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Friday, March 10, 2006 - Page updated at 12:27 AM

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Former Panther leader runs against Cantwell

Seattle Times staff reporter

Activist and former Black Panther Party leader Aaron Dixon announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate Thursday, blasting incumbent Sen. Maria Cantwell for supporting the war in Iraq.

Running on the Green Party ticket, Dixon refuted the conventional wisdom that he had little chance of success but could cost Cantwell, a Democrat, votes in the November election.

"I don't look at myself as a spoiler. I am in this to win," he said, standing in front of a screen displaying the lives lost and dollars spent since the Iraq invasion.

However, if both he and Cantwell lose, Dixon said: "I won't feel bad at all. Maria votes like a Republican."

Cantwell was one of three Washington Democrats in Congress to authorize President Bush to use force against Iraq. She is the only member to stand by her vote; both Reps. Norm Dicks and Adam Smith said they were misled and would take a different position today.

The first-term senator has criticized the administration's counter-insurgency and rebuilding efforts.

Third parties traditionally do not fair well in statewide elections. In 2004, the Libertarian and Green Party candidates both earned about 1 percent of the vote. Incumbent Sen. Patty Murray, a Democrat, was re-elected with 55 percent.

Dixon said this year would be different, citing weak support of the Iraq war.

"If both the Republican challenger and Cantwell are in support of this war, then they are competing amongst themselves for the voters who are pro-war. I am anti-war."

Dixon said the Green Party candidate in 2004, Mark Wilson, of Kitsap County, agreed not to seek the nomination this year. Wilson is now seeking the Democratic Party nomination for U.S. Senate.

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The state Libertarian Party is also expected to run a candidate.

Former insurance executive Mike McGavick is seeking the Republican nomination, as well as Brad Klippert of Kennewick, an evangelical Christian and major in the Army National Guard.

Dixon co-founded the Seattle chapter of the Black Panther Party in April 1968. The Black Panthers started a free medical clinic, developed breakfast programs for schoolchildren and began the first urban summer camp in Seattle. In 2002, he founded a nonprofit called Central House to provide housing for youth.

The Green Party, which traces its roots to ecological groups in Europe in the 1960s, is known for promoting a pro-environmental agenda.

Many environmental groups laud Cantwell, who has fought oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and an effort to bring more tankers into Puget Sound.

Mike Palamuso, Northwest campaign manager for The League of Conservation Voters, said his group already has endorsed Cantwell and is doorbelling on her behalf.

"She has been a leading environmental champion. She stood by us and we're going to stand by her," he said.

Dixon conceded that Cantwell has scored good environmental marks, but those were outweighed by the war.

Alex Fryer: 206-464-8124 or afryer@seattletimes.com

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