After 12 years in the U.S. Senate, Washington Democrat Maria Cantwell has the power of incumbency, proven success in issues critical to the Northwest, ample fundraising energy and polls superiority working in her favor. That's making the fall campaign mighty daunting for Michael Baumgartner, a well-prepared, articulate and exceptionally bright state senator with a promising future in politics.Against a lesser foe, Baumgartner would be a frontrunner. The Spokane Republican showed such a strength in 2010 when he defeated Democrat state Majority Whip Chris Marr in the most expensive legislative race in state history.
But Cantwell's credentials and clout are too much to overcome. The Columbian endorses Cantwell for a third term in the Senate, partly because of her familiarity with Southwest Washington. Her many accomplishments here include assisting improvements at the Port of Vancouver, promoting freight mobility and encouraging international trade.
Baumgartner has a sterling record as a diplomat in the Middle East, but he hasn't gained much traction in the campaign. He trailed Cantwell by 25 percentage points in the primary (12.7 points in Clark County), lost to her in Spokane County (which he serves as state senator) and last week was behind by 20 points in a Rasmussen Reports poll.
Earlier in her Senate career, Cantwell displayed expertise in complex fields such as energy regulation. In her second term, she also became effective in trade issues. This year she guided the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank that helps many companies in this corner of the country.
Cantwell often displays a wonkish, low profile. She leaves partisan bickering to more boisterous office holders. She's a hard worker, understands our community and warrants a return to the Senate.
Supreme Court Justice, Pos. 9 -- Sheryl Gordon McCloud earns The Columbian's endorsement with her experience of more than a quarter of a century handling cases before the Supreme Court and appeals courts. Richard Sanders has served on the court before but is more known for controversy than calmness and has frequently politicized issues that the court had heard or might consider.
Two Senate Joint Resolutions -- "Approved" votes are recommended on SJR 8221 and SJR 8223, both supported by state Treasurer Jim McIntire. SJR 8221 would lower the state's constitutional debt limit from 9 percent to 8 percent, and average it over six years rather than the current three. This would gradually reduce the state's long-term debt burden. SJR 8223 would amend the state constitution to allow greater investment flexibility for the University of Washington and Washington State University. This change would enhance each university's financial stability and is projected to increase combined revenue for the universities by $10 million to $20 million annually.
Advisory votes -- We recommend "Maintained" votes on each of two advisory votes. Both are frivolous because they are nonbinding and have no effect on legislation that was passed by wide margins. Advisory Vote No. 1 pertains to a bill that ended a tax loophole for large out-of-state banks; the bill passed 35-10 in the Senate and 72-24 in the House. Advisory Vote No. 2 concerns extension of a tax on petroleum products; that bill passed without a dissenting vote in the Senate and by 93-1 in the House. Voters should mark "Maintained" on each advisory vote and allow the lawmakers' work to stand, especially in view of the overwhelming legislative consensus.