Nation & World

Seven state GOP candidates eye U.S. Senate

Seven Republicans vying to take on U.S. Sen. Patty Murray all agreed Wednesday that this year's health care overhaul was a bad idea.

It’s just the start of what they would like to roll back.

At various times in their evening debate at Peninsula High School, candidates called for eliminating the Department of Education, the U.S. Postal Service, the 17th Amendment right to direct election of senators, the 14th Amendment right to citizenship for U.S.-born children of immigrants, and entitlements such as Medicare and Social Security.

Candidates made no mention of Dino Rossi, the wild card in the Senate race. If the former Republican gubernatorial candidate decides to enter, he will bring proven fundraising experience to November’s competition with Murray, who has about $6 million in her campaign war chest.

For less well-known names, standing out in the crowd of at least 11 Republicans running for Senate is tough. And while Craig Williams of Vancouver did it by singing a song targeting Murray – to the tune of Queen’s “We Will Rock You” – most sought to do it by staking out positions most opposed to federal government involvement in the free market, state’s rights and the social safety net.

Clint Didier, a former NFL player, might have offered the most full-throated defense of that philosophy. He said his first bill as senator would abolish the Department of Education, keeping authority over schools at the local level.

“We’ve got to stand on that platform and not budge an inch,” he said, “bring this country back to the center, and then to the right.”

Nearly all the candidates were enthusiastic about a question about whether states have the right to nullify unconstitutional federal laws, and Didier called for refusing to participate in new health care regulations.

“What are they going to do, put us all in prison?” he asked.

Motivational speaker Chris Widener, though, separated himself by saying a Republican can’t beat Murray with that kind of a platform.

Though he called the federal government “a monster that’s always trying to grab more and more power,” he said voters would respond to a positive message.

“Talking about going to jail and pulling out shotguns and things like this is not going to do us any good. We’ve got to become a proactive people who talk about what we’re for, not what we’re against.”

Williams was the only candidate to throw cold water on the idea of nullification, saying states should try to change the law rather than ignore it.

“We are a republic, and that means we follow law,” he said.

At least five candidates said entitlements that make up a large portion of federal spending must be eliminated or phased out.

“It’s not the federal government’s job to provide entitlements to people,” state Sen. Don Benton said. “We got off down the wrong road, there.”