Cantwell, Baumgartner spar in Senate debate

Cantwell, Baumgartner spar in Senate debate
SEATTLE (AP) - Sen. Maria Cantwell and her Republican challenger, Michael Baumgartner, squared off Friday over fiscal issues and the war in Afghanistan in the only debate of the race.

Cantwell is seeking her third term. Baumgartner is a first-term state senator from Spokane who is seeking to upset the Democratic incumbent.

They debated in the studios of KCTS, Seattle's public television station.

Baumgartner, who has worked as a civilian contractor in Afghanistan, said he wants to "end the war in Afghanistan now" and use the savings to help with domestic finances. Baumgartner also touted one of his proposals: a 1-cent, temporary tax on gasoline to help pay for veterans services.

"We have a foreign policy disaster now in the Middle East," he said. "Sen. Cantwell has been consistently in support of poorly planned wars."

Cantwell countered that she supports President Barack Obama's plans to withdraw troops in 2014, and she said President George W. Bush deserved blame for not fully funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

She rejected Baumgartner's gas tax idea.

"I don't support taxing transportation for something other than transportation," she said.

Cantwell, a former U.S. House member and executive at Seattle tech company RealNetworks Inc., said her opponent would cut programs like Social Security and Medicare and is too readily influenced by conservative groups.

"The tea party is not the values of Washington state," Cantwell said.

Baumgartner said Cantwell was symbolic of the partisan gridlock in Washington, D.C.

"If she can't work with the tea party, they're not going away, regardless of what you think of them," he said.

On climate change, Baumgartner said "it is clear" that it is happening but it was unclear whether it was caused by mankind. Still, he said steps must be taken to deal with rising carbon emissions.

Cantwell said she worked with Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, on climate change legislation. She said rising temperatures could affect energy prices in Washington state.

"I want us to diversify off fossil fuels," she said. "We need a process to protect consumers of the future." She said she's confident a green energy economy can help create jobs.

Cantwell is favored to win re-election, and she has raised far more money than Baumgartner, a fact that the challenger noted during the debate when speaking about campaign finance laws.

"Obviously I'm at a tremendous financial disadvantage in this race," he said.