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Participation of Libertarian in Senate debate is up in the air
Seattle Times staff reporter
Bruce Guthrie, Libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate, says he's a frugal guy who hates debt.
But that didn't stop him from taking a $375,000 mortgage on his Bellingham home and loaning his campaign about another $800,000 to try to get a seat next to the major party candidates for a televised debate Oct. 17.
How much of that money Guthrie will actually spend is unclear. So is whether he will get admitted to the KING-TV debate between incumbent Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell and Republican challenger Mike McGavick.
"I shouldn't be able to buy my way into these debates with money," Guthrie said. "But the Republicans and Democrats are colluding to shut out these alternative voices."
The personal investment gives Guthrie's longshot effort a boost of publicity and potentially enables McGavick to raise more money under a provision of the Federal Election Commission's Millionaires Amendment, which is designed to level the playing field with self-financed candidates.
Under the rules, McGavick would be able to ask donors who gave the maximum $4,200 for an additional $2,100 until he raised a total of $840,000. After that, the lower limit would go back into effect.
Cantwell, because she has more money in the bank, would not be allowed to raise money over the contribution limits.
McGavick's spokesman, Elliott Bundy, said the Millionaires Amendment won't make much of an impact.
"In the grand scheme of things, it could help, but it won't make the difference between winning and losing," Bundy said.
Combined with about $31,000 he has already raised, Guthrie's campaign loan — $1,181,700 — is the exact amount that KING-TV and The Seattle Times, sponsors of the debate, require candidates to have.
Criteria for debate participation, provided to Guthrie on Aug. 30, say fundraising is an "indicator of seriousness of purpose and public support." Candidates had to have raised at least 10 percent of the total raised by the 2004 Senate winner, Sen. Patty Murray.
Mike Cate, a producer at KING-TV, said station officials and others involved in the debate will have to determine whether a self-financed campaign indicates public support. Also, KING-TV relies on the FEC to post all the candidates' financial statements. The deadline for quarterly reports is Oct. 15, two days before the debate.
Guthrie, 43, twice ran for Congress as a Libertarian in the 2nd District, which stretches from Everett to the Canadian border. He received 2 percent in 2002 and 3 percent two years later.
A native of the Chicago area, Guthrie earned a master's degree from Northwestern University and lectured at Western Washington University. A speedskating enthusiast, he recently moved to Seattle.
Like Green Party candidate Aaron Dixon and Hong Tran, who received only 5 percent in the Democratic primary, Guthrie hopes to attract votes from people angry about the war in Iraq. Guthrie wants the troops home as quickly as possible.
He said he is socially liberal, advocating civil unions regardless of sexual preference. The term "married" would apply only to those relationships sanctioned by specific churches.
After ending enforcement of drug laws, Guthrie would legalize marijuana and other drugs such as psychedelic mushrooms, although he said some drugs may cause too much chaos.
"We may never get to meth, but let's run an incremental experiment," he said.
He supports ending Social Security as an entitlement program and creating personal accounts. He'd like to give the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to the Sierra Club or Natural Resources Defense Council. The Republican Party, he said, has no fiscal discipline.
Standing before a U.S. flag as a photographer took his picture, Guthrie said the stars and stripes mean a lot to him as a symbol of hope and decency.
Then he added: "And I still believe you have a right to burn it."
Alex Fryer: 206-464-8124 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company