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Cantwell Campaign had Two Fronts

Amy Radil
10/31/2006

Maria Cantwell is seeking a second term in the U.S. Senate, but her campaign has been waged on two fronts. She's facing her Republican challenger, Mike McGavick. But she's also had to confront dissonant voices within her own party on the issue of Iraq. KUOW's Amy Radil has this profile.

MARIA CANTWELL SAYS WHETHER OR NOT DEMOCRATS TAKE THE U.S. SENATE, HER PARTY WILL HAVE ONE CLEAR MANDATE AFTER ELECTION DAY.

CANTWELL: "I think it's to hold this administration accountable. Being in the minority, we haven’t been able to get the hearings that we want, we haven’t been able to subpoena the people that we want to testify. I couldn’t even get the oil company executives to raise their right hands before a hearing!"

CANTWELL'S REQUEST TO SWEAR IN THE OIL COMPANY EXECUTIVES TOOK PLACE AT HEARINGS LAST NOVEMBER. SHE WAS OVERRULED BY SENATE COMMERCE COMMITTEE CHAIR TED STEVENS, WHO WOULD BECOME SOMETHING OF A POLITICAL NEMESIS. IN THE SIGNATURE BATTLE OF CANTWELL'S FIRST TERM, SHE BLOCKED STEVENS FROM ALLOWING DRILLING IN THE ARCTIC NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE. DEMOCRATIC SENATOR RUSS FEINGOLD RELIVED THAT MEMORY AT A RECENT SEATTLE CAMPAIGN RALLY.

FEINGOLD: "And we all know that she is not only the leader but the reason, THE reason that drilling will not begin anytime soon in Alaska."

FEINGOLD THEN TURNED TO THE ISSUES ON WHICH CANTWELL'S RECORD IS MORE COMPLICATED. IN THIS GYM FULL OF LOYAL DEMOCRATS, MANY HAVE MIXED FEELINGS ABOUT CANTWELL’S VOTES SUPPORTING THE INVASION OF IRAQ AND THE PASSAGE OF THE USA PATRIOT ACT. FEINGOLD DEFENDS CANTWELL BY POINTING OUT HER RECENT VOTE AGAINST THE ADMINISTRATION’S NEW POLICIES FOR DETAINEES.

FEINGOLD: "Just a few weeks ago, in one of the saddest chapters in our modern history, this administration, several Republicans who claimed they were going to stay strong on this, and some Democrats, passed this torture bill which is a stain on our history."

CANTWELL HERSELF SAYS SHE HAS TWO REGRETS: GIVING PRESIDENT BUSH SO MUCH POWER, AND BASING THE DECISION TO GO TO WAR ON INFORMATION FROM SO FEW SOURCES. SHE SAYS SHE WOULD NOT HAVE VOTED FOR THE INVASION WITH THE INFORMATION SHE HAS TODAY. AND SHE SAYS THE INTELLIGENCE USED TO JUSTIFY THE WAR RAISES ISSUES TO BE ADDRESSED BY THE NEXT CONGRESS.

CANTWELL: "I definitely think the fact that intelligence information today shows that we've relied so much on single sources is a problem, and we have to be honest about the security information our nation has gathered so far and continue to improve that. We haven’t finished all the work there that we need to do."

CANTWELL ALSO SAYS IF SHE’S REELECTED SHE’LL TRY TO BROADEN HER FOCUS FROM ENERGY ISSUES TO WORK MORE ON HEALTHCARE AND EDUCATION. SHE’S CRITICAL OF THE BILL PRESIDENT BUSH JUST SIGNED TO CREATE A FENCE ALONG THE SOUTHERN BORDER. SHE SAYS IT SHOWS A DISTORTED SENSE OF WHAT MAKES THE U.S. SECURE.

CANTWELL: "Somebody thinks that we’re going to spend 7 billion dollars on concrete and wiring to make our nation secure. You have to do your security measures efficiently, but not shortchange the investment in what's going to continue to make our country strong and secure, and that's the access to a good education."

CANTWELL HAS BEEN CRITICIZED LATE IN THE CAMPAIGN FOR HER DEALINGS WITH POLITICAL STRATEGIST AND ADVISOR RON DOTZAUER. CLIENTS OF DOTZAUER’S LOBBYING FIRM RECEIVED $11 MILLION DOLLARS IN FEDERAL FUNDING, WITH CANTWELL'S SUPPORT. CANTWELL ALSO MADE AN UNEXPLAINED LOAN TO DOTZAUER SEVERAL YEARS AGO. SHE DOESN'T GO INTO DETAIL, BUT CANTWELL SAYS THERE’S NOTHING AMISS.

CANTWELL: "I follow all the rules and processes to make sure that we have appropriate ethics in our office, it’s very important. And we have rules in the U.S. Senate about what you should do and I follow those, so I’m very comfortable with that."

DOTZAUER'S FIRM ALSO PLAYED A ROLE IN GETTING CANTWELL TO CHANGE HER MIND, AND HER VOTE, ON A BILL TO CUT DOWN ON CLASS ACTION LAWSUITS. DON BRUNELL IS THE PRESIDENT OF THE ASSOCIATION OF WASHINGTON BUSINESS. HE RECALLS THAT CANTWELL WAS IN THE STATE LEGISLATURE WHEN WASHINGTON PASSED A LIABILITY REFORM BILL IN 1986.

BRUNELL: "So Senator Cantwell was around at that time, when that legislation occurred, and I believe she saw the value of what the state of Washington did. And Governor Gardner, that had been one of the issues he championed for a number of years even after leaving as governor of the state."

FLASH FORWARD TO 2004 – BRUNELL AND BOOTH GARDNER, WHO WAS BY THEN A PARTNER IN DOTZAUER’S LOBBYING FIRM, CAME TOGETHER TO WORK FOR PASSAGE OF A FEDERAL CLASS ACTION REFORM LAW. THEY SUCCESSFULLY BROUGHT CANTWELL ON BOARD AFTER SHE HAD PREVIOUSLY VOTED AGAINST IT. BRUNELL SAYS DOTZAUER SUPPORTED THESE EFFORTS.

BRUNELL SAYS CANTWELL AND MCGAVICK ARE BOTH GOOD CANDIDATES. CANTWELL HAS RUN ADS CRITICIZING MCGAVICK FOR LAYING OFF EMPLOYEES AS CEO OF SAFECO WHILE TAKING A $28 MILLION DOLLAR COMPENSATION PACKAGE. BUT BRUNELL SAYS IN THE BUSINESS COMMUNITY MCGAVICK IS WIDELY ADMIRED FOR WHAT HE ACCOMPLISHED THERE.

BRUNELL: "He did what he had to do to save the company. And I don't think he was rewarded excessively for that. It's a little unfortunate that I think the Cantwell ads are misinterpreting what that really meant."

CANTWELL HAS CAMPAIGNED MOSTLY THROUGH T.V. ADS, WITH RELATIVELY FEW DEBATES, INTERVIEWS OR PUBLIC APPEARANCES. SHE APPEARS TO HAVE QUELLED THE ATTACKS OF ANTI-WAR DEMOCRATS, IN SOME CASES BY HIRING THEM TO WORK ON HER CAMPAIGN.

BACK AT THE SEATTLE RALLY, CANTWELL EXPRESSES THE HOPE NOT ONLY THAT SHE'LL BE REELECTED, BUT THAT THE MARGIN WILL BE GREATER THAN IT WAS IN 2000. THAT YEAR SHE NARROWLY BEAT SLADE GORTON.

CANTWELL: "Now, the last one was too close. The last one for me at 2,229 votes was too close."

OUT ON THE STREET, ONE CAMPAIGN VOLUNTEER, GAYE MCCLELLAN, IS WAVING A CANTWELL SIGN TO GET PEOPLE TO THE RALLY. SHE SAYS SHE’S ONLY BECOME POLITICALLY ACTIVE IN THE LAST COUPLE YEARS.

GAYE MCCLELLAN: "I keep going back to Vietnam and thinking if we had a draft I have three boys and they’d probably be gone already. And I never want that to happen again."

MCCLELLAN ISN'T THRILLED ABOUT CANTWELL'S VOTING RECORD ON IRAQ, BUT SHE SAYS THAT'S IN THE PAST.

MCCLELLAN: "My wish would be that she were a little more strident from the beginning. But I guess I’m just looking to the future now."

LOOKING AHEAD SEEMS TO BE ONE POLICY THAT CANTWELL AND HER SUPPORTERS CAN AGREE ON. SEVERAL RECENT POLLS SHOW HER WITH A DOUBLE-DIGIT LEAD OVER MCGAVICK. BUT WITH RACES IN FLUX AROUND THE COUNTRY, IT'S AN OPEN QUESTION WHO WILL BE SETTING THE AGENDA IN THE U.S. SENATE ONCE THE RACE IS OVER.

AMY RADIL, KUOW NEWS

℗ Copyright 2006, KUOW News

01.23.18

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