Politics & Government

Crowded field to replace Baird grows by three

Three more candidates jumped into the 3rd Congressional District race on Tuesday, including Republican state Rep. Jaime Herrera and two Democrats, state Sen. Craig Pridemore and Hispanic activist Maria Rodriguez Salazar.

The trio joins a field that already had two Democrats and three announced Republicans, and more appear to be on the way.

The race was flung wide open last week by six-term U.S. Rep. Brian Baird’s announcement he won’t run next year. The 3rd district runs from Olympia to Vancouver, Wash., and from the Cascades to the ocean. Baird, a frequent traveler around the district, said he needs a change for his family.

State Rep. Deb Wallace, a Vancouver Democrat with a background in higher-education and transportation issues, and Cheryl Crist, an Olympia peace candidate who also advocated universal health coverage in her 2006 and 2008 campaigns against Baird, were first to say they are in.

Previously announced Republican candidates are David Castillo, an Olympia financial planner and former deputy-assistant secretary of the federal Department of Veterans Affairs; Jon Russell, a Washougal City Council member; and former Marine John William Hedrick from Camas who confronted Baird during late-summer town-hall meetings on health care.

“We need a whole new approach,” Herrera said in a campaign announcement, adding: “(My) pledge is simple – I will place more value on saving your money than spending your money.”

Herrera, 31, has served two years in the state House and previously worked in Congress as a senior policy aide to U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris, the 5th district Republican from Eastern Washington. Herrera said she'll be "an independent voice to control spending, create jobs, and lower the cost of health care," and she blamed both political parties for what she called "overspending America's credit card for too long."

Pridemore, 48, is in his second term and is a former Clark County commissioner and Army intelligence analyst. He had a record in the Legislature of protecting the environment and successfully sponsored a working-families tax credit, which is a state version of the federal earned-income tax credit, to reduce the effect of Washington’s tax system on poorer families.

Pridemore said he’s been working since Baird’s announcement to assemble a congressional-campaign team he thinks will be the best in the state. He said Baird was on his way to re-election, and he does not think the 3rd, which has favored Republicans in some races, will be difficult for a Democrat this time around.

Rodriguez Salazar, 39, is a past regional vice president for the League of United Latin American Citizens and advocated for Hispanic civil rights, health care and voter rights. She called herself a “blue dog” or conservative Democrat and said her focus also is on working families, and she mentioned jobs, education and immigration reform as top issues to address once health-care reform is done.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee put out a statement Tuesday that focused solely on Herrera, indicating the national party sees her as the biggest threat among the four Republicans.

“Jaime Herrera’s record of opposition to both property tax relief and critical tax exemptions for working families doesn’t match her rhetoric about saving local families’ money. That type of blatant hypocrisy is the last thing Southwest Washington needs,” DCCC spokesman Andy Stone said in an e-mail.

Pridemore said he met with a DCCC representative for two hours on Saturday as the national group assessed the “viability” of him, of Rep. Wallace and of Olympia Rep. Brendan Williams.

Williams said he was heartened to see Pridemore in the race, because of his record on the environment and family issues. But Williams said he has not decided whether to run, too.