Clinton finds time for state Dems


Herald Writer

SEATTLE – President Clinton has canceled many trips around the country so he can deal with recent events in the Middle East, but on Saturday he didn’t let down his “good friends” Jay Inslee, Maria Cantwell and Gary Locke.

He stumped for the three Democratic candidates for about four hours at the Westin Hotel in Seattle on Saturday evening, raising nearly $500,000 for Inslee and Locke. Cantwell is not accepting party money.

The Locke campaign said it would be Clinton’s last trip to the Northwest as president.

“We know you have taken time from a very traumatic world to be in our Washington,” Gov. Locke told Clinton. “We know the events of the Middle East weigh heavily on your heart.”

Clinton announced that instead of making an appearance in Portland, Ore., today, he will be flying to the Middle East for a Monday summit with Egyptian and Palestinian leaders. Dozens of people have died in the violence of the past two weeks in that region, and 17 sailors were killed Thursday in an apparent terrorist attack against the USS Cole while it was in port in Yemen.

At an intimate reception for Cantwell before Saturday’s main events, Clinton told a group of about 50 mostly minority leaders that he wanted to come to Seattle for several reasons.

“First of all, I’m profoundly grateful to the people of the state of Washington. You’ve been very good to me and Al Gore. The second reason I wanted to come is because I feel a special debt of gratitude and a special bond with Maria Cantwell.”

Clinton noted repeatedly throughout the night that Cantwell, a high-tech executive from Edmonds who is running for U.S. Senate against Republican incumbent Slade Gorton, had voted for his economic plan when she was in Congress.

“I’m telling you it was all on her shoulders,” he said. “We carried that thing with one vote.”

At a reception for Locke, which cost $100 a plate for appetizers, Clinton heaped praise on the incumbent governor and his wife, Mona Lee Locke. The governor faces a battle from Republican challenger John Carlson.

“They embody my idea of where we’re going as a country,” he said. “Indeed, all of Washington state does. You are the most connected state to the global economy, and one of the most wired states in America.”

Later, at a $1,000-a-plate dinner for Locke and Inslee, he thanked Inslee for a vote against assault weapons.

Clinton verbally welcomed Rick Larsen, a Democrat who is in a very tight race with Republican John Koster in the 2nd Congressional District, which runs from Mukilteo north to the Canadian border. But he only stumped for Inslee, a Bainbridge Island Democrat who had a healthy lead in last month’s primary over Republican Dan McDonald in the 1st Congressional District, which includes the southwest corner of Snohomish County.

Both races are considered top national priorities for both parties.

The Middle East wasn’t the only current event on Clinton’s mind. The baseball playoff game between the Seattle Mariners and the New York Yankees was just about to start Saturday afternoon when Air Force One flew over the packed Safeco Field. Clinton later joked several times about how impossible it was for him, at this point in his life, to support the Mariners.

“First I want to say congratulations to the Mariners,” he said. “But I hope you’ll understand that since I have more than a passing interest in the Senate race in the state of New York, this may be the only issue in eight years I don’t side with you on.”

After the Westin appearances, Clinton left for a fund-raiser for Hillary Rodham Clinton’s U.S. Senate campaign at the home of Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz.

The hundreds of Democrats who shelled out big bucks for the events got a lot for their money. Clinton’s speeches at both events lasted more than half an hour.

“Our challenge is to generate turnout,” said state Democratic Chairman Paul Berendt, on his way from the reception to the dinner, “and no one gets Democratic juices flowing like Bill Clinton.”

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