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June 23, 2006

McGavick's shot at Cantwell falls short

Posted by David Postman at 9:44 AM

By declaring that his campaign is all about civility, Mike McGavick was inviting close scrutiny of any criticism he levels at Sen. Maria Cantwell. And a shot he took at Cantwell on her environmental record falls short.

The Yakima Herald Republic this week ran a short story about Cantwell's introduction of a bill to increase fuel efficiency standards and included a response from McGavick:

"Cantwell's likely opponent in November, former Safeco Insurance executive Mike McGavick, said he's long supported increased vehicle fuel efficiency and suggested Cantwell is late to the issue. 'The senator's been on the energy committee so she's had plenty of time to work on CAFE standards. Too bad it didn't come up six years ago,' he said."

This set off a pretty thorough fact checking on the liberal blog Hominid Views that showed Cantwell's history of support for increased corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards and raised questions about what McGavick has done to show the long support he told the Yakima paper about.

It all grew out of a few sentences in a small story, but Hominid Views and the liberal bloggers who have been picking up the post clearly see this as an opportunity to put McGavick on notice.

I asked McGavick about the claims and he told me:

"I wasn't saying that Sen. Cantwell hasn't had a view on CAFE. But I do find the timing of the introduction of the bill, in the last six months of her term, relatively late. ... All I've said is this is interesting; a lot of introduced bills and a lot of press releases as of late, as opposed to a lot of steady action over the years that might have seen results."

Hominid Views points to a speech Cantwell gave on the subject in 2002 and a vote against an amendment that would have eliminated CAFE standards. But, in fact, Cantwell has a much deeper record than that on the subject. She has co-sponsored CAFE legislation since 2001, her first year in the Senate. This is easy to check by going to the Library of Congress' site and searching for "Cantwell and fuel" to find the bills.

McGavick told me that he has spoken about CAFE and thinks its "part of the puzzle."

But there's not much of a record of that. In January McGavick gave a major environmental speech in the Tri-Cities. He doesn't mention CAFE or fuel economy. On his Web site there is a video of McGavick talking about energy and again there is no mention of CAFE or fuel economy, except in relation to electric- and hydrogen-powered cars.

McGavick's speeches may not include references to the need for more fuel efficient cars, said his spokesman, Elliot Bundy, but the subject comes up often during Q&A sessions.

He did mention it at an appearance in Gig Harbor last month with former EPA director Christine Todd Whitman. The News Tribune reported that "He suggested pursuing alternative energy sources and higher vehicle fuel economy standards."

That doesn't really back up the claim that McGavick is a long-time supporter of increased CAFE standards, or more importantly the implied claim that he has a better record on the issue than Cantwell. But maybe that starts today. McGavick is the keynote speaker at the Washington Energy and Convenience Store Conference and Bundy says "it will be a topic in his remarks this morning."

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