Safeco Insurance CEO Mike McGavick is quitting his job next month to explore a 2006 Republican bid for the Senate seat held by Democrat Maria Cantwell. The exploration might well include how to handle blowback from numerous state and federal probes of major U.S. insurers, including Safeco under McGavick's watch. Allegations of improper payments, bid rigging, and anticompetitive industry practices nationwide are being investigated by more than a dozen U.S. and local regulators. Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler has a low-profile review under way into bidding practices and broker compensation fees at 18 firms, including Safeco, the state's No. 2 insurer. The widespread probes were spurred in 2004 by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who has since obtained settlements with the nation's first- and second-largest insurance brokers, Marsh & McLennan and Aon, and is now suing global insurance giant AIG, whose CEO resigned as the company admitted overstating net income by $3.9 billion since 2000. In a May 2 speech to business writers in Seattle, Spitzer, a Democrat running for New York governor, ripped the Bush administration for lethargic investigation of the industry, noting he had garnered 10 guilty pleas and more than $1 billion in fines and restitution. Safeco says it is fully cooperating with the nationwide requests and subpoenas for company records. RICK ANDERSON
While the state Republican party establishment moved quickly to coronate McGavick as the GOP challenger to Cantwell, former KIRO-TV anchor Susan Hutchison had pollsters in the field checking out her prospects against Cantwell. Hutchison, now the executive director of the Charles Simonyi Fund for Arts and Sciences, says her poll shows that Republican voters believe she is a stronger candidate against Cantwell than McGavick. This is not surprising, since McGavick is unknown except among political and business insiders, while Hutchison is well known and popular because of her 21 years with KIRO. Hutchison describes herself as a "moderate Republican" who lives in Seattle and sends her children to public school. She has not decided whether to run for Senate. Would she oppose McGavick for the GOP nomination? Says Hutchison, "I am not competitive, but I am pragmatic." Says Republican political consultant Brett Bader: "Susan wouldn't shy away from a tough fight." GEORGE HOWLAND JR.
Filings for elected office are under way this week, with a deadline Friday, July 29, at 4:30 p.m. You can keep track of who's officially in a race at the Web site of the King County Records, Elections, and Licensing Services Division, www.metrokc.gov/elections/contests/, which is updated periodically. For city races, the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission posts campaign finance disclosures at www.seattle.gov/ethics/ethics.htm for anyone who has been actively campaigning, whether they have formally filed with the county or not. The city financial filings are searchable and list contributors by name. The primary is Sept. 20 and the general election is Nov. 8. The primary voters' pamphlet will be mailed starting Aug. 30. CHUCK TAYLOR
After nine years at Microsoft, former Slate publisher Cyrus Krohn has moved on to Yahoo! Krohn, most recently with MSN Video, started last week at Yahoo's brand-new Santa Monica, Calif., office, which is to be the headquarters of the company's ambitious media group, headed by former ABC-TV chairman Lloyd Braun. Yahoo! has been wooing media executives like mad as it attempts to produce content hits for the Web—a markedly different strategy than that of Microsoft, which sidelined in-house content development years ago. Krohn is still maintaining a home in Issaquah, however, and will for the time being continue as a Washington News Council member. NINA SHAPIRO
The cash-strapped producing organization Foolproof has announced its 2005–06 American Voices lineup—an all-star list of commentators, comedians, and authors. Newsman Dan Rather, U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, comedians Paula Poundstone and David Sedaris, outspoken presidential offspring Ron Reagan, and others will appear at various venues between Aug. 3 and April 24. Meanwhile, though, Foolproof's finances are no laughing matter. The nonprofit is in the midst of an emergency fund-raising campaign to assure its survival. For tickets and information, call 206-325-2993, or visit www.foolproof.org. GWEN DAVIS