Ken Vogel of the Tacoma News Tribune has done the legwork on the likely Senate candidacy of Safeco CEO Mike McGavick.
With Dino Rossi officially declining to run for U.S. Senate in 2006, leading Republicans are coalescing around Safeco CEO Mike McGavick.
He has remained silent publicly as political speculation has mounted that he’ll emerge as the leading Republican challenger to freshman U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Edmonds).
But he’s quietly laid the groundwork for a campaign, making the rounds of GOP leaders in both Washingtons and rounding up endorsements from some of the state’s top Republicans. Some who’ve met with him expect him to declare soon.
While McGavick hasn’t publicly announced his candidacy, he’s certainly learned how to talk like a politician. In an April 19 quarterly earnings report conference call with security analysts, a Lehman Brothers analyst asked him about press reports that he was thinking about running for the Senate. McGavick first assured investors that Safeco was well prepared for succession, whatever the circumstances… and then gave a classic non-denial denial:
Having said that, this is all a bunch of media speculation. It’s been going on since I got here it seems to me, and I kind of regard it that way. When people come to you and say, gee, you have a chance to help the country, you have to be flattered and you have to listen to them. But I tell them all the same thing, that the thing I’m focused on right now is running Safeco and that’s kind of where it stands.
Hmm. Yeah. Well, it apparently wasn’t just “a bunch of media speculation,” as McGavick must have been hard at work lining his ducks up during that time frame. His answer was clearly meant to calm the legitimate concerns of securities analysts over potential instability in Safeco’s leadership, and while his prevarication may not rise to the level of an SEC violation, it speaks volumes about the kind of politician we can expect him to be. McGavick had a legal and ethical responsibility to provide shareholders with accurate information, and I just don’t think he answered the question honestly.
Sounds like a candidate to me.
McGavick recently sent an email to many prominent Republicans, touting his endorsements and seeking more. He claims support from Slade Gorton, Jennifer Dunn, John Carlson, Bill Finkbeiner and others. McGavick’s goal is apparently to lock up endorsements and money early, so as to scare off other potential challengers and thus avoid a primary fight. But according to the TNT, at least one other GOP hopeful, Diane Tebelius, doesn’t sound like she wants to cooperate with this strategy.
Tebelius rejected that reasoning Friday. A primary fight can help each candidate hone a message and allow voters to decide which candidate best represents their views, she said, dismissing McGavick’s list of endorsements.
“The support of a group of people is not the support of voters. You have to earn the voters’ confidence,” said Tebelius, who’s forming an exploratory committee and has been traveling the state for more than a month seeking support.
Pierce County Republican Party Chairman Deryl McCarty supports her and said so do other grass-roots activists and business leaders. If she continues to get that type of feedback, Tebelius said, “then it’s very likely I’m going to run.”
At some point, don’t you think Tebelius is going to tire of faithfully putting all that hard work into the party, only to be screwed over by GOP kingmakers come election time?
Whether the nominee is McGavick, Tebelius, Rick White or HA-exclusive-dark-horse-candidate Rob McKenna, I just don’t think defeating Cantwell will be as easy as the Republican faithful think it will. Apart from Rossi, all other GOP hopefuls trailed Cantwell by double digits in a recent Republican poll… and after a slow start, the Senator now reports a $3 million head start in her campaign account. And it doesn’t really matter who the GOP throws up against her, if she’s smart, Cantwell herself will all but ignore her opponent, choosing to run against Frist, DeLay, Rove, Bush and the right-wing Republican hegemony in DC.
It is true that Cantwell has not been the most visible of senators… mostly because she is simply a policy wonk, genuinely uncomfortable with shameless self-promotion. She is also a true moderate on most issues, and as such simply can’t generate exciting headlines like some of her more liberal (and, um… media savvy) colleagues. But her moderate politics and understated style work both ways, making her very difficult to attack. As tough as it is for Cantwell to generate real passion within some progressives, it will be equally tough for her opponent to generate passion against her, outside of the core Republican base.
Democrats will rally to Cantwell because they understand what is at stake nationally, and WA’s moderates and independents who gave both Patty Murray and John Kerry decisive victories last November, will need to be given a good reason to dump Cantwell in 2006.
I’m not sure a multimillionaire Safeco CEO can give them that reason.