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Stanzel Confirms Interest in Cantwell Senate Challenge

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Sen. Maria Cantwell might be picking up an opponent.

Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell’s (D) opponent next year may have just been revealed.

Scott Stanzel, a former spokesman for President George W. Bush, said this week he is considering challenging the two-term Senator. 

“I have spoken with leaders in this state and my former White House colleagues about the idea of running for the United States Senate,” Stanzel said in a statement posted to his website.

But, Stanzel added, his immediate focus is on getting married at the end of the summer. “After September, I’ll work to grow my business and will consider this opportunity to be a constructive voice for Washington,” he said in the statement on his blog, which also linked to some of the couple's engagement photos.

Stanzel, president of Stanzel Communications, a media strategy and crisis communications firm in the Seattle area, is the first Republican to dip his toe in the water. There has been a noticeable dearth of competition for Cantwell, who in 2000 unseated then-Sen. Slade Gorton (R) by a slim margin and won her 2006 re-election by 17 points.

Explanations in the state range from a weak bench to the fact that much of the state’s political attention is being paid to the open gubernatorial race, which is expected to be a competitive matchup between Rep. Jay Inslee (D) and Attorney General Rob McKenna (R). 

Democrats believe it can also be explained by the GOP’s inability to defeat Sen. Patty Murray (D) in last year’s Republican wave, not to mention the fact that President Barack Obama will be on the ticket this time.

Stanzel worked under Bush for many years both in and out of government. He served as deputy assistant to the president and deputy White House press secretary, and he was national press secretary for the Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign and a communications aide on the 2000 campaign as well. He previously served on Capitol Hill as an assistant press secretary for Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).

Roll Call Politics rates this race Likely Democratic.

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