Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Cantwell Watch

David Ammons of the AP has a story today about Maria Cantwell's campaign for reelection in 2006. It's a rather long story with some interesting and useful analysis. Ammons begins by saying how Cantwell is widely considered to be one of the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents nationwide.

We don't think so.

Cantwell has been a strong leader in the Senate on many environmental issues, including the fight to prevent drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge. Together with Senator Charles Schumer from New York, she was the leader of the coalition that killed Bush's infamous "energy bill" back in 2003 (the "No Lobbyist Left Behind" bill, for "Hooters and polluters" as John McCain put it).

She's also stood up for Snohomish County's PUD, demanding that FERC release key Enron tapes that show how Enron traders stiffed the utility several years ago.

Her foreign policy record isn't quite as impressive. She did vote for the Iraq war, as well as the Patriot Act, but she could be forgiven for both those votes. Senators didn't even get a chance to read the Patriot Act before they passed it, and as for the war in Iraq, Cantwell was lied to by the President of the United States.

She isn't even in campaign mode quite yet:
So for now, Cantwell has the ring to herself. She's still in official "senator mode," but has quietly begun the task of raising $14 million to defend a seat the White House covets.

"Right now, I'm just focused on the job," Cantwell says. "Obviously there is no shortage of important issues, like putting together a new energy bill, high gas prices, making sure the administration doesn't privatize BPA, dealing with Enron and consumers who got gouged with high energy prices, dealing with Social Security."

She goes on with a long list of issues she's working on, and when she surfaces for air, says she won't announce for re-election until next year. She sounds relaxed about the campaign, saying her accomplishments should earn her another six-year term.

"Vacation is a laughable concept," says Charla Neuman, the senator's spokeswoman, describing Cantwell's nonstop travels to every corner of the state.
And as Ammons points out, the Republicans haven't even selected a candidate yet. They talk of beating Cantwell by finding "the right candidate", but who is that? According to Ammons' article, George Nethercutt, Slade Gorton, as well as the three GOP congressmen, and the three Republican statewide elected officials (the secretary of state, attorney general and land commissioner) aren't in the running.

So who does that leave? It leaves Dino Rossi, first of all, but he says he doesn't want to run (for now, at least). Several people are on "the bench", as Ammons put it. His profiles of them:
Mike McGavick. Well-known in business circles as the savvy head of Safeco and remembered by politicos as chief of staff and campaign adviser to Gorton, he's still "Mike Who?" to the masses. Berendt wryly calls him "a pro-choice metrosexual" and wonders if the conservative Republican Party would really produce such an intriguing nominee.

Rick White. The former congressman has the distinction of having defeated Cantwell, ousting her from Congress in 1994. He served two terms and then lost to Democrat Jay Inslee. He has been head of a California-based high-tech company, but has always kept his Kitsap County base and is enthused to make a political comeback.

Chris Vance. The well-connected, high-decibel party leader has won legislative and King County Council races, but lost bids for Congress and state school superintendent. He says he'll run only if state, national and grass-roots Republicans draft him. "I will not resign and get involved in a crowded primary," he says.

Diane Tebelius. A longtime party leader and a legal adviser to the Rossi campaign, she lost the 8th District congressional primary to eventual winner Dave Reichert last fall.
If Rossi doesn't run, Cantwell should coast to reelection unless she does badly in her campaign. Without Rossi in the race, the Republican candidate will be largely unknown across the state, although Chris Vance would be familar to most Republicans. But it's doubtful he'll run, especially since the Democrats would have mountains of quotes and sound bites to mine.

Of Cantwell's chances, Ammons writes, in part:
His Democratic counterpart, [national Democratic spokesman] Phil Singer, says Cantwell has to be favored, given a strong first term, the deepening unpopularity of George Bush in the state, and concern about Republicans having too much power in Congress.
General themes (which will factor in races nationally) will also help Cantwell. The American public hated congressional interference in the Terri Schiavo case, they're cynical of Bush's "Social Security reforms" and they hated the GOP attempt to kill the filibuster. Not to mention Tom Delay's ethic troubles.

Right now, we're optimistic and feel confident in saying that Maria Cantwell will easily win reelection in November 2006. Progressives who are less than enthusiastic about Cantwell's candidacy should take note of what happened in the 2004 gubernatorial election. Cantwell deserves strong support from progressives so that a Democrat can be reelected to Congress.

We can't afford to lose another seat, and Cantwell has already shown that she deserves a second term.

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