Murray to lead Democratic effort in 2012 races

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Democrats will turn to Sen. Patty Murray of Washington to steer the defense of 21 Democratic seats up for re-election in 2012.

Murray had the same job back in 2002 when Democrats lost two seats and control of the Senate.

She’ll have another difficult challenge. Republicans only have 10 seats up for re-election in 2012. Two independent senators who caucus with the Democrats are also up for re-election.

“This is no doubt a tough task this time around because of the sheer number of senators that are up, but that also makes it an extremely important job right now,” Murray told reporters Tuesday, shortly after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced her selection.

Democratic colleagues described her as an excellent choice for the job because she knows what it takes to win tough elections. Others were reportedly approached about the position as well, but Murray said she accepted after discussing the task with her family, which had just endured a tough re-election campaign.

Her Republican counterpart, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, will lead the GOP’s efforts to take control of the Senate. He said he found it interesting that Democrats didn’t find someone outside current leadership to take on the campaign committee job, which entails recruiting candidates and helping raise money for campaigns.

“We’ll find out whether anybody learned anything or was listening to what voters were saying,” Cornyn said.

Murray said many voters are hurting and they’re looking for lawmakers in Washington to fight hard for them in tough economic times. “I know what our goals are and that’s to get our country moving again,” Murray said.

Murray was first elected in 1992. She won her latest election in a tough environment for Democrats by a margin of 52 percent to 48 percent.

“Patty Murray ran a smart, aggressive campaign — a model for what all of our incumbents need to do in 2012,” said the outgoing campaign committee chairman, Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J.