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September 30, 2006

Libertarian Senate candidate loans campaign $1.2 million

Posted by David Postman at 8:33 PM

Libertarian U.S. Senate candidate Bruce Guthrie is mortgaging everything he can to change the dynamic of the race. Guthrie, a former college instructor who hopes to go back to school to get a high school teaching certificate, filed paperwork with the Federal Elections Commission today saying he will loan his campaign $1.18 million. Up until now he had raised $33,000.

Guthrie said he had not planned to spend his own money but changed his mind after campaigning around the state.

"I'm disappointed, as most people are, that money is what drives politics in this country. But I realize if I didn't go in all the way, if I didn't do the best job with the campaign I thought I could do, I would have regretted it later.

"My heart is really in this race, and I decided it was just time to put my money where my heart is."

But there will be no more personal money after this. There isn't anything left to mortgage.

"It is absolutely everything I could scrape together. I mortgaged my house, my only house, in Bellingham. I mortgaged it as much as the bank would let me mortgage it. And I put up all the savings that my former wife and I were able to save in our 17 years of marriage."

It's unclear how this changes the race that has naturally focused on Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell and her Republican challenger, Mike McGavick.

It is difficult to know which side Guthrie is more likely to take votes from. In 2000 former Republican Sen. Slade Gorton blamed his close loss to Cantwell, in part, on Libertarian candidate Jeff Jared. Jared got more than 64,000 votes and Cantwell won by a little more than 2,000.

Guthrie's top issues are most likely to attract liberal voters. He is a strong proponent of same-sex marriage and is ardently anti-war, calling for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and a permanent reduction of U.S. troops abroad and a critic of the Patriot Act.

There are some more traditionally Libertarian fiscal positions, too, including support for reducing the federal deficit. Guthrie told me, "We Libertarians are fiscally responsible and the Republicans have definitely made themselves vulnerable with their overspending."

He criticizes Cantwell on that as well. From his campaign website:

Maria Cantwell has done nothing to shrink the huge budget deficits. In fact, she's approved every Republican request for an increase in public debt. That debt has become a huge burden for ourselves (just paying interest) and for our children.

He said he thinks he'll take votes from both major party candidates and may do polling to see which of his messages resonate the best with voters.

"Libertarians are traditionally thought of as taking votes from Republicans in the way that Greens could only take votes from Democrats. And I think there's a good argument to be made that I'll take from both sides.

"But right now we don't have any idea how we're going ot influence the outcome of the election. What we do know is we are going to take the Libertarian Party to a new level and the voters of this state are absolutely disgusted with the two big parties. They're screaming for an alternative.

"I believe the Libertarian Party is that altenriave. I think this $1.2 million is going to do a lot in that direction."

Guthrie said he thinks his campaign could now be the best-financed Libertarian campaign in state history.

As required by the Federal Election Commission, Guthrie sent written notice of his personal spending plans yesterday to his opponents in the race. The self-financing triggers the FEC's so-called "Millionaire's Amendment," a law that will allow contribution limits to the other senate candidates to increase.

(CORRECTION: This does not automatically trigger the Millionaire's Amendment. Richard Pope raises this in the comments and another readers points me to the FEC explanation that says:

A candidate with a significant fundraising advantage over a self-financed opponent might not receive an increased contribution limit. In this way, the regulations avoid giving increased contribution limits to candidates whose campaigns have a significant fundraising advantage over their opponents.)

Guthrie was a Libertarian candidate for the 2nd Congressional District in 2002 and 2004.

Cantwell has raised $16.8 million so far. McGavick has raised $7.7 million, including $2 million of personal money he loaned his campaign. He said last week he has no plans to donate any more of his own money.

McGavick spokesman Elliott Bundy said the campaign did not yet know what to make of the news of Guthrie's donation:

"I have no idea what it means or what he intends to spend the money on. He says right up front that he disagrees with Mike on gay marriage and the war on terrorism and the war in Iraq."

I haven't heard back from the Cantwell campaign.

Green Party candidate Aaron Dixon is also running for the senate. As of June 30 -- the most recent report available on-line at the FEC -- he had raised $33,826.

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