GOP sees hope for Cantwell seat; sen­a­tor vul­ner­a­ble in Wash­ing­ton

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Christina Bellantoni

Repub­li­cans are pre­par­ing for bruis­ing midterm elec­tions, but they see a bright spot on the elec­toral map in Wash­ing­ton, where Sen. Maria Cantwell is con­sid­ered one of the most vul­ner­a­ble Demo­cratic in­cum­bents.

The­fresh­manse­n­a­toris­re­ceiv­ing crit­i­cism from the left and right and face­sapri­ma­rychal­len­geonSept.19.

Repub­li­can op­po­nent Mike McGav­ick is a wealthy busi­ness­man who can fund most of his cam­paign, but­par­ty­faith­fu­lal­soare­bankingon strong grass-roots sup­port. Many state Repub­li­cans are still an­gry about the 2004 gu­ber­na­to­rial race, which their can­di­date, Dino Rossi, lost byfew­erthan200vote­saftertwo re­counts and a court bat­tle.

“I think Wash­ing­ton Repub­li­cans felt ripped off when they lost their gov­er­nor’s race as it fin­ished up last time,” said Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds,NewYorkRepub­li­canand chair­manoftheNa­tion­alRepub­li­can Con­gres­sional Com­mit­tee. “That gives us some added bonus.”

Mr. Reynolds said he has seen in­ten­sevo­ter­in­ter­estinMis­sCantwell’s seat and some House seats.

Miss Cantwell, 47, leads Mr. McGav­ick in all statewide polls, but by no more than five per­cent­age points and­with­manyvot­ers still un­de­cided.

FormerPres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton­has ap­peale­donbe­hal­fofthein­cum­bent.

“We are so close to re­cap­tur­ing con­trol of both houses of Congress and Wash­ing­ton state is now in play fortheRepub­li­cans,”Mr.Clin­ton­says on Miss Cantwell’s cam­paign Web site. “Youmorethan­mostAmer­i­cans know that ev­ery sin­gle vote counts. One vote can­change the di­rec­tion of our en­tire coun­try.”

Miss Cantwell re­ceived 49 per­cent of the vote in 2000an­dun­seated the Repub­li­can in­cum­bent, Sen. Slade Gor­ton, by fewer than 2,300 votes.

Se­nateMa­jor­i­tyLeader Bill Frist of Ten­nessee cam­paigned against the Demo­crat dur­ing a visit to Wash­ing­ton on Aug. 14.

He slammed Miss Cantwell for op­pos­ing a bill that would have raised the min­i­mum wage and cut the es­tate tax, call­ing her an ob­struc­tion­ist. The mea­sure in­cluded a tim­ber in­dus­try tax de­duc­tion as an in­cen­tive for Miss Cantwell’s sup­port, but­the­se­n­a­tor joined other Democrats to de­feat the bill, call­ing it “bad for Wash­ing­ton work­ers” be­cause it would­have cut wages for tip earn­ers.

Last month, one of her most vo­cal crit­ics­fromthe left agreed­to­join­her cam­paign. Demo­crat Mark Wil­son, who­hadrunapri­ma­rychal­lenge­for morethanayear,washiredasanoutreach di­rec­tor with an $8,000 monthly salary. The sen­a­tor re­port­edly of­fered a sim­i­lar job to her re­main­ing Demo­cratic op­po­nent, and Repub­li­cans sug­gested Miss Cantwell was pay­ing to si­lence her crit­ics.

Mis­sCantwellvote­d­in­fa­vo­rofthe Iraq war in Oc­to­ber 2002, but re­cently­sup­port­edaDemo­crat­ic­ef­fort to ini­ti­ate a “phased re­de­ploy­ment” of troops from Iraq by Dec. 31.

Her chal­lenger in the Demo­crat­icpri­mary is war critic Hong Tran, anon­prof­it­lawyer­who fled Viet­nam asa child. Mis­sCantwell is ex­pected to win the pri­mary, but the chal­lenge is sap­ping some of the cash and en­ergy she will need to fight off her Repub­li­can op­po­nent.

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