Incumbent Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell was cruising toward an easy win against four primary rivals Tuesday, ending speculation that strong...

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Incumbent Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell was cruising toward an easy win against four primary rivals Tuesday, ending speculation that strong anti-war sentiment might hobble her campaign.

Her best-known Republican rival, former insurance executive Mike McGavick, was beating five opponents in the early returns, setting up the final showdown between the two.

In other races for federal office, Doug Roulstone, a former Navy captain, was leading Teri Moats, in the GOP race in the 2nd District, encompassing northwest Washington. The winner will face Democratic Rep. Rick Larsen in November.

In Seattle’s 7th District, longtime Democratic Rep. Jim McDermott was easily besting two opponents. He’ll face Republican Steve Beren and Independent Linnea Noreen in November.

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In Southwest Washington’s 3rd Congressional District, Republican Michael Messmore was outpolling Daniel Miller to face Democratic Rep. Brian Baird.

Republican Rep. Doc Hastings was holding off a challenge from Claude Oliver in the 4th District of Central Washington. The winner of that race will likely face Democrat Richard Wright, who was leading Lewis Picton.

Five other congressional districts had no primary battles. Although not a head-to-head contest, newcomer Democrat Darcy Burner and Republican Rep. Dave Reichert were about even in vote counts in the 8th District in the early returns. In the 5th District in Eastern Washington, incumbent Republican Cathy McMorris was earning more votes than Democratic candidate Peter Goldmark.

In the Senate race, perhaps most intriguing was the contest between Cantwell and legal-services attorney Hong Tran, although few people thought Tran could win.

Last spring, some Democratic activists expressed frustration with Cantwell’s refusal to reconsider her 2002 vote to authorize force against Iraq.

Tran and another Democratic candidate, Mark Wilson, made opposing the war a central issue in their campaigns.

Republicans salivated at the prospect of Democrats tearing themselves apart over the war. During the Democratic state convention in June, as Cantwell faced crowds of testy delegates, the state GOP released a statement headlined: “Democratic divide over Iraq hurts Cantwell.”

A month later, Wilson joined Cantwell’s campaign at a salary of $8,000 per month until the general election, and Tran remained Cantwell’s only opponent.

A political newcomer, Tran is almost unknown and raised a total of about $35,000 for the race, less than any of the six candidates vying to represent Fremont, Wallingford and Capitol Hill in the state Legislature. She failed to report her recent campaign finances to the Federal Elections Commission by the Sept. 4 deadline.

Yet Tran was tirelessly optimistic throughout the race, which she cast not as a protest against Cantwell but a legitimate choice between two Democrats.

The war does not divide her party, said Tran. Everybody opposes it.

“I think people are strongly anti-war. I think Maria Cantwell’s position is contrary to the majority of Democratic voters and voters across party lines,” she said.

In August, Cantwell seemed to tweak her Iraq position, saying she would not have voted for the war if she had known that Saddam Hussein did not possess weapons of mass destruction.

While neither Cantwell nor McGavick spend a lot of time talking about Iraq, the issue is sure to be kept alive by at least one candidate in the general election: Aaron Dixon of the Green Party.

A former member of the Seattle chapter of the Black Panther Party, Dixon’s campaign was beset by reports that he hadn’t paid traffic fines or voted in decades. Last month, Dixon said it would be a good thing if his campaign cost Cantwell re-election because her defeat would send an important message to the Democratic Party.

Alex Fryer: 206-464-8124 or

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