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Biography

Elected: 2000, term expires 2018, 3rd term.

Born: October 13, 1958, Indianapolis, IN

Home: Edmonds, WA

Education: Miami U. (OH), B.A. 1980

Professional Career: Owner, Cantwell & Assoc. PR firm, 1985-91; RealNetworks, 1995-2000.

Ethnicity: White/Caucasian

Religion: Roman Catholic

Family: Single

Democrat Maria Cantwell, Washington’s junior senator, was elected in 2000. She is active on energy, technology, and tax matters, often working with Republicans, and is known for her persistence on issues. She assumed the ranking-member slot on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee in 2015, having previously chaired the Indian Affairs and Small Business and Entrepreneurship committees.

Cantwell grew up in Indianapolis, where her father, Paul Cantwell, a construction worker, served as county commissioner, a city councilman, and a state legislator. As a child, Cantwell observed politics firsthand as her father dispensed advice to the union members, laborers, and politicians who stopped by to talk politics. During her father’s stint as an aide to U.S. Rep. Andrew Jacobs, she awoke one morning to the distinctive Boston accent of Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts downstairs.

Cantwell graduated from Miami University of Ohio in 1980, the first in her family to graduate from college. She worked in Ohio for television personality Jerry Springer’s 1982 campaign for governor. (In 2003, when Springer was considering running for senator in Ohio, she said, “I think people will be surprised by his intellect. There’s much more to him than his TV show.”) Then she worked for Democratic Sen. Alan Cranston’s presidential campaign, going to Seattle to set up a regional campaign office. The Cranston campaign went nowhere, but Cantwell loved the Pacific Northwest and decided to stay. She moved to Mountlake Terrace, a suburb in Snohomish County just north of Seattle, where she organized a coalition to build a new library. In 1986, at age 28, she was elected to the Washington state House.

In 1992, Cantwell ran for an open U.S. House seat and won a solid 55%-42% victory. In the House, she did not support President Bill Clinton’s health care plan, and she was a strong supporter of abortion rights and of stands backed by environmental advocacy groups. But she lost her 1994 bid for reelection to Republican Rick White, 52%-48%. Back in the Seattle area, Cantwell joined a start-up firm called Progressive Networks in 1995. Five years later, it had become RealNetworks, a leader in Internet-based audio and visual software. In late 1999, her stock was worth about $40 million, and Cantwell was ready to resume her political career.

She decided to run against Republican Sen. Slade Gorton. Microsoft’s leading advocate on Capitol Hill, Gorton had an increasingly conservative record on environmental and economic issues. Insurance Commissioner Deborah Senn, who also was running, was widely considered too liberal to win. The real difference was money. Cantwell, who liquidated more than $5 million in stock, spent freely, while Senn was on television only during the last two weeks before the September all-party primary. In the first round of balloting, Gorton got the most votes, 44% of the total, but fell short of a majority. Cantwell got 37%, and Senn got only 13%. Gorton and Cantwell faced off in the general election.

Cantwell said she would spend “whatever it takes” to win. At the same time, she made her support of McCain-Feingold-type campaign finance regulation a major issue and refused to take contributions from political action committees or large donations known as “soft money” from the Democratic Party (though it put $640,000 into the state before Cantwell won the primary). She charged that Gorton was beholden to special interest contributors, singling out his late-night amendment that paved the way for a cyanide-leach gold mine in rural Okanogan County, which environmentalists were fighting. Gorton called Cantwell an old-style liberal Democrat who would have government meddling in health care, education, and local environmental issues. Cantwell highlighted her experience in the high-tech private sector. Overall, she spent $11.5 million, $10.3 million of it her own money, to Gorton’s $6.4 million.

Gorton led on Election Night, but not by much. That year, 54% of the votes were cast absentee, and it took three weeks to count them all. The last two days’ worth of absentee ballots from heavily Democratic King County put Cantwell over the top by 1,953 votes. A mandated recount left the margin at 2,229 for Cantwell, out of 2.4 million cast, the closest Senate contest of 2000. Cantwell carried only five counties: King, Snohomish, Thurston, which includes the state capital of Olympia, and two small counties in the west. Gorton carried eastern Washington 61%-36%, not quite enough to win. Cantwell’s victory created a tie in the Senate, until Vermont’s James Jeffords became an independent in May 2001 and gave Democrats a razor-thin majority.

Cantwell is known for being intense, though some aides say she is as demanding of herself as she is of them. Her voting record is consistently liberal on social issues, but more moderate on economic and foreign policy matters. Through 2012, her lifetime score from the anti-tax group Club for Growth was 14%, seventh highest among Democratic senators serving in the 113th Congress (2013-14). She was one of just nine Senate Democrats to oppose the 2008 law creating the Troubled Asset Relief Fund for ailing financial institutions, saying the government had no business getting so deeply involved with the private sector. Three years later, she was one of six Democrats to support a failed GOP amendment to halt tax breaks and incentives for corn-based ethanol products popular with farm-state lawmakers.

During the 2010 debate on overhauling the banking and financial services regulatory system, Cantwell pushed for more radical reforms. She co-sponsored a bill with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. that would have reinstated the Glass-Steagall Banking Act of 1933, which created a wall between commercial and investment banking. She also wanted to close loopholes on unregulated derivatives trading. Cantwell was one of only two Democrats to vote against the White House-backed banking reform bill in May 2010. However, she joined her party in July in voting for the final conference report version of the bill, reasoning that the updated bill offered at least tougher regulation and greater transparency of the derivatives market.

Cantwell took over in 2013 as chair of Indian Affairs, becoming the first woman to lead the panel. When Oklahoma GOP Sen. Tom Coburn sought in February 2013 to amend the Violence Against Women Act to eliminate a section that covered Indian tribes, Cantwell spoke out forcefully against the idea, saying that it would treat Indians “like second-class citizens.” The measure was defeated. Later, she drew attention for circulating a letter imploring NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to formally call on the Washington Redskins to change the team's name, which it called "a racial slur."

When Montana Sen. Max Baucus' decision to leave the Senate in early 2014 led Oregon's Ron Wyden to take over the Finance Committee and Louisiana's Mary Landrieu moved into Wyden's chair on Energy and Natural Resources, Cantwell assumed the gavel at Small Business. She worked with Jim Risch of Idaho, the panel's ranking Republican, on a measure to renew the State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP) program, which awards grants to states to help small businesses begin or expand exports of their products. She also held separate hearings on helping veteran as well as women entrepreneurs.

To help her state’s hydropower industry, which produces almost three-fourths of Washington’s electricity, she has been active in efforts to remove barriers to licensing new facilities. She also called in 2012 for a Federal Trade Commission investigation into her state’s high gasoline prices. When the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress pushed for ultimately unsuccessful legislation aimed at curbing greenhouse gases, Cantwell jumped into the debate. The Obama White House bill, which allowed energy efficient companies to trade credits to larger greenhouse gas emitters as a way to reduce overall levels of carbon dioxide emissions, proved a hard sell, and by mid-2010, Cantwell and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine stepped up efforts to push their “cap-and-dividend” bill that skirted the idea of a carbon trading market. Instead, the bill would cap emissions from sources such as coal mines and oil refineries, and those emitters would be required to purchase carbon permits. The Senate failed to take action on the bill. There was more political momentum for curbing offshore drilling in the aftermath of the BP oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico. Cantwell offered a bill in 2010 and again in 2012 requiring the oil drilling industry to continually integrate the latest technology into efforts at spill prevention.

An energy bill passed by Congress in December 2008 contained her provision giving the Federal Trade Commission authority to fine companies or individuals that manipulate petroleum markets. She has backed extending tax credits for wind, solar, and other sources of renewable energy and told the Tri-City Herald in November 2010 that green energy could be a $6 trillion sector of the economy that is “bigger than the Internet.” A few years earlier, in 2005, Cantwell waged a series of floor fights with then-Senate Commerce Chairman Ted Stevens over drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge that antagonized the powerful Alaska senator.

Cantwell also has a seat on the powerful Finance Committee, which she got in 2006. In that role, she secured passage of a 2008 measure to temporarily extend the deductibility of state sales taxes, a popular tax break in Washington. Her other committee assignment is Commerce, where she chairs the aviation panel and keeps a close eye out for Boeing Co. and the rest of her state’s aerospace businesses. In 2012, she was the point person on the ambitious NextGen air traffic control modernization effort, which was part of the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill that became law. “She’s brilliant on technology and all those things, and she’s very organized,” Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said at a hearing in praise of her efforts.

Although a strong supporter of campaign finance regulation, Cantwell has had campaign finance problems of her own. To fund her 2000 campaign, she had sold $5.6 million of her RealNetworks stock and had borrowed $3.8 million from a bank using the company’s stock as collateral. That enabled her to run the last-minute ads that surely were essential to her victory. The Federal Election Commission ruled in January 2004 that she had violated the law by failing to disclose the terms of the loans, but it took no punitive action. Paying off the loans should have been easy; Cantwell’s net worth at one point was around $40 million. But RealNetworks, like other high-tech firms, saw its stock price plummet, from $80 per share in spring 2000 to $6 in spring 2001. Suddenly Cantwell owed far more than the collateral was worth. She negotiated another loan that would come due December 2001, guaranteed by the DSCC. Over the course of the next several years, she paid off the debt. Cantwell’s top campaign contributor has been Microsoft.

Cantwell’s narrow victory in 2000 placed her high on the Republicans target list for 2006. National Republicans recruited Mike McGavick, chairman and chief executive officer at Safeco insurance. He was a smart, successful businessman, with moderate positions and political smarts, having managed Gorton’s 1988 campaign and served as his chief of staff. But McGavick also acknowledged that he had been charged with drunken driving in 1993. Cantwell faced lingering discontent from liberals in the party for her 2002 vote in favor of the Iraq war resolution. But the earlier, well-publicized dustup with Stevens helped the reserved and cautious Cantwell, allowing her to show she could stand up to Stevens and the oil lobby in defense of Washington’s environment. McGavick poured $2.5 million of his own money into the race, but in the end, Cantwell outspent him $14 million to $10.8 million. In a Democratic year in a Democratic-leaning state, she won 57%-40%.

In 2012, another good year for Democrats, Cantwell had an easy race against Republican state Sen. Michael Baumgartner. Not only was Baumgartner from eastern Washington, which hadn’t produced a senator since 1934, he was unable to raise the kind of money necessary to compete with Cantwell. It hardly helped him that Washington Republicans were more focused on the concurrent governor’s race. She won 60%-40%.

Office Contact Information

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 224-3441

(202) 228-0514

HSOB- Hart Senate Office Building Room 511
Washington, DC 20510-4705

MAIN OFFICE

(206) 220-6400

(206) 220-6404

HSOB- Hart Senate Office Building Room 511
Washington, DC 20510-4705

DISTRICT OFFICE

(206) 220-6400

(206) 220-6404

915 Second Avenue Suite 3206
Seattle, WA 98174-1011

DISTRICT OFFICE

(206) 220-6400

(206) 220-6404

915 Second Avenue Suite 3206
Seattle, WA 98174-1011

DISTRICT OFFICE

(509) 353-2507

(509) 353-2547

Thomas S. Foley U.S. Court House Suite 697
Spokane, WA 99201-1008

DISTRICT OFFICE

(206) 220-6400

(206) 220-6404

Thomas S. Foley U.S. Court House Suite 697
Spokane, WA 99201-1008

DISTRICT OFFICE

(253) 572-2281

(253) 572-5879

950 Pacific Avenue Suite 615
Tacoma, WA 98402-4431

DISTRICT OFFICE

(206) 220-6400

(206) 220-6404

950 Pacific Avenue Suite 615
Tacoma, WA 98402-4431

DISTRICT OFFICE

(425) 303-0114

(425) 303-8351

2930 Wetmore Avenue Suite 9B
Everett, WA 98201-4044

DISTRICT OFFICE

(206) 220-6400

(206) 220-6404

2930 Wetmore Avenue Suite 9B
Everett, WA 98201-4044

DISTRICT OFFICE

(509) 946-8106

(509) 946-6937

825 Jadwin Avenue Suite 206
Richland, WA 99352-3562

DISTRICT OFFICE

(206) 220-6400

(206) 220-6404

825 Jadwin Avenue Suite 206
Richland, WA 99352-3562

DISTRICT OFFICE

(360) 696-7838

(360) 696-7844

Marshall House
Vancouver, WA 98661-3856

DISTRICT OFFICE

(206) 220-6400

(206) 220-6404

Marshall House
Vancouver, WA 98661-3856

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Staff

Sort by: Interest Name Title

Acquisitions

Artie Mandel
Policy Advisor

Aerospace

Matt McCarthy
Legislative Assistant

Agriculture

Joe Downes
Northwest Washington Outreach Director

Will Hazzard
Legislative Correspondent

Animal Rights

Joe Downes
Northwest Washington Outreach Director

Will Hazzard
Legislative Correspondent

Banking

Artie Mandel
Policy Advisor

Budget

Pete Modaff
Legislative Director

Artie Mandel
Policy Advisor

Education

Rosemary Gutierrez
Deputy Chief of Staff; Legislative Assistant

Nico Janssen
Legislative Assistant

Energy

Ada Waelder
Legislative Correspondent

Ryan Shay
Legislative Correspondent

(202) 224-3441

Environment

Melissa Errend
Legislative Fellow

Ada Waelder
Legislative Correspondent

Ryan Shay
Legislative Correspondent

(202) 224-3441

Finance

Artie Mandel
Policy Advisor

Foreign

Nico Janssen
Legislative Assistant

John Barry
Legislative Correspondent

Jonathan Hale
Senior Policy Advisor

Govt Ops

Joe Downes
Northwest Washington Outreach Director

Grants

Tina Johnson
Constituent Services Representative

Health

Nico Janssen
Legislative Assistant

Homeland Security

Nico Janssen
Legislative Assistant

John Barry
Legislative Correspondent

Krysia Pohl
Coast Guard Fellow

Housing

Artie Mandel
Policy Advisor

Immigration

Rosemary Gutierrez
Deputy Chief of Staff; Legislative Assistant

Krysia Pohl
Coast Guard Fellow

Intelligence

Jonathan Hale
Senior Policy Advisor

Internet

Narda Jones
Legislative Counsel

Judiciary

Nico Janssen
Legislative Assistant

Labor

Artie Mandel
Policy Advisor

Joe Downes
Northwest Washington Outreach Director

Land Use

Melissa Errend
Legislative Fellow

Military

Nico Janssen
Legislative Assistant

John Barry
Legislative Correspondent

Jonathan Hale
Senior Policy Advisor

Native Americans

Joe Downes
Northwest Washington Outreach Director

Rules

Nancy Hadley
Director of Administration

Tax

Pete Modaff
Legislative Director

Artie Mandel
Policy Advisor

Technology

Narda Jones
Legislative Counsel

Telecommunications

Narda Jones
Legislative Counsel

John Barry
Legislative Correspondent

Trade

Artie Mandel
Policy Advisor

Veterans

Nico Janssen
Legislative Assistant

John Barry
Legislative Correspondent

Samuel Mack
Constituent Services Representative

Jonathan Hale
Senior Policy Advisor

Welfare

Rosemary Gutierrez
Deputy Chief of Staff; Legislative Assistant

Women

Rosemary Gutierrez
Deputy Chief of Staff; Legislative Assistant

Election Results

2012 GENERAL
Maria Cantwell
Votes: 1,855,493
Percent: 60.45%
Michael Baumgartner
Votes: 1,213,924
Percent: 39.55%
2012 PRIMARY
Maria Cantwell
Votes: 772,058
Percent: 55.66%
Michael Baumgartner
Votes: 417,141
Percent: 30.07%
Art Coday
Votes: 79,727
Percent: 5.75%
2006 GENERAL
Maria Cantwell
Votes: 1,184,659
Percent: 57.0%
Mike McGavick
Votes: 832,106
Percent: 40.0%
2006 PRIMARY
Maria Cantwell
Votes: 570,677
Percent: 91.0%
Prior Winning Percentages
2006 (57%), 2000 (49%); House: 1992 (55%)

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