Cantwell, McGavick debate Cuban policy, gas, border security
In their first public appearance together and later at a newspaper editorial-board meeting, Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell and Republican...
Seattle Times staff reporter
SPOKANE — In their first public appearance together and later at a newspaper editorial-board meeting, Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell and Republican challenger Mike McGavick on Thursday offered contrasting views about border security, gays in the military, trade with Cuba and how best to handle North Korea.
After debating for 30 minutes at an event sponsored by the Spokane Rotary Club, the candidates walked across the street to answer questions posed by the editorial board of The Spokesman-Review.
The tone of the discussions was frosty but civil, with Cantwell and McGavick playing to different strengths.
McGavick, a Seattle native, noted in the debate that he had often traveled through Eastern Washington in his youth. From the lectern, he made a point of saying hello to his wife, Gaelynn, and noted they are raising three boys.
Born in Indianapolis, Cantwell has never married.
After referring to local concerns of high gas prices and those serving at Fairchild Air Force Base, Cantwell told the audience: "I grew up in a working-class Irish Catholic family, not unlike some of the neighborhoods right here in Spokane. And that's what gave me the courage to say that I was going to stand up and fight for you in Washington, D.C."
McGavick discounted Cantwell's legislative record: "The achievements we've heard about are at the periphery of the issues that keep us up at night."
Their sharpest disagreements came while discussing details of larger issues.
On immigration, Cantwell said she didn't support "a $7 billion physical fence all across the miles of our southern border," opting instead for drones and other hi-tech means of surveillance. McGavick countered: "Our borders must be secured whatever it takes, and that includes fencing."
Answering a question about how he would lower gas prices, McGavick, who supports exploring the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, said "we need to drill our own resources."
Cantwell said international energy-trading markets need to be transparent and regulated.
On Iraq, neither candidate advocated immediate withdrawal.
Although McGavick said he saw reasons to be optimistic about the conflict, he offered views contrary to those of President Bush.
"I like the idea that the president wanted to establish democracy [in Iraq], but, I tell you, it is not my focus. If this [Iraqi] government can't get its act together, we'll find another solution, and we'll keep adapting until we win."
As for the notion expressed by some observers that the bloodshed in Iraq contributes to global terrorism, McGavick said: "The good news is they have redirected it against our troops in Iraq.... At least it's our troops facing them instead of our citizens facing them here at home."
Cantwell repeatedly said the international community, particularly Arab nations, should contribute more money and troops to the rebuilding effort.
Neither supports a draft.
About gays in the military, McGavick said he supports the current policy of discharging members of the armed forces who admit to being homosexual.
Cantwell said: "I think the dismissal of men and women in the military for this issue needs to be re-examined. I think we need all the men and women in our armed services who are willing to serve."
Touting her record of promoting agricultural products to Cuba, Cantwell faced McGavick and asked him whether he supports trade with the communist nation.
"No," he said. "I think the embargo is appropriate until Castro dies."
The two also offered different views on North Korea.
Cantwell supports multination talks and going to the United Nations, but she also said she "would not rule out direct talks with North Korea."
"I think we should put all issues on the table in thinking about how we can resolve this," she said.
McGavick said the president was correct when he rejected one-on-one negotiations. Only China has any real influence over the North Korean regime.
"We have relatively little leverage with North Korea short of violence," he said.
Libertarian candidate Bruce Guthrie attended the Rotary debate but did not speak. He later attempted to join the discussion at the Spokesman-Review but was turned away.
Alex Fryer: 206-464-8124 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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