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Sales tax deduction request filed

In an annual exercise, Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray have joined a group asking Congress to make permanent the sales tax deduction for residents of states that don't have an income tax.

As usual, the request makes for some strange bedfellows for the two Washington Democrats, because some states without an income tax are very red, like Texas, but they all share an aversion to a state income tax. Congress has granted the deduction on an annual or biannual basis for more than a decade, so making it permanent might seem logical.

But this is Congress, so logic has relatively little to do with it. The sales tax deduction is usually wrapped in with other tax breaks and used as a bargaining chip on other legislation late in the year. Without a request for a permanent deduction, it might get left out of the bargaining for the temporary one.

One of these years, maybe — just maybe — Congress will actually accomplish something like major tax reform and slip the permanent deduction in. We expect that to happen right it after finds a leprechaun at the end of a rainbow, grabs his pot of gold and hauls it back to the Capitol on a unicorn.

Biden in Seattle

This pool report from Vice President Joe Biden's stop in Seattle, courtesy of Joel Connelly of the Seattle P-I, just in via smart phone:

    Vice President Joe Biden riffed from domestic violence to the minimum wage, from CEO salaries to infrastructure needs, as he raised money in Seattle for Democratic women running for the Senate. 

 The Vice President spoke to more than 800 people at a Women of Valor lunch put on by Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.
   Washington does not have a Senate seat or Governor's office up this year, so had been a fundraising destination for Biden and President Obama.
   "The middle class is not a number, it is a value set," Biden declared, talking about earning power.  With rising income disparity, he added, "It's fading and we damned well need to reestablish it."
The Vice President, an original author of the Violence Against Women Act, spoke at length about domestic violence.
      "Men have a responsibility to stand up, men have a responsibility to intervene, men have a responsibility to take responsibility," he argued.
 What will define success in curbing domestic violence?
   "Success is when not a single woman asks herself, 'What did I do?'" said Biden. "It is never, never the woman's fault. Never. "
  Biden, the partisan, said he hopes the election will "get out of the way some of the dead wood that keeps us from acting."
   Events at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center have established a kind of popularity pecking order among top Democrats.
    Bill Clinton drew 1,500 to a 2012 luncheon, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren , drew 1,200 earlier this year. 

Cantwell to NFL: Give up ‘Skins or tax break

The NFL would lose its not-for-profit status, and millions of dollars, if the Washington Redskins don't change their names under a bill being introduced soon by Sen. Maria Cantwell.

The Washington state Democrat joined the National Congress of American Indians in calling for the name change. But if it doesn't happen,  Cantwell said, she's prepared to hit the league where it would  hurt most — in the wallet.

The NFL currently is registered as a 501 c (6) not for profit organization. A bill she expects to introduce by the end of the month would deny that status to any professional sports league that has a team named "Redskins" . . . 

 

Bipartisan Ex-Im Bank bill introduced in Senate

Washington's two senators helped sponsor a bipartisan bill Thursday that would keep a major export program vital to the state from going out of business.

But Congress, which starts a five-week recess this weekend, will have to use parliamentary shortcuts to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank for five years before its current charter runs out on Sept. 30. . . 

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

U.S. Senate confirms Mendoza as federal judge

The U.S. Senate overwhelmingly confirmed Salvador Mendoza Jr. for the federal district court in Eastern Washington.

Mendoza is currently a Benton and Franklin County Superior Court judge. The son of migrant farm workers, he will be the first Latino federal judge for the Washington's Eastern District. 

The  nomination first survived a filibuster attempt when the Senate voted 55-37 to cut off debate through a cloture vote. He was then approved on a 92-4 vote, with Washington Democratic Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell voting yes after both spoke strongly in favor of his appointment. Idaho Republican Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch provided half of the no votes against the appointment.

Senate Dems to NFL: Change Redskins name

Maria Cantwell, Patty Murray and most other Democrats in the U.S. Senate sent the NFL a letter saying it's time to come up with a new name for the Washington Redskins.

Cantwell followed it up with a speech on the Senate floor, urging the rest of the Senate to get behind the push. "I'm convinced that if each member of this body speaks on this issue and is forceful in their resolve, that we can help initiate change."

The letter drew a comparison between changing the D.C. team's name and the NBA banning L.A. Clippers' owner Donald Sterling from attending basketball games for his racist comments.

"So what is it going to take to get the name of this team changed?" Cantwell asked in her floor speech. "Even the patent office, a federal agency with determining whether a word can be protected in commerce says this term is a derogatory slang and is disparaging to Native Americans."

To read the full letter, or to comment, click here to continue inside the blog.

Wilderness advocates contest fire lookout historic status

WILDERNESS — While historic preservation groups praise Congressional action to keep the Green Mountain lookout standing in the

North Cascades, wilderness groups led by Montana-based Wilderness Watch, say the effort falls short of historic preservation and flies in the face of wilderness values.

Gary Macfarlane of the Friends of the Clearwater forwarded the photo above with this message:

I saw your post about the new replica Green Mountain lookout in the Glacier Peak Wilderness. Here is some background. Attached is a photo of the lookout as it was being constructed recently. It is not a historic structure.  While the original lookout was ferried across a river, packed 20 miles to the top of Green Mountain with mules, and constructed by hand, the latest incarnation was hauled in by helicopter—60-plus loads worth—and constructed using generators and power tools. 

Wilderness Watch is a national organization with headquarters in Montana. It has staff in other states and board members from around the country, including a board member in Washington. I am a board member who lives in Idaho.

Historic preservation vs. wilderness in Green Mountain lookout debate

PUBLIC LANDS — Spearheaded by Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a measure last week to save the popular Green Mountain fire lookout, which a federal judge has ordered removed from its perch in the Glacier Peak Wilderness.

The U.S. House approved the bill by a voice vote on Monday and it's on the way to the desk of President Obama, who's indicated he supports it.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation responded to the vote with praise for the Green Mountain Lookout protection bill as a milestone in the ongoing national discussion about historic resources on public lands.

"The S. 404 legislation protects an integral piece of the Pacific Northwest’s heritage, a key contributor to its local economy and asserts that wilderness protection need not come at the expense of historic preservation," said Erica Stewart, the group's media contact.

The structure was built on 6,500-foot Green Mountain in Washington’s North Cascades in 1933 by the Civilian Conservation Corps. It served as a fire lookout and as a perch for detecting enemy aircraft during World War II. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

The Forest Service used a helicopter and machinery to repair it in 2009. That prompted a lawsuit from a Montana-based environmental group: Such methods aren’t allowed in federal wilderness areas, they charged, and the judge agreed.

But since the lookout preceded the 1964 Wilderness Act, and since its remote perch makes a major overhaul in today's budget climates prohibitive without motorized help, the use of a helicopter was justified, officials say. 

 “Obviously, we’re disappointed that they’re doing this,” said George Nikas, executive director of the Montana-based Wilderness Watch, shortly before the House vote. The group sued in 2010 to challenge the structure’s construction. “It’s not only harmful to the Glacier Peak Wilderness, it sets a very troubling dangerous precedent for wilderness.” 

The structure is popular with hikers, tourists and locals in nearby Darrington, which is reeling from a nearby devastating mud slide that blocked access through the area and killed at least 33 people.

Read on for more background and the full statement by Stephanie Meeks, NTHP president:

Democratic senators tag-team all-nighter

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Senate is pulling an all-nighter.  More than two dozen senators will take turns speaking from tonight through tomorrow morning to drum up support for legislation to address climate change.

Technically it's not a filibuster, since the senators aren't delaying a vote on a bill. So it's not quite like the last all-nighter staged by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, prior to the government shut down in October, when he spoke for over 21 hours by himself.

In a speech in the beginning hours of the event Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., cited the effects climate change is having on the federal budget and how businesses stand to benefit from efforts to combat it.

“We know the solutions to reduce pollution and emissions that cause climate change create good-paying jobs,” Murray said. “Jobs that put money back in families’ pockets through low-cost energy sources and increased efficiencies in homes.”

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., briefly spoke at the event's beginning about the affect climate change is having on Washington's fishing industry. She's expected to speak more Tuesday morning as the event is winding down.

Cantwell stepping down as chair of Indian Affairs

Senator Maria Cantwell, D-Wash, is stepping down as chairwoman of the Indian Affairs Committee.

Cantwell said during a meeting Wednesday that Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., will take over the committee in the coming months.

No explanation was given, but a Washington Post report earlier this month from January hinted that Cantwell could be in line to chair the Senate Small Business Commitee soon due to other senators leaving or changing committees.

The committee’s highest ranking Republican Sen. John Barrasso and Tester praised Cantwell’s tenure as chair.

“I appreciate your leadership and vision of this committee,” said Tester. “The poor soul that has to follow you has to live up to your legacy.”

A spokesman from Cantwell’s office said nothing official has been decided yet as to which committee Cantwell will be moving to and declined to comment on speculation.

Cantwell is currently the third highest ranking Democrat on the Small Business committee behind chairwoman Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La, who’s rumored to be leaving to chair the Senate Energy Committee and Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich, who is not running for reelection.

Putting things on the line for the Seahawks

If it's playoff season, that can mean only one thing in politics: Elected officials from Washington will make bets with elected officials in other locales over the outcome of Saturday's game between the Seahawks and the Saints.

Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell made a bet with Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu that involves Pike Place Pale Ale and oysters from Taylor Shellfish Farms against charbroiled oysters and Abita Amber beer.

Reps Denny Heck, Derek Kilmer and Suzan DelBene, all West Side Democrats, made a bet with Rep. Cedric Richmond, a New Orleans Democrat, which includes a basket with Woodinville wine, smoked salmon, Almond Roca, Fisher Fair Scone mix and a bag of Skittles against a basket with Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey, a Randazzo King Cake and New Orleans Pralines.

Skittles? Fans showered running back Marshawn Lynch with the candy after a score against the St. Louis Rams, so it's kind of an insider's joke.

Also, the loser or losers have to wear a pin with the winning team's logo on the House floor next week.

All of these wagers appear to be a step up from the old Washington pol's bet, which usually consisted of a basket of apples. But if the 'Hawks keep winning, we can only hope the bets get more creative and interesting.

As for Gov. Jay Inslee, staff says he hasn't made a bet with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. He's been a little busy this week getting ready for the start of the Legislature and his State of the State speech next week. But he did make a bet of sorts — that he wouldn't come down with pneumonia raising the 12th Man flag in front of the Capitol in the rain this week.

Midterm grades for Inland Northwest lawmakers

We're halfway through the 113th Congress, and legislative watchdog GovTrack.us has handed down its marks for lawmakers based on multiple indicators of legislative success.

Inland Northwest legislators had their fingers in several pieces of sweeping, high-profile federal legislation enacted in 2013, including an update to the Violence Against Women Act cosponsored by Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, and a bipartisan budget resolution with Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., as its Democratic steward. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers also earned the rare distinction of a unanimous House of Representatives vote in favor of her bill easing licensing restrictions for dams with limited power capacities.

GovTrack, an independent bill-tracking service launched in 2004, ranked lawmakers across several categories, including number of roll call votes missed, number of bills sponsored and how many of the 20 bills the service identified as enhancing government transparency the lawmaker voted for. The rankings are comprehensive, but here are some highlights for those representing the Inland Northwest:

  • McMorris Rodgers and Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Pasco, are the only two Inland Northwest lawmakers who introduced bills that became law. In addition to McMorris Rodgers' dam bill, Hastings introduced legislation establishing a national helium fund for proceeds of the gas' production on federal lands. The bill passed both chambers by wide margins.
  • McMorris Rodgers, who gave birth to a baby girl in November, has missed the greatest percentage of votes in the 113th Congress among Inland Northwest delegates, failing to record a preference in 7.5% of votes tallied so far. In the Senate, which votes far less frequently, Cantwell has missed 0.3% of roll calls, the lowest share among area lawmakers.
  • Among those lawmakers tracked by GovTrack, Cantwell has the highest share of bills she's cosponsored joined by members of the competing party. More than half - or 53.3% - of Cantwell's bills have been joined by a GOP cosponsor. Cantwell's colleague in the Senate, Patty Murray, was joined by a GOP lawmaker as a cosponsor on 29% of her bills, slightly lower than the percentage of bills proposed by McMorris Rodgers (29.4%) and Hastings (35%) joined by Democrats. Unlisted in the figures provided by GovTrack were Crapo, Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Eagle).
      

Congress is mulling a number of major legislative initiatives in the coming months as lawmakers prep for another election cycle. On tap are major bills addressing unemployment benefits, immigration reform and an extension of agriculture legislation.

I’ll accept your challenge, Riccelli

PHOTO CAPTION: Marcus Riccelli, then a staffer for U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, runs the 2009 Bloomsday with Cantwell. Picture provided by Riccelli.

I got an unusual news release yesterday from state Rep. Marcus Riccelli.

Riccelli, D-Spokane, announced that his New Year’s resolution is to run Bloomsday. He challenged me to do the same.

“Today, the first day of the new year, I am committing to running Bloomsday in 2014 and am challenging Spokesman-Review reporter Jonathan Brunt to do the same,” Riccelli said in a new release before mocking the eating and exercise habits of politicians and journalists. “I think that both of us can set a good example for our colleagues and the public by participating in Bloomsday.”

I was too busy watching my alma mater win the Rose Bowl to respond immediately.

In praise of compromise and civility

President Obama speaks at the memorial service for Tom Foley.

WASHINGTON – In a service that contrasted the state of today’s Congress with the House Tom Foley left nearly two decades ago, past and current leaders extolled the former Spokane speaker’s ability to see another person’s point of view, compromise and get things done.

Republicans as well as Democrats praised the late congressman and ambassador, repeating stories he shared or advice he gave about honoring public service. And one leader who acknowledged he didn’t know Foley personally but admired his reputation said it was time to emulate him.

“Now, more than ever, America needs public servants who are willing to place problem-solving ahead of politics,” President Barack Obama said.

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

More congressional reax on Syria speech

After President Obama gave his speech on Syria last night, there was a scramble to get reaction from the region's congressional delegation, and fit  it into the tight space in this morning's Spokesman-Review. We wound up with a shortened version of the reaction. For a fuller version of their comments, go inside the blog. 

 

Sen. Cantwell supports Green Mountain Lookout in wilderness

PUBLIC LANDS – U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) urged a key Senate subcommittee today to move forward on a bill to preserve the historic Green Mountain Lookout in the Glacier Peak Wilderness near Darrington, Wash.

Wilderness advocates have pressed the Forest Service to remove the historic lookout, in part because its precarious location requires helicopter maintenance in violation of wilderness rules.

Darrington-area groups are trying to keep the lookout intact for visitors.

Cantwell advocated for the passage of the Green Mountain Lookout Heritage Protection Act (S. 404) on Tuesday, during a hearing in the Public Lands, Forestry and Mining Subcommittee of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

A representative of the U.S. Forest Service voiced the department’s support for S. 404 during the hearing, and said that local residents wanted the lookout to remain at Green Mountain.

Read on for more details and links to Cantwell's statements.

Hastings introduces permanent sales tax deduction bill

Another volley has been launched at the temporary status of the sales tax deduction on federal income tax returns. Once again, it comes from a Washington lawmaker.

Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Pasco, filed a bill with Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., Tuesday that would make permanent a sales tax deduction written into the federal tax code. Current law, solidified in last year's fiscal cliff deal, extends the deduction through next year only. Meanwhile, taxpayers enjoy the income tax deduction on a permanent basis.

Like others before him, including Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., who authored similar legislation across Capitol Hill in January, Hastings argued the issue is one of fairness for states that collect no income tax.

"Residents of states that do not collect income taxes, like my home state of Washington, should be allowed to continue to deduct their state sales taxes from their federal income tax obligations each year without relying on short term extensions of the law," Hastings said in a prepared statement Tuesday announcing the bill.

Spec Sess Day 16: Beyond halfway mark

OLYMPIA — The Legislature starts the second half of the special session with the pace it maintained through most of the first half… if standing still can be said to be a pace.

While much of the rest of the state returns from its three-day weekend, legislators have at least a four day weekend. There is nothing on their schedules in or around the Capitol. The Senate has a pro forma session — where a couple of members are on the floor for a brief run-through of routine business — at noon Wednesday. The House may have a session on Thursday.

It's likely there will be more politicians in Spokane today than in Olympia.

Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell each have public events — Murray's is on early childhood education and Cantwell's is on an item of the farm bill that helps farmers and school nutrition programs — and state Rep. Marcus Riccelli and state Sen. Andy Billig are joining a group at the Health District Building to talk about the recent ricin investigation.

Felts tower to stay open

Remember how Congress moved almost like greased lightning to keep stop the slowdown in commercial flights that the sequester was going to cause?

And remember how the jaded among you said that was just because they were getting to leave on recess, and didn't want to face delays as they flew home for the break?

Well, turns out there's some dough left from the money the FAA moved around to keep air traffic controllers off furlough, and it's going to help the little airports like Felts Field. And gee, they almost never fly into the little airports…at least not outside of campaign season.

Read more inside the blog.

Senators weigh in on FAA tower closure plans

WASHINGTON — Powerful Congressional voices on transportation issues, including Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington, admonished the Federal Aviation Administration for plans to shutter control towers nationwide as a result of federal spending cuts, including Spokane’s tower at Felts Field.

 Cantwell joined six of her colleagues on Capitol Hill to sign a letter insisting the agency look at other options to comply with mandated federal spending cuts. The signees warn the closures, which would hit 149 towers under contract with the FAA, could have air safety ramifications that have not yet been looked at closely.

 “It is deeply troubling that the agency seems intent on proceeding with the closure of key air traffic control assets absent adequate safety data and study,” the legislators wrote in a letter delivered to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and FAA Administrator Michael Huerta on Thursday.

 The Felts Field tower was scheduled to close April 7, but the FAA delayed those plans until June 15. The Senate Commerce Committee plans to hold a hearing next week to press officials on the affect federal budget cuts would have on air safety. Huerta will be among those testifying.

 Cantwell was among several Commerce Committee members who signed the letter, along with Committee Chairman Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, D-W.Va., Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., and Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H.

Cantwell to head Indian Affairs Committee

Sen. Maria Cantwell will be the chairwoman of the Indian Affairs Committee in the new Congress.

Democrats announced their expected committee assignments for next year, which are essentially done deals for everything but a pro forma vote at the beginning of the session. Cantwell has been a member of Indian Affairs since coming to the Senate in 2001, and will be taking over that panel, as well as remaining on Commerce, Science and Transportation; Energy and Natural Resources; Finance; and Small Business and Entrepreneurship. 

She will be the first woman to lead the Indian Affairs Committee. Washington has more than three dozen tribes within its borders, although not all are federally recognized.

Mapping the Vote: Spokane on U.S. Senate

Democrat Maria Cantwell easily won a third term in the U.S. Senate in the statewide vote, but is running only slightly ahead of Republican Mike Baumgartner in Spokane County. If trends hold, Baumgartner's home county would be the only Eastern Washington County she carries.

Click here for a look at the statewide map.

For a closer look at the Spokane County map, click on the PDF document below


Documents:

Baumgartner tied with Cantwell? Well, yes; but no

One of the dozens of e-mails in today's Inbox had this tantalizing subject line: "Cantwell/Baumgartner tied in Social Media Buzz"

A nice person from a public relations firm said she had some data on that race that might interest us: "According to a new media index from Temple University and LexisNexis, Maria Cantewell and Michael Baumgartner are in one of the tightest races in the country. The candidates are tied in social media buzz, as well as print and broadcast media mentions of the candidates."

Wha-what?? as Scooby Doo might say.

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, go inside the blog.

Notes from a Democratic rally

About 150 gathered for U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell’s campaign rally this evening in Spokane at the Lincoln Center.

There wasn’t much we haven’t heard on the trail before, so here are a few miscellaneous thoughts:

— The Democrats appear enthused about the race for Congress. Sure, it’s still somewhat of long-shot for them and Democrat Rich Cowan did not come near to raising the $1 million he said was his goal when he began his campaign for the seat in Washington’s 5th Congressional District.

But he’s not Daryl Romeyn, who was the party’s nominee two years ago and who was not embraced by the party. Cowan has raised enough to advertise on TV and he even got a mention recently in the Capital Hill newspaper, Roll Call.

Gubernatorial debate tonight; U.S Senate Friday

Joe Biden and Paul Ryan aren't the only debate on the schedule tonight for Washington voters.

In a sense, they are the opening act for Jay Inslee and Rob McKenna, who will debate in Seattle at 9 p.m. (Although some people might argue the governor's debate is more like the second movie at the drive-in double feature, the one many people don't bother to stay up to watch all the way to the end. But it's all about personal preferences.)

The debate is such a huge deal in Seattle that it is on most of the city's broadcast stations, and most are supplying a moderator or questioner to the show. In Spokane, KREM-TV is carrying it.

Ryan v. Biden is a 90 minute event, which starts at 6 p.m. local time. McKenna v. Inslee is scheduled for 60 minutes.

Speaking of debates, what is likely to be the only debate of the U.S. Senate race between Democratic incumbent Maria Cantwell and Republican challenger Mike Baumgartner occurs Friday, also in Seattle at KCTS-TV, the public television studio. The Spokesman-Review will be there for same day coverage on the web and print coverage the next morning. It will air in Spokane next Tuesday, on KSPS-TV, channel 7.

The folks at KSPS worked mightily to bring a second Senate debate to Spokane, but the Cantwell people have so far only agreed to one debate, total.

There's a precedent for Cantwell agreeing to a late debate in Spokane. That happened in 2000, in her run against incumbent Slade Gorton, when no one was sure until the last minute whether she'd appear at a Rotary-sponsored debate. Her campaign said no, then it said yes, but she almost didn't make it because fog was delaying flights that morning at Spokane International Airport.

If something similar happens this year, it may not appear on the tube. Late commitments are hard to work into a television schedule.

Today’s fun video: Brown, Cantwell try comedy

 

Washington Democrats got together recently to give out awards, and the prize for "Rising Star" went to former legislative and congressional aide Marcus Riccelli, a current candidate for the state House of Representatives.

One might think that Democrats might want to hold off on proclaiming stardom until Riccelli actually beat Republican Tim Benn for that seat — imagine something akin to the political equivalent of the Sports Illustrated cover jinx — but apparently they believe the 3rd Legislative District is blue enough that winning the primary makes him a sure bet in November.

To mark the occasion, two of his former bosses, U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell and state Sen. Lisa Brown, performed a Saturday Night Live "Weekend Update" style tribute to Riccelli. While it has a few good lines and cute bits — notice the big map behind them is a state map — it makes clear that Cantwell and Brown should not quit their day jobs.

But wait a minute. Brown actually did quit her day job as Senate Majority leader, and the dominoes that fell, with Rep. Andy Billig running for her seat created the opening that Riccelli is trying to fill. So cancel that. Let's just say that when Brown figures out her next career, it probably won't be in standup comedy.

Cantwell outraises Baumgartner 3-to-1

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell raised more than three times as much money for her re-election campaign in the last quarter as her Republican challenger, state Sen. Mike Baumgartner, raised in his effort to unseat her.

The Cantwell campaign reported last week she had raised more than $1 million in the three-month reporting period that ended Sept. 30. That brought her total to about $11.5 million for this election cycle, and she has about $2 million on-hand for the last five weeks of the campaign.

The Baumgartner campaign said today he had raised almost $312,000 in that same three-month cycle, which would bring his total contributions for the campaign to slighly over $1 million. Totals for expenses aren't yet available, a campaign spokeswoman said.

The two U.S. Senate candidates are scheduled to  debate on Friday at the studios of Seattle's public television station, KCTS-TV. The debate will be taped, and will air in Spokane on KSPS-TV, Channel 7, on Oct. 16, after the second presidential debate. It's the only debate in the U.S. Senate race scheduled thus far.

Sunday Spin: A Republican says yes to a tax hike

Early last week, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Mike Baumgartner may have raised some eyebrows by endorsing I-502, the ballot measure that would legalize marijuana for adults in Washington. Later in the week he offered up another surprise.

He backed a tax increase. Seriously. A Republican. Not making this up.

Baumgartner said he would support a 1 cent per gallon tax on gasoline, provided the money went to a special fund for veterans care. The Spokane Republican made the statement after a visit to Joint Base Lewis McChord’s Madigan Medical Center, and said would help ensure returning troops get the care they need.

“Equally important, this small tax will remind each and every American every time they fill up at the pump there is still a war going on with nearly 70,000 troops in harm’s way,” he said. “War isn’t free.”
With the way the price of gas fluctuates these days, drivers might not notice an extra penny. But the no-new-tax crowd probably would. He may get a nasty-gram from them.

Maybe he’ll get a chance to talk about it later this week in the one debate he has scheduled with Democratic incumbent Maria Cantwell. That debate will air Oct. 16 on KSPS-TV.
  

Cantwell has big lead in poll, fundraising

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell's re-election campaign was crowing about two bits of good news for her:

Federal Election Commission reports filed this week showed she raised more than $1 million fo the third quarter of this campaign year. And a new poll by Rasmussen Reports shows her with a 20-point lead over Republican challenger Mike Baumgartner.

Rasmussen also has President Obama up by 11 points over Republican challenger Mitt Romney, and Washington's gubernatorial race in a virtual dead heat, with Democrat Jay Inslee at 46 percent and Republican Rob McKenna at 45 percent. (Editor's note: Earlier versions of this post had the numbers for the governor's race reversed.)

A spokeswoman for the Baumgartner campaign says they expect to have a figure for third quarter contributions by Friday.

Baumgartner endorses marijuana initiative

State Sen. Mike Baumgartner, who is running for the U.S. Senate against Democrat Maria Cantwell, today announced support for a state initiative that would legalize marijuana for personal use in Washington.

The Spokane Republican said it was time for a new approach to the nation's drug policy, and called Initiative 502 a "thoughtful step forward." Time spent as an advisor to a counternarcotics team in Afghanistan convinced him that drug cartels are gaining from the United States approach to criminalizing marijuana for adults, he added.

"By failing to regulate and tax marijuana in a responsible manner, we are allowing billions of dollars to flow into their coffers," he said. "And American lives are put in danger at  home and abroad."

Cantwell supports the state’s medical marijuana law, which is already in conflict with federal drug regulations, but said she does not support I-502. In a statement released by her campaign, she said it should not be "legalized for recreational purposes based on concerns from law enforcement".

"Whatever the result, I will honor the will of the voters’ decision in November," she said.

Baumgartner said the states should have more independence to experiment with drug laws. . .

To read the rest of this post, click here to go inside the blog.