Washington’s U.S. Senate race features Republican Susan Hutchison, a former state GOP party leader, and Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell, a three-term incumbent.
Cantwell is the superior choice.
Hutchison, a long-time resident of Seattle, is a former broadcast journalist whose polish has not waned. Her long list of civic engagements, together with numerous advisory roles and a campaign in 2009 for King County executive, albeit an unsuccessful one, paint a picture of someone who wants to contribute to civic and political life in Washington.
But as an outspoken supporter of President Trump, this proud military wife and mom has to walk a fine line.
Hutchison, 64, attributes the robust economy to Trump’s tax cuts; she credits the president for taking a hard stance on immigration and champions the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement. But she also tries to make a case for upending the status quo here in Washington; hence, her persistent attacks on Cantwell’s job performance.
During a joint interview with the TNT Editorial Board, Hutchison spent too much time on the offensive, a tactic that can make any candidate look starved for ideas. In contrast, Cantwell exuded a moral seriousness, using her time to thoughtfully answer questions and articulate the downstream effects of policy decisions.
Moderate voters sick of partisan bickering should appreciate Cantwell’s restraint; the senator’s Teflon demeanor is the best defense against the political dysfunction in D.C. Sure, she has the incumbent’s advantage, but her edge is more than institutional knowledge.
Cantwell’s conversant in the challenges facing Pierce County; from lack of affordable housing to gentrification in Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood, she can speak in specifics.
The senator from Edmonds reiterated the pledge she made to Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor to hold opioid manufacturers accountable and spoke of a comprehensive opioid education, treatment and recovery bill she co-sponsored earlier this year that brought $23 million to the state.
By reelecting Cantwell, Washington will continue to reap the benefits of her experience and seniority on Capitol Hill. As ranking Democrat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee, she is poised to protect Washington’s natural treasures at a time when forces are hostile.
Cantwell, 60, stood in the way of increased entrance fees to national parks and fought to increase funding for Puget Sound restoration by $20 million. She also doubled the per-project funding for efforts that include juvenile salmon habitat restoration.
Deepening the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma serve our economic interests, and Cantwell made sure that provision was included in the recent American Water Infrastructure Act. She also joined forces with a bipartisan coalition of Pacific Northwest senators to secure more than $2 billion for Forest Service wildfire fighting.
When the Trump administration threatened to cut funds for the Pacific Wildland Fire Sciences Lab, it was Cantwell who fought to keep the Seattle project funded.
Granted, there are many areas where the former high-tech executive is swimming upstream. As a member of the minority party in D.C., Cantwell admits to “playing defense 100 percent of the time.”
But above all, Cantwell is a pragmatist: “Do I believe health care is a basic right? Yes. Do I believe in universal access? Yes. But we have to be smart.”
And what smart looks like is taking an existing policy provision, such as our state’s Basic Health Program, something she claims to have fought “tooth and nail” to put into the Affordable Care Act, and using it to pool markets for basic health care.
“Individuals can get a plan for as little as $35 a month,” says Cantwell. Minnesota and New York are already using this subsidized model.
In opposition, Hutchison’s answer to solving the health care crisis was found in a frequent refrain, “free market.” Her most concrete solution came in the form of nationalized insurance regulation. She advocated lifting state barriers and replacing state-level insurance commissioners with federal oversight.
When asked about the challenge of climate change, the former state chairwoman of the state Republican Party again mentioned the equalizing power of “free markets” and suggested people carpool.
Our general election nod goes to Cantwell. What Washington residents get in their junior senator are the lessons she’s gleaned as a lifelong sports enthusiast. She recognizes that in politics, as in football, you fight for every yard.
We believe she should return to the U.S. Senate for another six years.
CHECKING THEIR RECORDS
The TNT Editorial Board is partnering again this year with Verify More, a nonpartisan nonprofit watchdog that coordinates background screenings with candidates’ consent. Susan Hutchison participated in the screening, while Sen. Maria Cantwell did not. To see the database, go online to verifymore.org