Maria E. Cantwell (born October 13, 1958) is the junior United States Senator from the state of Washington and is a member of the Democratic Party. Previously she served in the Washington House of Representatives, and then in the United States House of Representatives from Washington's 1st congressional district between 1992 and 1994, after which she worked as an executive for RealNetworks. She is Washington's second female senator, serving with Patty Murray.
Cantwell was born in Indianapolis, Indiana. She was raised in a predominantly Irish-American neighborhood on the south side of Indianapolis. Her father, Paul F.
Cantwell, served as county commissioner, city councilman, state legislator, and Chief of Staff for U.S. Representative Andrew Jacobs, Jr. Her mother, Rose M., was an administrative assistant. She attended Emmerich Manual High School and was inducted into the Indianapolis Public School Hall of Fame in 2006. After high school, Cantwell went to Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where she earned her bachelor of arts degree in public administration. She moved to Seattle, Washington in 1983 to campaign for Alan Cranston in his unsuccessful bid for the 1984 Democratic Presidential nomination. She then moved to the Seattle suburb of Mountlake Terrace because it reminded her of Indianapolis, and led a successful campaign to build a new library there.
Early political career
In 1986, Cantwell was elected to the Washington State House of Representatives at the age of 28. In her campaign, she embarked on an extensive door-knocking effort in her district.As a state representative, she helped write Washington's Growth Management Act of 1990, which required cities to develop comprehensive growth plans, and she negotiated its passage. She also worked on legislation regulating nursing homes. In 1992, Cantwell became the first Democrat elected to the United States House of Representatives from Washington's first congressional district in 40 years. During her only term, she helped convince the Clinton administration to drop its support of the Clipper chip, voted in support of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and supported President Clinton's 1993 budget. Republican Rick White used that vote to narrowly defeat her in the Republican landslide of 1994.
At the urging of party activists and officials, Cantwell formed an exploratory committee in October 1999 to consider a run for United States Senate against Democrat Deborah Senn and incumbent Republican Slade Gorton. She committed to run for the position on January 19, 2000. After Maria Cantwell and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan became the first women to defeat incumbent senators.
The close 2004 gubernatorial race between Democrat Christine Gregoire and Republican Dino Rossi suggested to many that the 2006 contest might go either way. Both Cantwell and her opponent Republican Mike McGavick dominated their primaries; initial speculation favored a Republican victory.
"At one point," wrote analyst Larry Sabato, "all the talk in this race concerned Cantwell's cool relations with anti-war Democratic elements and McGavick's relatively united base. But Democrats appear to have closed ranks behind their junior senator." Cantwell ended up winning re-election by a 16 point margin, even winning several traditionally Republican counties in Eastern Washington including Spokane County.
Cantwell serves on the Finance Committee, the Indian Affairs Committee, the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee. She also served on the Judiciary Committee during her first two years (2001–2002).