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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Nethercutt line fuels great debate

The Spokesman-Review

The debate over debates in Washington’s U.S. Senate race spread beyond our borders last week to New York, where the Republicans gathered for their national convention and invited George Nethercutt to speak, albeit briefly, to the assembled GOP masses on Day 1.

The key paragraph in his speech was probably this: “This election is about the future of our states and our nation. Over the next four days, we will lay out a vision and then we will welcome a debate. I challenge our political opponents to join that debate, to raise the level of discourse and let the voters make a clear choice.”

Anyone who thinks such an innocuous comment wouldn’t register on the campaigns’ spin-o-meters doesn’t know much about the state of politicking in this state.

To recap: Republican challenger George Nethercutt wants Democrat Patty Murray to debate him early and often – as many as 39 times, or once in each county – before the general election. Murray says wait till after the primary, and we’ll debate if you win. Meanwhile, Reed Davis, Nethercutt’s main GOP foe, says “Debate me. Debate me,” but the Spokane congressman is taking a pass, saying Davis has no chance of winning the primary.

Nethercutt partisans had made much in recent weeks of the fact that he got to speak to the GOP convention and Murray didn’t get to speak to the Dems; her supporters fired back this week by making fun of the fact that his speech was brief and not in prime time.

Then the Democrats took up Davis’ cause, noting that if Nethercutt really wants to debate an opponent, there’s his chance. And how about President Bush going head-to-head a few more times with John Kerry, they added.

Davis chimed in with a claim that his opponent has “flip-flopped” on such things as gay marriage and taxes and was probably afraid to debate.

(It’s possible that Davis could be sanctioned by the GOP for suggesting a fellow party member flip-flopped. That might be a verb that’s reserved for Democrats.)

Within 24 hours, the Nethercutt campaign shifted focus, talking about a new commercial they were debuting in New York and sending out stories from the Seattle newspapers of their guy schmoozing donors in the Big Apple.

The scoop on Zell

Also from New York was an angry response to comments by Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia, the Democrat who was a featured speaker for the Republican’s Wednesday soiree. Miller apparently had taken to comparing himself to the late Henry “Scoop” Jackson.

This brought a Lloyd Bentson-esque response from Peter Jackson, Scoop’s son: “Zell Miller is no Scoop Jackson.”

While Jackson and John Kerry had much different takes on the Vietnam War, it’s a sure bet the former Senate powerhouse would have never addressed a GOP convention.

No word yet on whether Peter Jackson will be challenging Miller to a duel.

Campaigning is hungry work

It’s Labor Day weekend, which is the traditional end of summer and the traditional beginning of the intense campaign season.

Don’t be surprised if you bump into a candidate or two at Pig Out in the Park. Senate hopeful Nethercutt will be there this afternoon, working the crowds after having lunch at the Pend Oreille County GOP lunch.

Murray will be in Seattle at the Labor Day picnic.

Perhaps they can debate who had better food?

Separation of church and state

Checking the campaign contribution reports can reveal some surprising details. In looking up the information for the boxes to the left, we came across the following:

Like most candidates, Nethercutt has numerous contributions from political action committees that call for “good government” or “better government.” It’s an open question whether one can actually buy better government, but there was also a small contribution from a group that takes a decidedly different view.

Government is Not God, a Washington, D.C.-based group that makes relatively small donations (usually three figures) to conservative candidates, gave him $500.