October 31, 2004 in Opinion

Nethercutt will represent us well

The Spokesman-Review


U.S. Sen. Patty Murray and U.S. Rep. George Nethercutt are good people, with solid congressional records, who have behaved badly in their campaigns for Murray’s Washington Senate seat.

Each has distracted the public with attack television ads that dredged up old controversies. Rather than concentrate on issues, Murray has slammed her opponent for moving to Bellevue and called his truthfulness into question for breaking his term-limits promise several years ago. Rather than focus on differences between Washington’s senior senator and himself, Nethercutt has hammered away at Murray with a misleading account of comments she made about Osama bin Laden to a high school class.

Each of these candidates has worked hard for economic development and to protect Boeing, Fairchild Air Force Base and the state’s universities. Each has taken advantage of key appropriations assignments to win critical funding for Eastern Washington – Nethercutt on the House Committee on Appropriations, Murray on the Senate Transportation Appropriations subcommittee. Neither strikes us as a strong leader or an ideal candidate. Both have contributed a fair share of disingenuousness and negativity to the campaign.

On the surface, these two candidates share much in common, including their backgrounds as outside populists who upset well-established politicians to win their first congressional seat and then became insiders. Beneath the surface, however, they’re philosophically different. Nethercutt’s support for President Bush’s policies on tax cuts, health care reform and terrorism was the tipping point for us. Nethercutt has performed well in representing the 5th District for the past 10 years, and, we believe, he’d be a slightly better U.S. senator than Murray.

Of course, Nethercutt’s superb constituency service and knowledge of his native Spokane and the 5th District come into play here. Simply put, he knows Eastern Washington and the region’s strengths and needs better than Murray.

On the other hand, Murray has an edge in seniority, and we agree with her pro-choice stance and her support of human rights. Nethercutt insists that as a member of the majority — assuming the Senate remains in Republican control — he could be as effective as a freshman as a third-term senator in the minority party. That’s open to debate, but with Nethercutt in the U.S. Senate, Washington would have a voice in both caucuses rather than just the one to which Murray and junior Sen. Maria Cantwell belong. Murray deserves much credit for working to increase funding for Washington’s transportation system, for writing the bill to increase funding for the Coast Guard and for serving as a national advocate for disadvantaged, homeless and migrant students. Nethercutt, however, has earned our endorsement by virtue of his good service to, and understanding of, the Spokane area.

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