Washington’s 2018 US Senate Race – A Democratic Incumbent vs. the Party of Trump?

There are an extraordinarily large number of candidates vying to contest the re-election of Senator Maria Cantwell this November.  In this blog post, we review Senator Cantwell’s record on immigration, and review the positions taken by the most likely Republican Candidate, Susan Hutchison.

Senator Maria Cantwell  

Senator Maria Cantwell has been largely aligned with the positions taken by OneAmerica on immigration reform.  She has consistently supported comprehensive immigration reform, including a pathway to citizenship, and has been a leading voice on several legislative efforts to strengthen due process protections for immigrants dealing with immigration enforcement.  Her campaign website sums up her views on immigration by saying “I will fight for humane, rational and constructive Immigration policies. We are, after all, a nation of immigrants and I haven’t forgotten that.”

With regard to matters of Congressional oversight of federal agencies, Cantwell has been a consistent voice opposing racial and religious profiling and raising concerns over lack of accountability at Customs and Border Protection, whose Commissioner is approved by the Senate Finance Committee, on which Cantwell serves.

Recently she was among 49 other Senators who signed onto the Keep Families Together Act in response to family separation. Senator Cantwell said that family separation was  “contrary to American values and causing unnecessary trauma.” She also signed a letter asking for decreased funding for President Trump’s border wall and “deportation force.”

Earlier this year, when immigrant organizations called on Congress to reject a federal budget deal that did not include a fix to the DACA program, which President Trump shut down, Cantwell voted against the spending bill, and as a consequence the federal government temporarily shut down.  The shutdown lasted just a weekend, when Cantwell (to the disappointment of immigrant groups) accepted a deal negotiated by Senate Democratic leadership that did not include a DACA fix.

The deal did lead to four votes on immigration bills in the Senate.  Cantwell voted for S Amdt 1955 Uniting and Securing America Act (Coons-McCain Amendment, supported by OneAmerica) and S Amdt 1958 Immigration Security and Opportunity Act (Schumer Amendment, not supported by OneAmerica). She voted against two bills that OneAmerica opposed: S Amdt 2948 Stop Dangerous Sanctuary Cities Act (Toomey Amendment), and S Amdt 1959 Secure and Succeed Act (Grassley Amendment).

Susan Hutchison  

Susan Hutchison, the former chair of Washington State’s Republican Party and a local television news anchor, is running against incumbent Senator Cantwell in Washington State’s 2018 senatorial race.

Hutchison sums up her immigration views on her campaign website saying, “I WILL support a humane immigration system that promotes legal entry and blocks illegal entry.  I WILL support a border wall in every effective form: physical, electronic and law enforcement. As our country generously welcomes one million new legal immigrants every year, my hope is that all will fulfill their American Dream.”

More concerning was Hutchison full-throated support for Candidate Donald Trump in the 2016 Presidential election.  She appeared to rationalize Trump’s comments in a tape recorded conversation with a television anchor that appeared to describe sexual assault.  She also opposed efforts by human and faith-based organizations to encourage the United States to accept Syrian refugees.  Based on her recent actions, in an election that in many ways will be a referendum on the President, it appears that Hutchison will be far more focused on defending Trump’s policies, authority and actions.

What to make of the rest of the named candidates in this race?

Most concerning are the Republican candidacies of known white supremacists and anti-immigrant activists in Washington’s elections this year.

  • From the Seattle Times: Another of Cantwell’s announced Republican challengers is Joey Gibson, leader of the Patriot Prayer group whose demonstrations have triggered counter protests and violence, including at the University of Washington in February.
  • In another race in the 7th Congressional District, where Representative Pramila Jayapal (endorsed by OAV) is running for re-election, her challenger is likely to be anti-immigrant advocate Craig Keller, better known for bankrolling campaigns to overturn local policies that discourage collaboration between local law enforcement and federal immigration enforcement. Keller appears to be a one-issue candidate campaigning for restrictive immigration policies.
  • In a state legislative race in Snohomish County, Randy Hayden is running for State Representative in the 39th Legislative District. Hayden’s history of comments targeting LGBTQ, immigrant, Muslim communities prompted the Everett Herald to withdraw its endorsement of the candidate.

Many have focused on whether there may be a “blue wave” in American politics in 2018 that can limit the President’s authority for the remainder of this term.  But with Trump the de facto leader of the Republican Party, there’s an equally important question – has the Republican Party gone past the point of no return?  Does it belong to Gibson, Keller and Hayden?  Will leaders like Hutchison push back against these campaigns, or will she enable them, as she did with the President in 2016?