SEQUIM - Jeers, clapping and boos punctuated the first and possibly only all-issues forum of the general-election season between 17-term incumbent U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, a Democrat, and his perennial challenger, Republican Doug Cloud.
Dicks, 69, and Cloud, 53, sparred before 250 to 300 people during a fast-paced forum on Wednesday.
Dicks and Cloud appeared with other candidates for an education-themed forum at Tacoma’s Whitman Elementary School on Wednesday night, but no other general face-offs between the two were planned, Dicks spokesman George Behan said.
On Wednesday morning, ballots started going out to voters in the 6th Congressional District, which encompasses the Olympic and Kit-sap peninsulas and part of Tacoma.
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It was also a day for Dicks, who lives in Belfair, and Cloud, a Tacoma attorney who lives in Gig Harbor, to differ face to face before a lively audience.
With his words often prompting cheers and applause , Cloud said he wanted to “change this country and change the world” and urged dependence more on individual initiative.
“I intend to try to get this country moving again to get out of the habit of looking to sugar daddies in Washington,” he said .
Dicks pointed to his experience as a long-term member of Congress and what that has done for his constituents, and said his clout could grow.
He predicted he would become the chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee if he is reelected and if his party stays as the House majority.
Dicks told of his work on salmon restoration and criticized Cloud for wanting to shut down the federal departments of Education and Energy, which he said could affect jobs at Battelle Marine Science Lab in Sequim and the generation of new alternative-energy jobs nationwide.
Cloud said vital functions in those agencies could be absorbed by other federal agencies and that his proposal made him the candidate with ideas on how to fight the federal deficit, expected to exceed $1.4 trillion this year.
Dicks said that deficit was largely due to the economic policies of former President George W. Bush, prompting jeers.
Dicks touted his bipartisanship in recently cobbling together $700 million in defense cuts with in the House .
Cloud hammered at Dicks for voting “99 percent of the time” with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
Said Dicks: “I don’t know if Mr. Cloud is listening. I cut $700 billion.”
The candidates also differed sharply on health care reform legislation Congress passed this summer.
Cloud said he “absolutely” would repeal it, prompting booing and clapping from the audience.
“Premiums are going up now,” he said .
Cloud said “Obamacare” would raid Medicare “to the tune of $500 million.”
Dicks said the legislation would guarantee health care to 32 million uninsured Americans and create health care clinics for low-income Americans.
On illegal immigration, Cloud said he is tired of “watching people skate across our border with their finger in the air.”
Dicks suggested there should be options other than deportation for 10 million to 12 million illegal immigrants in this country if they don’t have criminal records.