Slade Gorton (born 1832) co-founded Gorton's of Gloucester and is an ancestor of the senator. 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 until 1987, and then from 1989 until 2001. He was defeated for reelection in 1986 by Brock Adams, and in 2000 by Maria Cantwell.
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 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, defeating longtime incumbent and state legend Warren Magnuson on Ronald Reagan's coattails and an "it's time for a change" ad campaign. After his 1986 defeat, he ran for the state's other Senate seat (open at the time) in 1988 and won. In the Senate, Gorton was notable for his conservative views, and derided for what some perceived as strong hostility towards Indian tribes. His reelection strategy centered on running up high vote totals in areas outside of the liberal mecca Seattle. In 1994 he repeated the process. In 2000, Democrat Maria Cantwell turned his "it's time for a change" strategy against him and due to the strength of her huge vote margins in the King County area, won an upset victory with around 2,000 votes.
In 2004, Gorton became a member of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (popularly known as the "9/11 Commission").
In 2005, Gorton became the Chairman of the Constitutional Law PAC, a political action committee formed to help elect candidates to the Washington State Supreme Court and Court of Appeals. The Constitutional Law PAC has a right-of-center orientation.