McGavick barbs draw little return fire; Cantwell touts her record
Republican Mike McGavick said he hasn't dumped his civility pledge, but the former insurance executive wasted few opportunities to contrast...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Republican Mike McGavick said he hasn't dumped his civility pledge, but the former insurance executive wasted few opportunities to contrast himself sharply with Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell in a televised debate Tuesday.
It was the last joint appearance of U.S. Senate candidates before the election.
McGavick, trailing Cantwell in most polls, said the freshman senator failed to answer questions about Social Security, focused on irrelevant issues in Washington, D.C., and offered mixed signals on Iraq.
While trying to strike a middle ground on abortion rights, McGavick said Cantwell "marches at the front of the NARAL parade." NARAL Pro Choice America is the nation's largest reproductive-rights advocacy group.
For her part, Cantwell touted her work on energy policy, called for an international summit to resolve the violence in Iraq and said the U.S. should open a direct dialogue with North Korea.
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Mostly, Cantwell did not respond to McGavick's barbs. But, during an answer about the budget, she asked, "Do you want to send somebody to Washington who is willing to cut thousands of employees off his payroll and take a cash bonus as a reward for that?"
As chief executive of Safeco, McGavick laid off 1,700 people as he worked to return the company to profitability. He received a bonus of $28 million when he left the company earlier this year.
The two major-party candidates were joined by Libertarian Bruce Guthrie, who loaned his campaign about $1.1 million to qualify for the debate under rules devised by KING-TV, where the debate was held.
Guthrie criticized both Democrats and Republicans on fiscal responsibility and other issues, and called for an immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq.
The former lecturer at Western Washington University got the most laughs from the studio audience of friends and supporters of the candidates when he made light of McGavick's plan to drug-test welfare recipients and said, "I'd prefer drug and alcohol testing of members of Congress themselves."
In the debate, the candidates responded to questions from a panel of local journalists. The debate was co-sponsored by The Seattle Times.
Here are some of the candidates' answers by topic:
McGavick said "we have got to win the war against radical Islamic terrorists" and opposed immediate withdrawal, but said he was unhappy with the current situation in Iraq.
He touted his proposal for a bipartisan congressional committee to study options in Iraq, an idea that was greeted with lukewarm enthusiasm by prominent Republican senators on Monday.
Contending Iraq is in civil war, Guthrie said American troops need to return home as soon and as safely as possible.
Cantwell said "we need to change the course in Iraq," and called on the international community to step up its support of the Iraqis. Noting that Iraqi leaders claim they'll be able to take over their own security soon, Cantwell said she believed their promises.
McGavick praised President Bush's response after the North Korean regime had tested a nuclear device. The administration is working to rally the international community against North Korea and use diplomacy and sanctions to convince the nation to drop its weapons program.
Cantwell opposes Bush's policy of not talking to North Korea outside of the regional negotiations known as the Six Party Talks. She said that "it's important that this problem is so severe that we have direct communication with them."
Asked about her ideas to save the nation's largest entitlement program, Cantwell said she wanted to protect Social Security and rejected personal accounts that would divert money to the stock market. Guthrie said he supported such accounts.
McGavick said "you heard no plan from the incumbent on how to save Social Security." He proposed setting up government-operated, personal accounts that could be invested in the stock market.
"I don't trust Wall Street to manage this money, I don't trust individuals to manage this money. It should be a government program," he said.
Guthrie characterized abortion rights as medical freedom and said the government should do more to streamline adoptions.
McGavick said "choice should exist," but he rejected partial-birth abortions and federal money for abortion, and approved of parental notification for minors seeking the procedure.
As a federal lawmaker, Cantwell said she worked "to uphold the making sure that women have full access to reproductive health-care choices." Unlike McGavick, she declared her support for Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court case that legalized abortion.
Cantwell said she had fought Bush administration plans to re-classify high-level nuclear waste at Hanford so it could be buried rather than removed.
"What we're not going to do on my watch in Washington, D.C., is change the definition of high-level waste to short-circuit cleanup," she said.
Hanford was a "political football," said Guthrie, and "we need people in office who really care about the environment, not about making themselves look good to environmental voters."
McGavick said Cantwell voted with Minority Leader Harry Reid to oppose a proposed federal nuclear waste disposal site at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, Reid's home state. "That's the key piece to how ... we continue to make progress in cleaning up Hanford."
Although the question from the panel of journalists about immigration focused on the crimes committed by illegal immigrants, Guthrie responded: "We are a nation of immigrants. I believe immigrants, on balance, help America culturally and economically." He proposed increasing residency quotas to allow more immigrants in the country legally.
McGavick said "the first thing we have to do is secure and control the borders of the United States." He said he supported a fence across the southern border, a proposal Cantwell rejected, and said illegal immigrants shouldn't be allowed to accrue Social Security benefits, which Cantwell supported.
Touting her endorsements from six law-enforcement organizations in Washington state, Cantwell said a multibillion-dollar fence would divert funds from local police.
Harking back to his experience at Safeco, McGavick said he had turned around a financially troubled business and could bring that experience to Capitol Hill.
Guthrie countered: "It's ironic that my Republican opponent is talking about fiscal responsibility." Federal spending skyrocketed during a time when Republicans controlled Congress, he said, and should be reduced by cutting military spending, ending subsidies to corporations and banning pork projects. "Only then should we reduce taxes. That's the responsible way."
Cantwell said Senate rules that mandate balancing spending increases and tax cuts with revenues should be restored.
In his closing statement, McGavick said "when we look back east at the nation's capital, we just see this bickering and this partisanship instead of citizenship."
Cantwell had some legislative achievements, he said, but "they are on the periphery of what's important."
Cantwell ended her comments by touting her fight against the bankrupt energy company Enron in Snohomish County, her efforts to open foreign markets to local farmers and her work on border security.
After the debate, McGavick said he was "being very plain-spoken about the differences. I've been doing that all along, where the differences are clear and sharply defined."
Cantwell said she did not engage McGavick directly because "I wanted to talk about my record and these issues that are important in Washington state. I expected him, because he's behind and there's a few days before the ballot comes out, he was going to come with a lot of accusations."
Guthrie said he was pleased with his performance, and said he will draw voters from both major candidates.
"I offer them something they can feel good about voting for."
Alex Fryer: 206-464-8124 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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