No wonder they call California, Oregon and Washington the left coast. Incumbent Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell will face primary opposition from a candidate who admits he is left of Maria on many issues.
Hat tip- Richard Gardner at OTB who points out Sen. Cantwell's 95 rating from Americans for Democratic Action. He also thinks Mr. Wilson has no chance and this is further proof of the lunacy of the far left in this country. I got to agree with Richard.
OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Maria Cantwell, Washington's junior senator, has been quietly girding for a tough re-election challenge from the Republicans. Now she's also dealing with a primary challenge from her left flank.
Mark Wilson, who warmed up with primary races against Jay Inslee and Patty Murray, is running as a progressive "peace and justice" candidate, assailing Cantwell for everything from her vote to send troops to Iraq to her free-trade stance.
Wilson portrays Cantwell as ineffective and a tool of corporate America, and says the Democrats could lose the seat if she's nominated next September.
Cantwell doesn't seem particularly worried, but has moved to shore up her liberal base. She recently signed a letter critical of the administration's handling of the Iraq war and has taken on Enron, oil drilling in the Arctic wilderness, and supposed oil and gasoline price-gouging.
She also has taken some fence-mending sessions with some of the more liberal Democratic activists.
"You never take anything for granted and you run very hard," says Michael Meehan, her top aide. "We expect to have the support of Democrats. The roadmap to victory is to get your base behind you solidly."
INTO THE FRAY...
Meanwhile, Wilson is ready to exploit what he sees as a rift in the state's majority party. Even before Congress authorized the war, the Poulsbo businessman and Marine veteran was urging the party to vigorously oppose President Bush and the Iraq conflict. It's a signature issue as he barnstorms the state, meeting with local party groups and "peace and justice" groups.
So far, he hasn't made much of a dent by taking on three of the party's most popular politicians.
As the Libertarian Party nominee for the 1st District congressional seat in 2002, he polled 3 percent against Jay Inslee. Last fall, he got 1 percent of the vote in a four-way Senate race won by Patty Murray.
Undeterred, he's running against Cantwell, who is seeking re-election to a second six-year Senate term. Since he's running as a Democrat this time, the primary will be up or out for Wilson.
He says he's running to win, and not just to add his voice to the debate. But he also acknowledges the long-shot nature of taking on an incumbent who is backed by much of the party apparatus.
"Some people want to call me the snowball's-chance-in-hell candidate," Wilson says with a laugh.
"I tell people that as a former Marine and a former fisherman in Alaska, I've done both hell and snowballs."
In 2000, Cantwell edged three-term Republican Sen. Slade Gorton in the absentees, by a margin of less than 2,500 votes.
Wilson said his early campaigning has convinced him that Cantwell's party support is soft, particularly among liberal anti-war activists and progressives who fault her for not more vigorously opposing the policies espoused by the White House and the Republican Congress.
"She voted for the war and the Patriot Act and the confirmation of (Secretary of State) Condoleezza Rice, NAFTA, the Bush energy policy and so on," he says. "I would have voted against each and every one of those."
Wilson wants an immediate end to the Iraq war and calls for an end to "corporate welfare."
He opposes the war on drugs, seeks a big reduction in weapons production, and proposes a national back-to-work program to rebuild infrastructure and alternative energy sources.
He portrays Cantwell, a former RealNetworks executive who used $10 million of her own wealth to mostly self-finance her last campaign, as a tool of corporate America. After losing cliffhangers for Gorton's Senate seat and the governor's mansion last year, Republicans are gunning for Cantwell and she'd be a weak nominee, he says.
"I am left and forward of Maria on many issues," he says.