- The Washington Times - Monday, September 18, 2006

SEATTLE — Hong Tran tells voters she is giving them an opportunity to “Vote no on war” in today’s Democratic primary election for U.S. Senate.

Though she knows she is highly unlikely to beat incumbent Sen. Maria Cantwell, she says her fellow Democrat’s October 2002 vote in favor of the Iraq war is worthy of electoral punishment.

Mrs. Tran has received little of the national attention enjoyed by anti-war candidate Ned Lamont, who used that momentum to beat Sen. Joe Lieberman in the Connecticut Democratic primary, but she campaigns on a similar message.

“The war is a big issue for all voters, not just Democratic voters, and it’s really dismaying that Maria Cantwell is so out of step with people,” Mrs. Tran said yesterday. “She is completely unresponsive to her constituency, and we need to have someone stronger as our senator.”

Miss Cantwell on Aug. 15 released a statement about her vote authorizing President Bush to use force in Iraq.

“If I knew then everything that I know today,” she said on her Web site, “I would have voted no.”

She said the United States should start to bring troops home this year.

She also painted a difference between herself and Republican front-runner Mike McGavick, who is poised to win his own primary today.

“I am for changing the course in Iraq; my opponent is for staying the course,” Miss Cantwell said. “The Iraqis must take over responsibility for their own security this year.”

In addition to the war, Mrs. Tran disagrees with the freshman senator on trade policy, and says Miss Cantwell votes to help special interests instead of working people.

Miss Cantwell has the money, name recognition and the state and national party machines behind her, all things that will probably propel her to victory today. She also currently holds a wide lead over Mr. McGavick.

But several voters here said they will issue a “protest” vote for Mrs. Tran, a lawyer with a nonprofit agency, to send a message they are frustrated with their senator.

“I’m sure not going to vote for her in the primary, because she voted for the Iraq war,” saidlongtime Democrat Toni Ameslav of Seattle, a medical social worker. “I don’t know what I’ll do in the general election. I definitely won’t vote Republican, but I might just stay home.”

Miss Cantwell held a weekend rally with Sens. Patty Murray of Washington and Barbara Boxer of California, but then returned to the Capitol for her “day job,” according to campaign staffers. Instead of doing the last-minute campaigning yesterday and today, she sent in her own primary ballot by mail, as do most voters in the state.

Mrs. Tran says state and national Democrats have openly tried to keep her from getting attention, forbidding her from putting up signs at Democratic events. Miss Cantwell, whose campaign hired two of her early critics, has also refused to debate Mrs. Tran.

Democratic voter Steve Brunner, who works in interior design, said he completely disagrees with the administration’s war policy, and called the Iraq conflict the “Vietnam of our generation.”

Still, Mr. Brunner, 40, said he will “stick with” Miss Cantwell in the primary because she has a proven track record.

“Somebody needs to take back Republican control, and we can’t lose this seat,” he said. “I’d rather have a lousy Democrat than a good Republican.”

Mrs. Tran, 40, said she is relying on grass-roots support and has not done much fundraising. She has radio ads running but nothing on television.

By contrast, Miss Cantwell has television ads blanketing the state saying she is an environmental leader and understands the plight of working people. She had more than $5 million in the bank as of Aug. 30.

Mr. McGavick, a former insurance executive and a millionaire like Miss Cantwell, had $2.8 million on hand at the end of August. He also is running TV ads portraying himself as independent-minded.

Mrs. Tran said she would not vote for a Republican in the general election, but added that if she does not win today, she will “certainly not” endorse Miss Cantwell.

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