Sharp differences are showing among the six candidates running for the 3rd Congressional District seat now held by retiring Democratic six-term U.S. Rep. Brian Baird.
Jobs creation and federal spending are top issues in the largely rural district that has the highest unemployment in the state and sprawls from Olympia to Vancouver and from the Cascade foothills to the Pacific Ocean. Only two candidates move forward after the Aug. 17 primary under the state’s “top two” format.
Denny Heck, an entrepreneur who co-founded the state’s TVW network, goes into the primary runoff as the top fundraiser. A former Democratic insider who was majority leader in the state House and a former chief of staff to a governor, Heck reported to the Federal Election Commission that he raised $950,161 through June – about $350,000 of it from his own pocket – an amount that dwarfs rivals, led by Republican state Rep. Jaime Herrera with $378,115.
Heck is making jobs creation through tax incentives and promotion of alternative energy a signature of his campaign. At a July 1 forum in Olympia, he said he gets up “every single morning passionately motivated to do whatever I can to help people get back to work.”
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Heck and the other Democrat in the race, retired real estate seller Cheryl Crist, generally favor the $787 billion government stimulus effort approved by Congress in early 2009 at a time the economy was still failing. Crist says a second stimulus might still be needed, while Heck, who thought the first one didn’t target economically distressed areas enough, credits the aid with saving 2 million jobs.
ON THE OTHER HAND
Their position on the stimulus puts the two Democrats squarely opposite the Republicans and one independent in the race.
“I didn’t support it then; I don’t support it now,” Herrera countered at a campaign forum. Herrera, a state legislator and former congressional aide from Camas, contends that reduced federal spending, fewer and predictable regulations, and tax cuts are the answer to spurring jobs growth.
Another Republican skeptic on the economic stimulus is David Castillo, an Olympia-based financial adviser. Castillo wants to extend the Bush-era tax cuts, a position shared by Herrera and independent Norma Jean Stevens of Ocean Park, and he contends that stimulus actions “have done nothing to improve the economy.’’
Republican David W. Hedrick, who works as a management accountant and lives in Camas, also says government stimulus efforts do not work, and he wants to lop federal spending and taxes. Stevens, a small-business owner, similarly says the stimulus isn’t working and, like Hedrick, believes tax cuts will spur so much economic growth that tax receipts will actually grow.
After Heck and Herrera, the top fundraiser is Castillo with $245,333. Hedrick reported raising $41,357 and Crist $9,750; Stevens reported no contributions through June.
Besides having pull with donors, Herrera is backed by national Republicans including her former boss, U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Deer Lake, near Spokane. Other backers are former U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton and Secretary of State Sam Reed.
Herrera is also moving up in the National Republican Congressional Committee’s “Young Gun” rankings by virtue of her fundraising, and she is confident she can place at least second in the primary. If she does, she can count on overt national support, because her party considers this one of the 40 seats it needs to take back the House majority.
Castillo is backed by state Attorney General Rob McKenna and is also recognized by the NRCC as a promising, or Young Gun, candidate; but he hasn’t moved up its ratings as far. Castillo does have support from the Freedom Works, a group linked to promotion of the tea party movement, and he was the first to get into the race after forming an exploratory committee in April 2009.
Herrera has won nomination by at least three county GOP parties. But Castillo picked up a few recent newspaper endorsements – sharing an endorsement with Herrera in the Vancouver Columbian while sharing endorsements with Heck in both the Longview Daily News and The Seattle Times. (The Olympian typically does not endorse in partisan primaries.)
Hedrick is a disabled former member of the Marine Corps and describes himself as the favorite of tea party activists, and he is counting on their strength to give him a profile larger than his fundraising would allow. His endorsements include Michael Delavar, the Republicans’ 2008 candidate against Baird and a supporter of Ron Paul’s presidential campaign. Hedrick also got a boost last year on the air from national Fox News personality Sean Hannity and says he is looking for endorsements from businesses and “regular people.’’
Hedrick freely quotes the Constitution as evidence the federal government has entered into too many enterprises he believes are not allowed by the founding document. He is urging the most radical cutbacks in the size of government – including abolition of the Department of Education and the Environmental Protection Agency. He flatly rejects government action as a solution to most problems, particularly with the economy, and says he’ll sponsor a bill to repeal national health care reform if elected.
Like Hedrick, Castillo wants to abolish the Department of Education in favor of state and local control, but Hedrick’s agenda is broader and he wants to give environmental regulation solely to the states. Herrera, by contrast, wants to examine all federal spending and does not favor getting rid of the Department of Education.
Stevens is the least known of the field. In 2004 she ran unsuccessfully for Pacific County commissioner as a Democrat. Her campaign is sounding tea party themes with calls for less federal spending; her website offers a pocket copy of the Constitution to donors of a certain amount.
With so many right-of-center candidates in the race, Heck is considered by some rivals as the likely top vote-getter in the primary.
But Crist, an anti-war activist and backer of a single-payer health care system, is running on Heck’s left and is not giving up, just as she challenged Baird in 2004 and 2008 without much help from the Democratic Party. Crist shares Heck’s interest in alternative energy as a jobs-boosting strategy.
Heck has set himself further apart from several of the other candidates by laying out positions in support of controversial bills passed by the House – including a Wall Street reform opposed by Republicans, which Heck thinks can help avert another economic meltdown like that of 2008; and health reform, which he thinks needs follow-up to better control its cost.
Heck also favors alternatives to oil and reduced carbon emissions but has not taken a position on the climate-change bill that passed the House, which Republicans in the race are depicting as an unaffordable energy tax that would kill jobs creation in the 3rd District.
Hedrick said the Wall Street reform bill, which limits some past financial practices, “is another way for government to increase regulation and burden businesses.” He also would have opposed the unemployment benefits extension that recently passed Congress.
Castillo also criticizes the Wall Street bill, and Herrera said she probably would have voted against it, believing it does not sufficiently prevent future taxpayer aid to financial enterprises deemed “too big to fail.” She said the bill also contains potentially 500 new rules that could benefit business interests to the detriment of small regional banks that are critical to giving credit to small businesses.
The federal debt is a major issue in the campaign. But the Republicans in the race and Stevens all favor both a balanced federal budget and lower taxes – including extension of the Bush-era tax cuts that could dramatically widen the deficits if they do not expire, as scheduled, this year.
The GOP push to cut taxes is strongly countered by Heck and Crist, both of whom want the expiring tax breaks to end for the wealthy. Heck has argued that the original tax cuts did not go far enough for the middle class and small businesses, while Crist has said the tax breaks should lapse for individuals earning over $250,000 a year and couples earning more than $500,000.
Heck and Crist also say deficit spending might be necessary in difficult times such as today, and Crist noted in the Olympia candidates forum that a balanced budget requirement might limit government’s response to an unfolding disaster such as this year’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Heck said he does support so-called “pay-go” rules requiring that budget add-ons be offset by spending cuts or tax increases.
Castillo would go further than any of the candidates on reforming taxes, by first attempting to institute a flat-rate income tax, then working to replace it with a national sales tax. Herrera and Hedrick have not yet endorsed the so-called “fair tax” approach.
On the other side, Crist says a small financial transactions tax on stock, bond and derivatives sales could raise trillions of dollars.
3rd Congressional District
Six candidates are in the contest to take over the 3rd Congressional District seat of retiring six-term Democrat U.S. Rep. Brian Baird. The district extends from Olympia to Vancouver, and from the Cascade foothills to the Pacific Ocean.
Only two candidates will move forward after the Aug. 17 primary under the state’s “top two” format.
Additional information about these and other races is available online from The Olympian at www.theolympian.com/elections . From there, you can connect to the state Voters’ Pamphlet and the TVW Video Voters’ Guide as well as Olympian political editor Brad Shannon’s Politics blog.
E-mail: email@example.com .
Website: www.castilloforcongress.com .
Occupation: Financial adviser.
Experience: Presidential appointee at the Department of Homeland Security and previously served President Bush as deputy assistant secretary for congressional and legislative affairs at the Department of Veterans Affairs; chief of staff to House Republican Caucus in Olympia; Bush-Cheney ’04 campaign’s national coalitions director; U.S. Department of Labor’s intergovernmental affairs director, 2002; Citizens for a Sound Economy, assistant state director; PACCAR, public affairs coordinator.
Education: University of Washington, B.A. in political science; Gonzaga University, M.A. in organizational leadership.
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org .
Website: www.cristforcongress.us .
Occupation: Retired real estate seller.
Experience: Work background includes jobs as a financial consultant, real estate agent, manager of a nonprofit social services agency, high school teacher and college administrator; she also was a founding member of the Thurston County Progressive Network, led the Kucinich for president campaign in Thurston County in 2004, and ran for Congress in 2004 and 2008.
Education: Austin College, B.A. in English, 1966; Texas Tech University, M.Ed. in guidance and counseling.
E-mail: denny@dennyheckforcongress .com.
Website: www.dennyheckforcongress.com .
Experience: Former state legislator (1977-85) and state House majority leader; chief of staff to former Gov. Booth Gardner, co-founder of TVW network; original investor in RealNetworks; co-founder of Intrepid Learning Solutions for business; co-owner of Bruin Development; co-chair of board of Digital Efficiency.
Education: The Evergreen State College, 1973 graduate.
DAVID W. HEDRICK
E-mail: David@davidwhedrick.com .
Website: http://davidwhedrick.com .
Occupation: Management accountant.
Experience: Former U.S. Marine, disabled on duty; works as an accountant with an international construction-design firm; involvement with College Republicans; political activism included helping for national and local campaigns such as California’s recall of Gov. Gray Davis.
Education: Washington State University, B.A. in business administration; George Fox University, studied for MBA.
E-mail: email@example.com .
Occupation: State legislator.
Experience: State legislator, 18th district, 2007-present; former senior legislative aide on health care, education, veterans and women’s issues for U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, 2005-07; college experience included stint at White House.
Education: University of Washington, B.A. in communications, 2004.
NORMA JEAN STEVENS
Residence: Ocean Park.
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org .
Website: http://normajeanuscongress .com.
Occupation: Owner of small business, Prestige Funding. Experience: Small-business owner and touts “life experience”; ran for Pacific County commissioner as a Democrat in 2004; owned another company, Safe Flagging, in Oregon in 1994-95.
Education: St. Helens (Ore.) High School graduate, 1980.
Note: Date for Cheryl Crist's BA degree has been corrected.