Michael Baumgartner realizes it is a long shot he will raise more money than Sen. Maria Cantwell in his campaign to unseat her.
Cantwell has raised $6.7 million to Baumgartner's $313,000, according to their reports to the Federal Election Commission.
But the Spokane Republican thinks he could get a leg up using social media.
"We're trying to emphasize social media in the campaign," Baumgartner told the Herald during a recent Tri-City campaign stop that included stumping for Rep. Larry Haler, R-Richland, and a pub crawl.
"Social media allows us to have a back-and-forth with people," Baumgartner said. "Sometimes, I share things on Facebook that don't necessarily agree with, but it's a way to share relevant information."
Baumgartner made his debut on the Washington political scene when he unseated incumbent Sen. Chris Marr, D-Spokane, in the 2010 election.
In his two sessions in the state Senate, he has worked on reforming government by consolidating some state agencies and on reforming the state pension system that has been a dark cloud on future state budgets.
He is a native of Eastern Washington, having lived as a child in Colton and Pullman, and he spent time in Spokane as a high school student.
He is a graduate of Washington State University and Harvard's Kennedy School with a master's in public administration with a focus on international development.
He has worked in Iraq for the State Department, in Afghanistan as an embedded adviser to an Afghan Counternarcotics Team in Helmand Province, and advising the U.S military in both nations.
One way Baumgartner has engaged with Facebook followers is to post campaign trail trivia posing questions about locales he visits and letting followers answer -- and boast about their towns -- in the comments.
"All politics is local," he said.
But while people in different parts of the state want to know what Baumgartner would do about issues in their own backyards -- Tri-Citians wanted to know his stance on committing to Hanford cleanup, for example -- he finds some issues are universal.
"There are some localized issues but some big themes," he said. "Everyone is concerned about the economy, the amount of debt America has built up."
Baumgartner often has criticized Cantwell via his Facebook page about the U.S. Senate's failure to pass a budget for three years.
His take on the federal budget involves reforming social programs -- but protecting Social Security and Medicare.
"Those are important. They have always been the third rail for politics," he said. "The time has come to talk about responsible leadership to protect them."
Baumgartner favors a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget, and increasing domestic energy production by whatever means will ease prices and create jobs for Americans.
"I believe we should have an 'all of the above' energy policy that no particular type should be inhibited as long as it can be carried out with reasonable environmental safeguards," he said. "The Keystone pipeline is an example. I think that brings good jobs."
-- On Facebook: www.facebook.com/VoteBaumgartner
-- Michelle Dupler: 582-1543, email@example.com.