Slade Gorton: A Half Century in Politics

John C. Hughes

Slade Gorton’s half century in politics began in 1956. Together with Dan Evans and Joel Pritchard, he was a key player in generating a new wave of progressive Republican politics in Washington State. He helped elect the youngest governor in state history; argued 14 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court as attorney general; upset a legend to win a seat in the U.S. Senate; saved baseball for Seattle; angered Indians and environmentalists; championed the plight of timber towns caught in the crossfire over the spotted owl; suffered a bitter defeat and made a comeback, only to lose one of the closest Senate races in American history. Gorton went on to investigate British Petroleum’s safety practices, forged consensus on the 9/11 Commission and served on the 2011 Redistricting Commission. This sweeping biography explores the eventful life of a resilient politician who remains in the arena in his 80s. The author is an award-winning journalist turned historian who has known Gorton for 45 years.


John Hughes’ book paints an accurate picture of my good friend Slade Gorton during our years together in the U.S. Senate and later as members of the 9/11 Commission. Whether it was his work on the budget or other key legislation with fellow senators, or his objective and thoughtful contributions to the commission’s report on the most horrific terrorist attacks on American soil, I’ve long admired Slade’s sharp mind, consensus-building skills and desire to do the right thing. I believe in bipartisanship when it’s in the best interest of our nation, and this book shows that Slade does as well. John’s book retraces the path that Slade took to becoming a very respected and influential public servant in both Washingtons.

Bob Kerrey, former U.S. Senator from Nebraska and 9/11 Commission member

This is a fast-paced, readable biography of one of the political giants of Washington state. Slade Gorton for more than 40 years, served our state with brilliance and left an exemplary legacy of honesty and integrity. I was privileged to serve with Slade in the Washington state House of Representatives and a quarter of a century later in the U.S. Senate. We worked as close teammates on many projects of vital importance to our state. I have always respected Slade’s analytical ability and thoroughly enjoy our friendship of 50 years. This book is a must read for anyone interested in public service or who cares about our political system.

Dan Evans, Former Washington State Governor and US Senator

Late in Slade’s biography is a chapter entitled “An Outbreak of Candor”. After the 2000 election in which Slade was defeated, the Senate went back into session in December. Slade working in his office had the Senate proceedings on his TV as most of us did as we worked. Suddenly he heard the Democratic Senator from Washington State, Patty Murray, who undoubtedly worked for Slade s opponent, rise on the Senate floor and eloquently deliver remarks about his career and accomplishments in the U.S. Senate. Others of both parties, also listening as they worked in their offices, got up and went over to the floor to deliver tributes. It was a remarkable, unusual and apparently spontaneous occurrence. Senator Phil Gramm, who was among those to speak, said it best. Slade was wise … (and) exactly the kind of person the founders had in mind when they wrote the Senate into the Constitution. Pollsters have noted that many people have low opinions of Senators. But I found my colleagues to be an exceptional lot: highly intelligent (with very few exceptions), very ambitious (with no exceptions) and while surely judging the political impact of issues before they voted, strongly motivated to do what they felt was best for our country. It was in this highly competitive group of 100 that Slade shone with remarkable brightness for 18 years due to the enormity of his intellect, his work ethic, his toughness plus legislative skills such as few of us had. In a body where it s hard to get things done, his accomplishments were legion. All this has been captured by John Hughes in his excellent biography: Slade Gorton A Half Century in Politics. In the very last sentence of the book, Hughes notes that one of his former Senate aides called to say she had the perfect title for this book: Slade Gorton: The first 80 years. I actually like that title better because I believe there is yet much to come.

Rudy Boschwitz, former U.S. Senator from Minnesota