Cantwell back to the beginning


Reporter for the Journal of the San Juans

Addressing local Democrats at the San Juan County Fair on Friday, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) recalled she was back again where it all began in 2000, when she first ran for the Senate against Slade Gorton.

The current junior senator from Washington (Sen. Patty Murray is senior senator) told an audience of 40 in the main building of the fair, “This was where I first campaigned for the U.S. Senate, right here in this building 12 years ago.”

A few months later, she won that underdog campaign by 229 votes. Twelve years later, in the 2012 primary, she outpolled Republican Sen. Michael Baumgartner by more than 352,000 votes, a margin of over 25 points in the eight-candidate primary.

That margin may explain why the Cantwell campaign felt they could spend a few days in the San Juan Islands to recharge and raise money before the final months of campaigning.

Cantwell greeted supporters individually before delivering brief remarks reassuring local voters that local issues are on her mind.

In response to questions about local environmental issues, Cantwell, a member of the Public Lands and Forests Subcommittee and Chairwoman of the Energy subcommittee of the Senate Commerce Committee, reminded the crowd that “I co-authored the bill” (which stalled) to create the San Juan Islands National Conservation Area and that “Rick Larsen and I got Secretary [of the Interior] Salazar to propose that the President sign an Executive Order” to designate the conservation area lands as a National Monument.

Pressed whether she’s done everything she could to convince the president to sign that order, Cantwell said she’d done everything but “get a tattoo” to show the president she supported the idea.

Asked about the proposal to build a coal port near Bellingham, Cantwell insisted proponents “need to answer some very tough questions” before the development is approved, but did not say she opposed the coal port idea outright. “We must make this a collaborative effort to protect our marine waterways,” she concluded.

The campaign reportedly held a Friday night fundraiser at Roche Harbor and another fundraiser on Sunday on Orcas, but would not confirm blog reports that Sen. Al Franken and Sen. Murray would be coming to participate.  But they were not at the fair on Friday and could not be found at Roche Harbor on Saturday.

Coincidentally, Dan Matthews, the Republican candidate opposing incumbent U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA), also campaigned at the fair Friday afternoon. He was disappointed when told that Sen. Murray was apparently not at the fair. “We served together on the Shoreline school board for a while,” he said, “So I’d love to say hello again.”

Matthews, who will be back next Saturday for the Republican Party’s Red Barn Event, says “I’m not discouraged,” by primary election results showing him with 28.7 percent of the vote, almost 29 percentage points behind Larsen’s 57.3 percent. He figures he’ll surprise people by getting closer to Larsen in the November general election, then run again in 2014.

He said he’s committed to at least two campaigns: “I always tell people that I’ll be running for Congress in two years whether I win or lose this time.”

Dan Matthews expects to be back campaigning at the fair in 2014. Maria Cantwell may not be back until 2018 – unless she returns as a candidate for vice president before then.

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