At least one of three Repub­li­cans who has been con­tem­plat­ing a chal­lenge to Sen­a­tor Maria Cantwell next year is now telling the media that he plans to offi­cial­ly launch his cam­paign. Michael Baum­gart­ner, who defeat­ed Demo­c­rat Chris Marr in an expen­sive state Sen­ate race just last year, will hold an announce­ment event of some sort on Mon­day, accord­ing to news reports.

Baum­gart­ner, thir­ty-five, has yet to com­plete his first year of ser­vice as an elect­ed offi­cial; he was a new­com­er last year when he cam­paigned for Sen­ate. Now he is throw­ing his hat into the ring for U.S. Senate.

A check of Baum­gart­ner’s vot­ing record indi­cates he has not con­sis­tent­ly par­tic­i­pat­ed in Wash­ing­ton State elec­tions. Baum­gart­ner reg­is­tered to vote on May 1st, 2007, but he did not vote in the pri­ma­ry or gen­er­al elec­tions that year. He also missed the August win­now­ing elec­tion in 2008 and failed to vote at all in 2009.

In his cam­paign for state Sen­ate last year, Baum­gart­ner cre­at­ed cam­paign lit­er­a­ture which depict­ed him in fatigues, accord­ing to the Pacif­ic North­west Inlan­der, even though he has not served as a sol­dier. (He has worked in Afghanistan and Iraq — for the State Depart­ment — but that does­n’t make him a com­bat veteran).

In an inter­view with KING5, Baum­gart­ner assailed Cantwell for “envi­ron­men­tal extrem­ism” and “reg­u­la­to­ry extrem­ism”, indi­cat­ing that he sym­pa­thizes with the aims of his own rad­i­cal right wing base (like abol­ish­ing the EPA).

Such rhetoric will undoubt­ed­ly please tea par­ty Repub­li­cans, but it won’t car­ry Baum­gart­ner to vic­to­ry. Since win­ning reelec­tion in 2006, Sen­a­tor Cantwell has chalked up a most­ly pop­ulist, most­ly pro­gres­sive vot­ing record. For instance, she wise­ly vot­ed against the bank bailout in 2008 and against con­firm­ing Ben Bernanke for anoth­er term as chair­man of the Fed­er­al Reserve.

Those votes are hard­ly going to be a hin­drance in her campaign.

Baum­gart­ner is mis­tak­en if he thinks attack­ing Sen­a­tor Cantwell’s work to strength­en envi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion will score him points. Dur­ing her first term, Cantwell led the effort to fil­i­buster Ted Stevens’ scheme to open up the Arc­tic Refuge to drilling. It was a high­light of her 2006 reelec­tion campaign.

When the polls closed on Novem­ber 7th, 2006, the Asso­ci­at­ed Press wait­ed less than a minute to pro­claim Cantwell the win­ner. And when offi­cial results became avail­able, it was evi­dent that Cantwell was on her way to a land­slide win over Repub­li­can Mike McGav­ick. Cantwell ulti­mate­ly received near­ly 57% of the vote. She won every coun­ty in west­ern Wash­ing­ton except Lewis Coun­ty, and she won the most pop­u­lous coun­ties in East­ern Wash­ing­ton as well (Spokane and Yakima).

Even if Baum­gart­ner man­aged to sweep east­ern Wash­ing­ton next year (which McGav­ick failed to do in 2006) he would still lose to Cantwell because most of the pop­u­la­tion lives on the west­ern side of the Cas­cades. He can only win if he cam­paigns effec­tive­ly on the west side. Unfor­tu­nate­ly for Baum­gart­ner, many vot­ers on the west side have a strong envi­ron­men­tal eth­ic, and are like­ly to find his attacks on Sen­a­tor Cantwell’s work repulsive.

Baum­gart­ner is not the only Repub­li­can con­sid­er­ing a chal­lenge to Sen­a­tor Cantwell. For­mer Bloomberg Tele­vi­sion anchor Philip Yin is also said to be prepar­ing to launch a cam­paign lat­er this month.

Some news out­lets have sug­gest­ed that Dave Reichert is con­sid­er­ing going up against Cantwell, but we think that’s unfound­ed spec­u­la­tion. There were rumors last cycle that Reichert would be draft­ed as Sen­a­tor Pat­ty Mur­ray’s Repub­li­can oppo­nent, but noth­ing at all came of that. Reichert is unlike­ly to vacate his seat, espe­cial­ly since the dis­trict lines are in the process of being redrawn.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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One reply on “Senator Maria Cantwell to get at least one declared opponent this Monday”

  1. It’s a pity the Seat­tle Times does­n’t quote from NPI every day! I am most cer­tain­ly in agree­ment with you guys. I wish I could donate lots of mon­ey to keep you going, but I’m cur­rent­ly unem­ployed. I sup­pose for now I’ll set­tle for book-mark­ing and adding your RSS feed to my feed read­er, I look for­ward to more updates and will share NPI’s web­site with my Face­book group. 

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