The Cantwell-Baumgrner race hasn’t been steaming up the headlines but here’s an interesting development reported by The Seattle Times:

SEATTLE, Wash. -- Democratic U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell has received an endorsement from an unusual source — Dale Foreman, the former leader of the Washington State Republican Party.

Foreman, a Wenatchee attorney, apple grower and chairman of the U.S. Apple Association, said he is supporting the two-term incumbent’s re-election over Republican challenger Michael Baumgartner because of her work in support of the apple industry.

He cited Cantwell’s work on a bill to bring more agricultural workers to the state and another to increase funding for farming research. Both bills are stalled in Congress because of Republican opposition — opponents object to the first because it could offer illegal immigrants jobs, and the second for funding reasons.

“I support Maria Cantwell because she has done such a good job for the apple industry, and that’s a huge part of the Washington state economy,” Foreman said. “I’m happy to be able to support a senator who I think is working for Washington state.”

Foreman served as the House Majority Leader in the state Legislature and nearly earned the Republican nomination for governor in 1996. He represented the GOP and Dino Rossi in a lawsuit challenging Gov. Chris Gregoire’s 2004 election.

He said he has never before voted for a Democrat and still plans to vote for Republican Mitt Romney.

He announced his endorsement at a U.S. Apple Association conference last week. He also co-hosted a fundraiser for Cantwell with other apple growers last month.

Baumgartner, a state senator from Spokane, downplayed the endorsement as a case of an industry group hedging its bets by supporting an incumbent favorite.

He said he strongly supports the Washington state agriculture industry and would be more effective than Cantwell at working in a bipartisan manner.

-- The Seattle Times