Achievement in public office takes a backseat to fear in today’s politics. Consider the case of Sen. Maria Cantwell as she readies to run for a fifth term in the world’s greatest deliberative body.
Cantwell has been on a roll of late. She guided the CHIPS bill through Congress, a measure designed to restore and underwrite U.S. manufacture of computer chips. She pulled off a master strategy, using the federal Clean Water Act to bring down a massive proposed mine that threatened the salmon fishery of Alaska’s Bristol Bay.
Yet, Cantwell’s initial mailings come down hard on a single theme: MAGA Republicans are likely to come after me. Cantwell has enjoyed a couple of easy campaigns, even taking time off to climb the 13,700-foot high Grand Teton while on a Jackson, Wyoming, fundraising foray.
Listen, however, to her description of last year’s reelection race of seatmate Sen. Patty Murray. “Republicans smelled an upset — and a bigger than expected red wave. Outside national groups poured in more than $20 million, making the 2022 Senate election the most expensive in Washington’s history.”
Already, Cantwell predicts, “you can bet national Republicans are already strategizing on how to beat me . . . Using their red-meat rhetoric and false claims of election fraud, they’ll try to siphon off enough votes in blue counties to defeat me and retake the Senate.” Patty Murray chimes in with a supportive letter, albeit with a different estimate of the financial onslaught directed at her: “In all, more than $10 million (most of it from hidden donors) was spent in a non-stop smear campaign against me — making the 2022 campaign the most expensive congressional campaign in state history.”
Washington is not MAGA-land, witness the upset of Trump-backed candidate Joe Kent by Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp-Perez in Washington’s 3rd District. Murray was powered to victory by a 400,000-vote margin in populous King County. A pair of Republican-linked polling firms — Trafalgar and Moore Information — ended up with egg on their faces with predictions that GOP nominee Tiffany Smiley was rapidly gaining. (Smiley lost by a large margin.)
Should Cantwell win reelection, the Murray-Cantwell team will be guaranteed a 28-year run, exactly the tenure of that enjoyed by the “gold dust twins” Sens Warren Magnuson and Henry Jackson between 1952 and 1980. Murray is chair of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, a provider role once filled by Maggie. Cantwell is in a policy making position as chair of the Senate Commerce, Science & Technology Committee.
“We need to prepare for the political fight of our lives,” writes Cantwell. That’s probably true of Democratic Sens. Jon Tester in Montana and Sherrod Brown in Ohio, but far less likely here. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell did commit to helping the 2010 race against Murray, but lost.
My prediction: The “corporate cash and unrelenting attacks” will be deployed elsewhere. The state’s ambitious Democratic House members will have to cool their heels. And, having summited Kilimanjaro, the Grand Toronto and Mount Rainier, Maria Cantwell will need to find another mountain to climb.