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Politics Northwest

The Seattle Times political team explores national, state and local politics.

September 14, 2011 at 3:29 PM

Baumgartner & Yin: two GOP challengers for Cantwell?

Posted by Jim Brunner

Republicans have been searching for months for someone -- anyone -- to challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell in 2012.

Now they've come up with two possible contenders, but neither is exactly well known statewide, and one is a political novice.

State Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane, confirms he is seriously exploring a run and will make an announcement in the next month or so. Baumgartner is a first-term legislator who defeated Democratic incumbent Chris Marr last year, in one of the most expensive legislative contests in state history.

Baumgartner has been making the rounds in Western Washington, talking with party leaders and others to line up support. He did an interview with KING 5's Robert Mak last week.

Obviously, Baumgartner would face an uphill battle. Candidates from Eastern Washington have not won a top statewide office in a long, long time. But he'd have little to lose. Baumgartner said if he runs, he'll still hang on to his state Senate seat.

He worked as a diplomat and business consultant before running for office.

Baumgartner said he's heard a lot of support for his candidacy and doesn't think his Spokane ZIP code would be an insurmountable barrier. "I don't think people in Washington are too concerned about where people are from," he said, while conceding "we'd need to build a base of support over here in Seattle."

The other candidate is a Washington state native now working overseas.

Phillip Yin is a TV anchor for Bloomberg Television, based in Hong Kong.

Rumors about an unnamed media-affiliated candidate have been circulating for months, and Yin on Wednesday confirmed he plans to file against Cantwell in October.

"It's been under wraps for nearly six months," said Yin, reached by telephone in Hong Kong.

Yin worked at investment firms before his Bloomberg job, so he would bring an economics background to a campaign.

He grew up in Yakima and has a home on Mercer Island. According to his Bloomberg bio, Yin received an undergrad business degree from the University of Washington and an International MBA from Georgetown University.

Though he works in Hong Kong, Yin said he's definitely a local and splits his time between the Seattle area and Asia.

This would be his first run for office but Yin said he feels people "are very upset with the establishment: and willing to hear new voices. "I think we need somebody who is strong on the economy and strong on message," he said.

The GOP would no doubt like to snag a better-known challenger for Cantwell. Congressman Dave Reichert has said he's still thinking about it. But Reichert's House district looks like it will only get safer in redistricting this year, and insiders say they think he'll stay put.

State Republican Party Chairman Kirby Wilbur said either Yin or Baumgartner could surprise people, given current national trends. He pointed to Tuesday's Republican victory in the traditionally Democratic New York district most recently held by disgraced Congressman Anthony Weiner.

"I like the idea of someone without a lot of political experience," Wilbur said. "Where we are today is where the people with experience got us, so maybe it's time for a different type of experience."

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can't have the same person doing the same job for too long. it breeds incest and complacency and buddy-buddy system. get cantwell out and...  Posted on September 15, 2011 at 3:06 PM by local hoops fan. Jump to comment
International business? That is what Washington is and who Washington needs! Cant (Do anything) well has done nothing for washington state. Name...  Posted on September 14, 2011 at 11:18 PM by governmentistheproblem. Jump to comment
Both men would be much, much better than Cantwell.  Posted on September 14, 2011 at 10:33 PM by Sounders4Glory. Jump to comment