees". National Constitution Center Web Site. National Constitution Center. July 26, 2010. Archived from the original on July 26, 2010. Retrieved July 27, 2010. 
  13. ^ "Seattle, Bennett Slam Door on the Sonics". The Wall Street Journal. July 3, 2008. 
  14. ^ "Slade Gorton Policy Center Web site.". 
  15. ^ "IP Commission Web Site.". 
  16. ^ "National Bureau of Asian Research Web Site.". 
  17. ^ [2]

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
John J. O'Connell
Attorney General of Washington
Succeeded by
Ken Eikenberry
United States Senate
Preceded by
Warren Magnuson
U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Washington
Served alongside: Henry M. Jackson, Daniel J. Evans
Succeeded by
Brock Adams
Preceded by
Dan Evans
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Washington
Served alongside: Brock Adams, Patty Murray
Succeeded by
Maria Cantwell