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McGavick stands by ad hitting Cantwell over vote on tax bill
Seattle Times Washington bureau
Last week, U.S. Senate candidate Mike McGavick announced that he deeply regretted his role in an ad during the 1988 Senate race, when he managed the successful Senate campaign of Republican Slade Gorton against then-Congressman Mike Lowry. He said the ad was "not an accurate reflection" of Lowry's views and should have been pulled off the air.
That apology may dog McGavick this campaign.
On Monday, campaign managers for his opponent, Sen. Maria Cantwell, called on McGavick to "apply his own standard" and withdraw his "misleading" radio ad.
In a news release, they said McGavick's ad "falsely claims" that Cantwell does not support allowing Washington residents to deduct what they pay in state and local sales tax from their federal income tax.
Cantwell, a Democrat, and McGavick, a Republican, recently began running dueling ads about the so-called "trifecta bill," which failed in the Senate on Aug. 3.
The bill would have repealed the federal estate tax and extended sales-tax deductibility to several states, including Washington. It also would have raised the national minimum wage but would have treated workers who earn tips, such as waiters, differently.
McGavick's radio spot about the bill's failure struck at Cantwell.
"Maria Cantwell voted with her party, against our deduction and against our families," says the announcer, noting that the deduction was worth $550 to Washington families.
"Sen. Cantwell said she voted 'no' because she disagreed with parts of the bill, yet when she was offered a compromise, she refused to talk," the ad says.
Cantwell's campaign swung back.
"When Republican leaders tried to cut Washington state's minimum wage, I said 'no.' My parents struggled, and I worked as a waitress, so I know people count on us getting these things right," she says.
Neither ad presents the full story of the vote.
Cantwell, in fact, co-authored the bill that first allowed state and local sales-tax deductibility in 2004. That legislation expired this year. In February, Cantwell sponsored a measure to make that deduction permanent. It passed the Senate 75-25 and is still pending in the House.
Cantwell said she opposed the trifecta bill out of concern that the minimum-wage provision would actually wind up reducing the take-home pay of restaurant workers and others dependent on tips. The bill potentially would have changed the way those tips are calculated as part of income in Washington and six other states that have higher minimum-wage levels.
Mike Meehan, Cantwell's chief political strategist, said the senator talked with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., the night before the vote about her concerns.
In an interview, McGavick said his ad was not misleading.
"She voted against it," he said, adding that her vote on state sales-tax deductibility will be a major campaign issue.
Cantwell could have worked with Frist on her concerns about tipped workers, "but she helped kill that bill," McGavick said.
Cantwell also was concerned that Frist's bill offered only a one-year extension of the sales-tax deduction, rather than making it permanent.
Normally, McGavick's ad might pass as a typical political tactic.
But McGavick's apology last week raised the stakes. In an open letter to supporters, McGavick said he regretted keeping an ad on the air in 1988 against Lowry after being told that it misrepresented the Democrat's view on legalizing marijuana use.
Cantwell's aides say he is repeating his error. "McGavick knows full well that Senator Cantwell supports the Cantwell sales tax deduction bill," Meehan said in a news release.
"The problem with the apology approach is that once you have taken that road, you have to keep walking down it," said Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia, who specializes in national politics. "You can't say, 'Enough already' or start backtracking."
Cantwell, who hasn't apologized for any ads, used a longer radio version of her TV commercial on the trifecta bill to slam McGavick.
"Mike McGavick is toeing the line of Republican leaders in D.C." by supporting potential cuts in tipped workers' wages, says the ad's male announcer. He continues, "McGavick is interested in scoring political points."
Alicia Mundy: 202-662-7457 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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