Politics & Government

Campbell abandons congressional race

Republican state Rep. Tom Campbell has dropped his bid for Congress, saying he wants to run for another term in the state House of Representatives.

The Roy chiropractor’s decision, announced earlier this week, comes at a time that a competitor for his state job has stepped up from his own party.

Yelm businessman J.T. Wilcox said he is running next year for the 2nd Legislative District seat Campbell has held off and on for eight terms, and he intends to tie Campbell to what he calls the “not positive situation” in state governance.

Campbell said he no longer thinks U.S. Rep. Adam Smith, D-Tacoma, will leave his seat for an Obama administration job, and he’s not willing to ask constituents for the $2 million he thinks is needed to unseat the moderate Democrat. He said he also was asked by a number of constituents, whom he did not name, to drop out of the congressional race.

“I think I could beat the incumbent, to be honest with you. But I am worried about the money. That’s a lot of money. And the NRCC (National Republican Campaign Committee) has made clear it’s not a priority race. So you’re not going to get the large scale funding that you need,’’ Campbell, a party maverick, said Thursday.

“I have a good position in Olympia. I’m a committee chair and I’ve done ground-breaking work and have a lot more to do,” Campbell said. As examples of his accomplishments, he cited his work to bring funding for parts of a Yelm loop highway and a cross-base highway in Pierce County. He plans to push for both, plus state health care reform dealing with infection control.

Campbell’s decision leaves Dick Muri, a Pierce County Council member, and James Postma, a Republican who lost to Smith last year, still in the 9th district congressional race. Smith had $505,389 in cash as of June 30, compared with the $3,935 Campbell raised and the $1,000 Postma had on hand.

State Republican chairman Luke Esser showed up at Campbell’s campaign kickoff in Puyallup earlier in the year, but Esser said he has not asked Campbell to bow out and he is not taking sides.

“For now we’re supportive of all of them. But Dick (Muri), because he has a proven ability to win at the county council level – fund-raising and building coalitions – he could well be a very strong candidate,’’ Esser said.

The party won’t get involved at this point in the legislative race. No Democrat has registered to raise funds in the race, but Wilcox, Campbell and another Republican, Matthew Hamilton of Graham, have registered.

Wilcox announced his campaign last week on the grounds of his family’s business, Wilcox Farms. He said Campbell’s decision to get back into the House race won’t deter him and he intends to bring his experience as chief financial officer for the family business to bear as legislator.

“I really entered because I think we have some serious problems with government, especially in terms of private property, traffic and the budget. His jumping back in doesn’t change any of my feelings. We deserve representation that will address those problems, and not the ones that helped create it,’’ Wilcox said this week, suggesting Campbell will have to share blame for some of what is coming out of Olympia because he has been there a long time.

Wilcox now runs a business-consulting firm. But he contrasted his family’s “100-year history of creating jobs in the district’’ to Campbell’s record as the House Republican with the lowest pro-business voting record last session, according to the Association of Washington Business’ new voting scorecard. Campbell voted on business’ side 47 percent of the time, less often than House Speaker Frank Chopp at 53 percent.

Campbell has a strong pro-labor record, eschews party affiliation and actually chairs the environmental health committee for the majority Democrats. His record of independence leaves him typically sitting alone on the floor and not joining either the GOP or Democratic caucuses.

The election is not until 2010. The 2nd district overlaps Thurston and Pierce counties, including the towns of Rainier, Yelm, Roy, Spanaway, Graham and Eatonville.

Brad Shannon: 360-753-1688