Slade Gorton, “How the Mariners Were Saved!”
Slade Gorton began his political career in 1958 as a Washington State representative; he went on to serve as state House majority leader. In 1968, he was elected state Attorney General. He served three terms, during which he argued 14 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. He focused on consumer protection, closing down shady car dealers, exposing pyramid schemes, reducing vehicle pollution and preserving public access to ocean beaches. On his watch, the office tripled the number of citizen complaints it resolved. He was active in organizations to improve the training of law officers, creating a base of support from law enforcement that lasted through his Senate career.
Slade’s strategic skills were highly valued during the three terms he served in the Senate. When complicated legislation came to the Senate floor with members squabbling over elements of a bill, they regularly turned to Slade, who calmly worked with competing viewpoints and found solutions that allowed needed legislation to pass. His intellect and ability to create compromise earned him a spot as formal counsel to Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, and he was a key strategist in passing major welfare reform and the Balanced Budget Act of 1997.
He was never intimidated by the size of the opposition or the magnitude of the challenge, and his courage was most apparent when his constituents’ livelihoods were at risk. He was a champion for rural working families, defending farmers, loggers, miners and fishermen at a time when few were willing to endure the inevitable negative press and criticism from environmental groups. His passion for solving the real problems of real people was the centerpiece of his successful re‑election campaign in 1994.
Slade was called on three times to save baseball for Seattle. His lawsuit over the Pilots in 1970-1976 resulted in the creation of the Seattle Mariners. In 1992, when the Mariners’ owner threatened to sell the team to out-of-town buyers, he put together the ownership team that kept the team in Seattle. In 1996, when the Safeco Field project started to fall apart, Slade brokered the deal that resulted in its construction.
Slade’s desire to accomplish big and momentous things is also evident in his personal life. He summited Mt. Rainier in 1978, and his family was the first to ride across America on bicycles.
Slade and his wife Sally have raised three children, Tod, Sarah and Becky, and they have seven grandchildren.