OLYMPIA - Two lawmakers held court downtown Saturday afternoon, one to state his case for replacing outgoing U.S. Rep. Brian Baird and the other to discuss issues of the day in possibly his final town hall meeting in Olympia.
Democrat Denny Heck, the co-founder of TVW and a former state representative, spoke to about 200 people at the Olympia Farmers Market, a few hours after participating in a similar rally in Clark County. He spoke for about 15 minutes and came out swinging, emphasizing the sorry state of the U.S. economy and the need to create jobs. He pointed out that the first decade of the 21st century experienced zero net job growth and that middle class incomes fell in the period.
The 3rd Congressional District, which stretches from Vancouver to Olympia, has one of the state’s highest jobless rates, he said.
“This is not an abstraction,” Heck told the audience. “People need help. Getting people back to work is more than a paycheck; it’s about dignity.”
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Heck also said he’s worried about the effect a permanently weakened economy might have on society. It could mean more people un-retire and return to work, don’t change jobs or are unable to achieve the goal of homeownership. It also means a public sector continually struggling to find new sources of revenue.
“I refuse to accept an American economy in decline,” he said.
Heck is among a crowded field in the race to become the next representative for the 3rd District, replacing Baird, who chose not to run again. Also in the race on the Democratic side are state Sen. Craig Pridemore, Hispanic activist Maria Rodriguez-Salazar, state Rep. Deb Wallace and Olympia peace advocate Cheryl Crist. On the Republican side, it’s state Rep. Jaime Herrera; 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 David Hedrick of Camas.
Supporter Dick Moody said he has known Heck for 30 years and praised Heck’s long history of public service, including in education. Moody also said he thinks Heck has an understanding of how federal issues apply at the local level.
“I want someone to pay attention to the people,” Moody said.
At The Mark, state Rep. Brendan Williams, who had considered seeking Baird’s seat, addressed about 30 people at his only in-person town hall discussion this year. He is not seeking re-election.
The Democrat discussed ideas for raising taxes and answered questions about Medicaid, the effectiveness of citizen lobbyist groups, public funding of state Supreme Court campaigns, intellectual disability legislation, military spending and foreign policy. Jerry Reilly, known for efforts to protect views on Olympia’s isthmus, summed up the meeting by telling Williams that he would be missed as a lawmaker.
“We’re looking forward to your reincarnation as a citizen activist,” Reilly said.
Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403