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Originally published January 30, 2012 at 5:52 PM | Page modified February 2, 2012 at 4:18 PM

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Cantwell's financial lead over GOP challenger widens

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell says she raised $1.45 million in campaign cash during the fourth quarter, giving her $4 million cash on hand so far to defend her Senate seat. Her Republican challenger, Michael Baumgartner, raised $120,000 in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Seattle Times Washington bureau

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell widened her significant financial lead over Republican Michael Baumgartner, taking in 10 times the money in the final three months of 2011 for her re-election than her challenger has raised.

Cantwell, a two-term Democrat, raised $1.45 million during the fourth quarter. That brings her cash on hand to $4 million. Baumgartner, a freshman state senator from Spokane who officially entered the race in October, has said he raised about $120,000 in the fourth quarter.

Individual donors accounted for almost all of the money Cantwell raised in the fourth quarter, or at least $1.31 million. An additional $108,000 was Cantwell's share of money brought in by four joint fundraising committees. They include one with Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic challenger to Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts, and the Women's Senate Victory Fund.

Cantwell as a matter of policy does not accept money from political-action committees, though she does take money from campaign committees of fellow lawmakers.

Her fundraising edge is one reason why several leading pollsters and political scientists so far rate Washington's Senate race as safely or leaning Democratic.

Compared to her 2006 re-election, defending Cantwell's seat this time likely could cost far less. Cantwell has taken in just over $8 million since her victory over former Safeco chief Mike McGavick. Cantwell raised nearly $19 million for that race.

Her campaign still owes her $2.2 million she lent for her 2000 race against then Sen. Slade Gorton.

Baumgartner, 36, has struggled to get financial traction for his campaign. He has not filed his quarterly fundraising report, due Tuesday, to the Federal Election Commission.

U.S. Rep. David Reichert, R-Auburn, has been touted as a potential challenger to Cantwell. Reichert, whose 8th Congressional District will become more Republican leaning because of redistricting, has said he expects to make up his mind soon.

According to Cantwell's campaign, more than 37,000 individuals have given to her campaign. Nearly 20,000 of them were first-time donors in 2011.

Kyung Song: 202-662-7455 or ksong@seattletimes.com

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