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Maria, Maria! Washington's Maria Cantwell Voted 'Sexiest Senator' (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

Last week we asked you to select the sexiest senator on Capitol Hill.
Nearly 40,000 of you voted, and although many of you wrote in former Illinois Senator Barack Obama and some of you bemoaned your options, we do have a conclusive winner: Senator Maria Cantwell (not to be confused, of course, with the Maria of recent Governor Sanford infamy) of Washington.

Kirsten Gillibrand of NY was second, followed by Evan Bayh of Indiana, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, John Thune of South Dakota and Mark Warner of Virginia.

Here's a closer look at Maria:

Here she is talking about energy independence at 2008's Democratic National Convention:


Cantwell was born in Indianapolis, Indiana. She was raised in a predominantly Irish 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 Schools 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.

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 movement 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 first term, she helped convince the Clinton Administration to drop its support of the Clipper chip, she voted in support of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and she supported President Clinton's 1993 budget. Republican Rick White used that vote to narrowly defeat her in the Republican landslide year of 1994.

After her defeat, Cantwell vowed to leave politics. Political ally Rob Glaser offered her a job as vice president of marketing for RealNetworks. Among her accomplishments was the live (Internet streaming) broadcast of a Mariners-Yankees baseball game in 1995. (Cantwell is an avid Mariners fan.)

In 1998, the company faced heavy criticism because privacy groups alleged that the RealJukebox software program incorporated spyware to track unsuspecting users' listening patterns and download history. In response, RealNetworks amended its privacy policy to fully disclose its privacy practices regarding user listening patterns. Subsequently, RealNetworks submitted to independent outside audits of its privacy practices. Several lawsuits regarding the alleged privacy violations were settled out of court. This has in part informed her views on privacy and thus her opposition to the Bush Administration's post-9/11 policies.

Cantwell became a multimillionaire with the stock options from RealNetworks. In August 2000, during her Senate campaign, Cantwell sold 110,000 shares of RealNetworks stock at about $44/share.

And don't forget -- she's single!

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