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Originally published Sunday, October 1, 2006 at 12:00 AM

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Libertarian Senate hopeful to spend his life's savings

Libertarian U.S. Senate candidate Bruce Guthrie said Saturday he will put his life's savings — nearly $1.2 million — into his...

Seattle Times chief political reporter

Libertarian U.S. Senate candidate Bruce Guthrie said Saturday he will put his life's savings — nearly $1.2 million — into his race against Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell and Republican Mike McGavick.

Guthrie, a former college instructor who hopes to go back to school to get a high-school teaching certificate, filed paperwork with the Federal Elections Commission on Saturday saying he will loan his campaign $1.18 million. As of Aug. 30, the most recent FEC filing deadline, Guthrie had raised $31,062.

The infusion of so much money from a dark-horse candidate is sure to change the dynamic of a competitive race. It's unclear whether Guthrie's beefed-up campaign will be a bigger benefit to Cantwell or to McGavick.

Guthrie said he decided to use his own money after campaigning around the state.

"I'm disappointed, as most people are, that money is what drives politics in this country," he said. "But I realize if I didn't go in all the way, if I didn't do the best job with the campaign I thought I could do, I would have regretted it later.

"My heart is really in this race, and I decided it was just time to put my money where my heart is."

But there will be no more personal money after this.

"It is absolutely everything I could scrape together," he said. "I mortgaged my house, my only house, in Bellingham. And I put up all the savings that my [deceased] wife and I were able to save in our 17 years of marriage."

Guthrie still has far less money than either of the major-party candidates. But in 2000, former Republican Sen. Slade Gorton blamed his close loss to Cantwell, in part, on Libertarian candidate Jeff Jared. Jared got more than 64,000 votes and Cantwell won by a little more than 2,000.

Guthrie's top issues are most likely to attract liberal voters. He is a strong proponent of same-sex marriage and is ardently anti-war, calling for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and a permanent reduction of U.S. troops abroad. He's critical of the Patriot Act. But he also supports reducing the federal deficit, a position that could appeal to conservatives.

"Right now we don't have any idea how we're going to influence the outcome of the election," Guthrie said.

He said his campaign could now be the best-financed Libertarian campaign in state history.

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As required by the Federal Election Commission, Guthrie sent written notice of his personal spending plans Saturday to his opponents in the race. The self-financing triggers the FEC's so-called "Millionaire's Amendment," a law that will allow contribution limits to the other Senate candidates to increase.

Until June, Guthrie, 43, worked as an instructor at Western Washington University. He also has money from investments, said his campaign manager, Travis Wright.

"Essentially it's a combination of being fortunate and frugal," Wright said.

Cantwell has raised $16.8 million so far. McGavick has raised $7.7 million, including $2 million of personal money he loaned his campaign.

McGavick spokesman Elliott Bundy said the campaign did not yet know what to make of the news of Guthrie's donation. A representative of the Cantwell campaign could not be reached Saturday night.

Green Party candidate Aaron Dixon also is running.

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