Don Benton, veteran state senator, seeks to take on Patty Murray in November
State Sen. Don Benton has become the latest, and possibly the strongest, candidate to announce he's running for U.S. Sen. Patty Murray's seat this fall.
Seattle Times staff reporter
State Sen. Don Benton has become the latest, and possibly the strongest, candidate to announce he's running for Democratic U.S. Sen. Patty Murray's seat this fall.
Benton, R-Vancouver, has been a state senator since 1996 and also served a term in the state House of Representatives. He said Sunday he was inspired in part by Republican Sen. Scott Brown's upset victory in Massachusetts, and he's retained the same consulting team behind Brown's candidacy.
State Democratic Chairman Dwight Pelz called Benton's legislative record "unimpressive." He said Benton "may be the strongest candidate in the race so far," but only because the other six candidates have no political experience.
Benton said he believes in "common-sense conservatism" and criticized Murray as "moving in lock-step" with President Obama on an agenda to nationalize banks, medicine and the auto industry.
A critic of big government and an opponent of tax increases, he says he's in alignment with members of the Tea Party movement and their call for smaller government and lower taxes. Benton said he has never voted to increase taxes in his 16-year tenure in the Legislature.
The 52-year-old Republican operates a business, The Benton Group, that runs sales-training programs, advertising and marketing seminars, mostly for TV stations.
In 1998, Benton unsuccessfully ran against Democratic U.S. Rep. Brian Baird of Vancouver for a seat in the U.S. House.
Also running against Murray are: Chris Widener, a motivational writer and speaker from Preston; Sean Salazar, a Mountlake Terrace chiropractor; Clint Didier, a former tight end for the Washington Redskins and the Green Bay Packers from Pasco; Craig Williams, an energy trader and Realtor from Vancouver; Arthur Coday Jr., a physician from Shoreline; and Rod Rieger, owner of a security-systems company in Marysville.
Benton said he believes he has more experience and better fundraising skills than any of the other Republican candidates.
Murray, who is serving her third term as U.S. senator, has a huge fundraising lead over all the challengers. She reported more than $5 million in cash on hand at the end of last year, according to the Federal Election Commission.
Benton touted his experience as chairman of the state Republican Party in 2000, during which time he says he was a highly successful fundraiser for the party.
But during his tenure, Benton was criticized for not spending enough money on candidates in the fall 1999 campaigns, and for buying a building in Olympia and announcing the party would move there from Tukwila without getting approval from the party's executive board.
He ignored calls by the executive board to resign and eventually was ousted and replaced by Chris Vance after eight months as chairman.
Katherine Long: 206-464-2219 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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