The gloves are off in the 6th legislative district Senate race.
After trading jabs for the past few months, Republican incumbent Michael Baumgartner and Democratic challenger Rich Cowan now are pummeling each other in a series of back-and-forth sound bites and other insults triggered by a new attack ad.
The salvo opened late last week with a misleading Cowan TV spot accusing Baumgartner of being a stooge for out-of-state corporations enjoying state tax breaks that siphon money away from Washington's school children.
Baumgartner quickly called foul on the claims, filed a complaint with the PDC over an apparent technical omission in the TV ad, and accused Cowan of being a hypocrite for owning a company registered out of state that benefits from millions in state tax breaks for the film industry.
"It's inaccurate, illegal and hypocritical," Baumgartner said, explaining that Cowan's ads fail to include a spoken reference to his partisan affiliation: "He's trying to hide that he's a Democrat."
The Cowan campaign fired back that Baumgartner talks a lot about supporting private business and bringing jobs to Spokane but doesn't appear to have ever owned his own business nor personally ever created a new job here -- choosing instead to attack an established Spokane company that's actively bringing higher-wage jobs to the region.
"Mr. Baumgartner is trying to slander a beloved local business that has paid millions of dollars in Washington state taxes to deflect attention from the fact that he has failed to create jobs," Cowan campaign manager Alex Clardy said.
Baumgartner, who holds a substantial fundraising advantage, has yet to unleash any TV attack ads, though he's got a shelf full of mostly image-building issue spots touting his Olympia accomplishments, including greater government efficiency and sustainable budgets.
Like the tax breaks spot, Cowan's repertoire of ads tend to be more adversarial and focused on potential wedge issues, which tends to be a standard strategy for campaigns looking to try closing double-digit gaps.
With ballots set to begin arriving in voter mailboxes later this week, the slugfest is likely to continue.