Over the years, Washington state has been particularly well-served by its senators. With few exceptions, the state has had energetic senators whose vision was broad enough to encompass both local concerns and national policy.
With two excellent candidates, the situation won’t change, no matter what the results of the Nov. 7 election. But there is still a clear choice in the Senate contest.
Republican Slade Gorton deserves re-election to the U.S. Senate.
He faces a very worthy challenger in Maria Cantwell, a former congresswoman and state legislator. After being defeated in a 1994 congressional re-election bid, Cantwell added to the depth of her credentials with a highly successful career as a software executive.
Cantwell is an intellectually sharp, pragmatic Democrat who understands the tie between a healthy economy and a strong society. She’s an environmentalist with a commitment that honors the Evergreen State’s heritage. Before losing a congressional re-election bid in 1994, she was on a fast track toward a possible leadership position. Her grasp of policy detail might well put her back on the same path in the Senate.
In making a case for herself, Cantwell raises legitimate questions about parts of Gorton’s environmental record. Clearly, too, she would be more favorable toward some moderate gun control measures and would be more generously inclined toward social service measures. Those are all positions worthy of support.
Slade Gorton, though, has more than earned another term as senator. He’s a proven leader in the state. He has been a passionate advocate for individuals of every background who face difficulties with their own government’s sometimes-obtuse bureaucracy. He has lost none of his enthusiasm. If anything, he is more dedicated than ever both to individuals concerns and public policy solutions.
At a time when most state political leaders seem to think that Idaho starts at the crest of the Cascades, Gorton keeps the entire state in mind. Whatever purely scientific case can be made for tearing down the Snake River dams, Gorton has the common sense to understand that it would be better to find creative environmental solutions that respect humans as well as fish.
The Puget Sound region does quite nicely by Gorton too. He has helped the state do very well recently on federal transportation assistance and support for salmon habitat restoration.
Gorton’s positions on most issues are conservative Republican. He manages, however, to remain remarkably open to creative compromises across party lines. Indeed, he retains a willingness to be bipartisan even at the most difficult moments. In the sad business of the Clinton impeachment trial, Gorton teamed with Democratic Sen. Joseph Lieberman on a plan that, had it succeeded, would have dispensed with witnesses and moved the trial directly to a vote.
Even on tax issues where the partisan rhetoric is the hottest, Gorton sometimes strikes a surprising note of reality. With many politicians rushing to promise they’d never, ever tax the Internet, Gorton steps back and says in effect, no taxes on the use of the Internet itself, but it’s not fair to give e-commerce outfits a sales-tax advantage over Main Street business people.
As a senator, Gorton has also been a careful, intelligent supporter of a strong military. Even when he disagrees with a particular decision, such as the use of air power against Yugoslav targets in Kosovo, he is ardent about having adequate equipment and support for our military.
Listening to broadcast commercials, you wouldn’t know that this state is witnessing a contest between two people fully able to meet the high expectations that the Constitution’s authors held for members of the U.S. Senate. But that’s what faces voters Nov. 7.
Gorton’s excellent record deserves support. He will continue to serve this state extremely well.
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