Washington senator slams Ala. workforce

Senator Patty Murray (D-Washington)
Senator Patty Murray (D-Washington)

Posted by: John Shryock - bio | email

WASHINGTON, D.C (WSFA) - A U.S. Senator from Washington state is drawing heat from numerous Alabama representatives after a morning radio interview took aim at Alabama's workforce.

Senator Patty Murray (D-Washington) was interviewed Monday morning on NPR's "All Things Considered" program in regards to the contentious Pentagon contract for a new fleet of refueling tankers.

"I have stood on the line in Everett, Washington," she told NPR," where we have thousands of workers who go to work every day to build these planes. I would challenge anybody to tell me that they've stood on a line in Alabama and seen anybody build anything."

When reached for comment, Alabama Governor Bob Riley (R) said he hoped Sen. Murray had been misquoted, "because it would be absolutely absurd for anyone to say something so ridiculous."

Riley pointed to Alabama's booming automotive industry, (Hyundai, Mercedes, Toyota, Honda and hundreds of suppliers,) high tech aerospace and defense companies and "the rocket that took man to the moon, and many of the same companies that Senator Murray represents."

Washington-based Boeing even considered Mobile in 2003 when looking for a place to build its 787 Dreamliner assembly plant.

Alabama Lt. Governor Jim Folsom (D) also took offense to the senator's statement. "I have personally "stood on the line" in Alabama and watched hundreds of products being manufactured." He added that he hoped to "stand on the line" soon to watch the tanker being built in Alabama.

Alabama's senior senator Richard Shelby (R) admitted the competition between his state and Washington to land the multi-billion dollar contract has been "as tense as it is significant," but said to assume, "Alabama is a risky choice to build the new Air Force tanker is unfounded.  To declare that Alabama cannot build anything is simply ignorant."

The contest, between Boeing and Northrop Grumman EADS, ended in 2008 with Northrop Grumman winning the contract. The planes, set to replace the military's nearly 50-year-old fleet of refueling tankers, were to be built in Mobile. The contest was nullified a short time later and the government ordered the bidding process start from the beginning.

"I'm sure Senator Murray would retract her comments if she visited Alabama and viewed some of our superb facilities," said Congressman Bobby Bright (D). "Though her comments stem from the unfortunate politics of the tanker contract, elected officials should avoid making untrue claims just to score political points. I invite [her] to Alabama so she can meet our hard-working citizens and tour our world-class manufacturing plants."

WSFA 12 News attempted to contact Sen. Murray's office for comment but was greeted with an automatic message indicating her voicemail was full.

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