For her relentless work protecting consumers from future financial meltdowns, promoting clean energy and a sharp focus on the link between jobs and education, Sen. Maria Cantwell has earned another term in the U.S. Senate.
Cantwell, a former state legislator and successful high-tech entrepreneuer, surprised everyone in 2000 with an upset victory over the popular Sen. Slade Gorton. But she quickly won over Washington voters by focusing on issues that matter most to this state: clean energy sources, aerospace jobs, innovation in higher education and financial reforms.
Cantwell led a bipartisan coalition back in 2004 – when Republicans and Democrats could still work together on tax issues – to pass sales tax deduction legislation that saves individual Washington residents about $500 every year. She has worked hard since to extend the deduction and is trying to make it permanent.
When Enron defrauded its customers, it was Cantwell’s relentless investigation that helped take down the energy giant. Then she wrote the bill giving the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission the tools to prevent similar energy market manipulations.
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She voted against a Wall Street bailout and fought hard to include language in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act that specifically targeted derivative trading.
Cantwell was an early advocate for the clean-energy industry, sponsoring a 2008 bill that shifted tax credits to oil and gas companies to renewable energy producers. That helped kick-start the alternate energy industry, creating new jobs in wind, solar and biomass.
She introduced a bill in 2011 – the Hydropower Improvement Act – that would increase hydropower output without building new dams. Her bill capitalized on an Interior Department report that found more than 70 structures owned by the federal government, such as dams, canals and diversionary devices, could be upgraded to increase hydropower in an efficient and environmentally friendly way.
Promoting job growth has been a focus of her campaign, and Cantwell can point to funding the University of Washington Center for Excellence, which focuses on aerospace topics, and her strong support for Boeing.
Cantwell’s opponent, state Sen. Mike Baumgartner, is trying to make the quantum leap to the U.S. Senate after just one term in Olympia. That doesn’t disqualify him, and his work in Iraq and Afghanistan with the State Department makes him quite knowledgable on Middle East issues.
Give Baumgartner credit for expressing views that defy pigeonholing. He refused to sign the anti-tax pledge, opposes abortion and supports the Washington initiative to decriminalize marijuana in small amounts for adults.
But the Spokane lawmaker doesn’t make a strong case for upsetting the hard-working and more experienced Cantwell. Her values and approach match up well with Washington voters, who should return her to the U.S. Senate.