Republican state Sen. Michael Baumgartner offers the most serious, and best, challenge to U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell.

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State Sen. Michael Baumgartner, in a crowded field, offers the best challenge to incumbent U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, who must make the case for why she has earned re-election.

Baumgartner, R-Spokane, was elected to the state Senate in 2010. A social and fiscal conservative, he authored legislation consolidating four state agencies into two. The 2011 shift was a major transformation in state government; the legislation compelled the state to begin seeking more cost savings by contracting out state functions.

He also helped lead the change in the state pension system for new employees.

Baumgartner is not shy about bucking his party. He departed from the Republican majority and voted for tougher environmental regulations on tankers in Puget Sound. He would support drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge only if a scientifically-sound and safe way could be found to do it. Until then he is a confident no.

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Baumgartner offers a thoughtful and experienced voice on U.S. foreign policy. He has worked for the U.S. State Department in Afghanistan and the U.S. Embassy in Iraq. He also worked for a telecom startup in Saudi Arabia and spent time in Africa after college.

A social and fiscal conservative, his top priority would be paying down the national debt.

Running for her third term in the Senate, Democrat Cantwell is a valued leader on Wall Street reforms and helping small businesses. She is a consistent voice against media consolidation and in favor of net neutrality. Cantwell has worked to boost job-training and technical-skills programs, smartly focusing on growth areas such as aviation and the success of Boeing.

Her other challengers in the Aug. 7 primary include Republicans Art Coday of Shoreline, Chuck Jackson of Snohomish and Glen Stockwell of Ritzville. Cantwell also faces a challenge from Democrat Tim Wilson.

Cantwell and Baumgartner offer Washington state voters the best conversation about jobs, the economy and other pressing federal issues.

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