- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 20, 2006

SEATTLE — Sen. Maria Cantwell, Washington Democrat, last night easily defeated her anti-war challenger, setting up a November showdown against Republican businessman Mike McGavick in what the GOP sees as one of its best chances to pick up a Senate seat.

With about 55 percent of the expected vote counted, Miss Cantwell had 262,719 votes — an overwhelming 92 percent of the Democratic vote. She easily won over Hong Tran, a lawyer with a nonprofit agency, who raised little money and relied on grass-roots volunteers to amplify her anti-war message throughout the campaign.

Mrs. Tran received 11,452 votes, or 4 percent of the total, leading three other little-known Democratic challengers.

“I feel very good about tonight’s vote, but the ultimate vote is in November and I will work every day between now and then to be successful,” said Miss Cantwell, who returned to Washington, D.C., for Senate votes on Monday. “We will work very hard to get around to every corner of the state and talk about the issues that affect the voters of Washington.”

Mrs. Tran, 40, told supporters gathered at her Seattle home that Washington deserves a senator who stands up for working people.

“You know, I understood the challenges of running against a millionaire incumbent,” Mrs. Tran told The Washington Times after early returns showed her losing. “But I ran to make sure people had an alternative choice if they really cared about ending the war.”

She said she had no plans to calls Miss Cantwell, and said it is too bad her lack of fundraising prevented her from mounting a serious challenge. The refugee from Vietnam noted that many voters want to have an incumbent Democrat run in November, the better to keep the Senate seat in Democratic hands.

“People vote for Cantwell, but they do reluctantly,” she said.

The Democratic contest initially seemed like it could harm the freshman senator, who was being criticized by several candidates for her October 2002 vote to authorize President Bush to use force in Iraq.

Ultimately, after the Cantwell campaign hired two of the senator’s stronger critics, the primary served as a warmup for the general election against Mr. McGavick, who also easily won his primary.

Mr. McGavick, a former chief executive of Safeco Insurance, had 185,743 votes, or 85 percent of the total, easily outpolling five Republican challengers, led by Brad Klippert at 14,422 votes, or 6 percent.

“All I can say about the primary is one down, one to go. We are going to win this November,” Mr. McGavick, 48, told cheering supporters from his Seattle campaign headquarters during a live Web cast.

Republicans consider the Washington seat one of their best opportunities in November, despite national trends showing voters irritated with Mr. Bush and his majority party. The state has a Democratic governor and legislature and Democrats hold six of its nine congressional seats.

“Mike McGavick’s message of civility is resonating with Washington state voters, who are tired of a senator that puts party interests above the interests of the state,” said Sen. Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina, who leads the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Though Miss Cantwell, 47, was considered vulnerable a few months ago, she recently opened a double-digit lead over Mr. McGavick in several polls.

Mr. McGavick, a millionaire like Miss Cantwell, says he is running to “put an end to the mindless mean-spiritedness and partisanship” in Washington, D.C. He casts himself as an independent thinker and calls Miss Cantwell “part of the problem and not the cure.” Mr. McGavick will be in Washington, D.C., tonight at a National Republican Senatorial Committee fundraiser in his honor.

Most of last night’s results were tabulated from mail-in ballots. There are 3.3 million registered voters in Washington, and about 80 percent of them were expected to cast votes via mail.

Miss Cantwell and Mr. McGavick will probably debate twice before Oct. 16, when voters can begin mailing in their ballots. Both candidates have millions in the bank to run television ads in the fewer than 50 days remaining until votes are counted.

Meanwhile yesterday, on the other side of the country, Massachusetts voters set up a November gubernatorial race between Democrat Deval Patrick and Republican Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey.

Either candidate winning would be a first. Mr. Deval won 49 percent of the vote in his first bid for elective office after having been head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division under President Clinton. He would be the state’s first black governor. Mrs. Healey, who was unopposed in the GOP primary, is trying to become the first woman to be elected governor of the state.

This article was based in part on wire-service reports.

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