Two Republicans with military backgrounds plan to take on seven-term U.S. Rep. Adam Smith next year in the 9th Congressional District race.
Smith, a former state lawmaker, has demolished opponents in several recent elections and has built a reputation as a moderate pro-business Democrat. He also has expertise in military issues, which fits with his district and its large military bases.
But Republican state Rep. Tom Campbell of Roy and Pierce County Council member Dick Muri of Steilacoom think it’s worth taking a shot in the suburban district that runs from Lacey to Federal Way – especially after Congress approved a $787 billion federal economic-stimulus package that they say still hasn’t shown results.
James Postma, a Republican who lost to Smith last fall, appears to be running again, although he had not reported any fundraising as of March 31.
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“I hear a lot of Republicans say they hope (President) Obama fails. I hope he succeeds. The whole country is at stake,” Campbell said last week after kicking off his campaign with a June 5 fundraiser in Puyallup. “This is a perfect example of the gamesmanship that shouldn’t be done ... I’m a pragmatist and would try to make it work” with either party in power.
Campbell, a Roy chiropractor and longtime state House member from the rural 2nd Legislative District, has had success in recent years passing state consumer-protection bills in health care and environmental protection despite facing a Democrat-controlled Legislature. His long list of successes includes his early backing of a patient’s bill of insurance rights and more recent bills holding hospitals publicly accountable for patients who become infected while under their care.
Campbell, a former Democrat who supports unions as well as gun rights, has been an outcast among House Republicans in recent years, but House Republican Leader Richard DeBolt supports him. His fundraising kickoff drew more than 100 people, including Republican state Chairman Luke Esser, and he raised about $8,300, Campbell said.
Campbell says he will set aside party affiliation in a quest to get federal transportation money to the 9th district and fix health care, comparing his ambitions to the record of West Virginia budget master Robert Byrd.
“I intend to shame Sen. Byrd before it’s all over with. I have proven myself ... I never use parties as an excuse for nonperformance,” Campbell said.
Muri is a Pierce County Council member and the latest person to join the race, and he describes himself as a Reagan Republican. He said he’s strong on defense and government accountability but also protective of the environment. He mentioned the passage of funds for a conservation futures group and support of a Lakewood sewer project as examples of his priorities.
“I’m not running against Tom Campbell. I’m running against Adam ‘Pelosi’ Smith,” Muri said in a jab at the incumbent for his support of increased federal spending to kick-start the economy. “He refuses to say no to all these bailouts and these spending plans. He has not stood up and said, ‘No, we can’t spend this money.’ He’s been too polite to his party’s leadership and all these spending plans.”
Postma also has a background in the military and defense industries. On his Web site, he questions Obama’s citizenship and calls the financial system’s instability the top issue.
Smith has stayed above the fray so far, keeping his focus on his job in Congress and rejecting the GOP’s speculation that he might take a job with the Obama administration.
“Adam is not going anywhere,” his campaign political director, Stacie Anderson, said Friday. “He will be on the ballot in 2010. He has no interest in doing other than what he is doing now. Tacoma is home, and that is where he wants to remain.”
Smith’s campaign had $402,170 cash on hand at the end of March, and Smith said there is no reason yet to view the next election as any different from recent ones in which Smith won with more than 60 percent of the vote.
Muri compared the situation facing Republicans now to the challenge they faced in 1993, after President Clinton’s election. GOP challengers for 1994 initially looked overmatched, but George Nethercutt beat House Speaker Tom Foley in Spokane and Randy Tate upended U.S. Rep. Mike Kreidler in the 9th as the Republicans seized control of Congress.
Muri predicted that if the economy still is lagging and deficits are “running amok” in a year, “people are going to say, ‘It’s time for a change.’” He said a balanced-budget amendment is needed to “handicap” Congress’ ability to spend.
Both Campbell and Muri say the $787 billion economic-stimulus package was a good idea but didn’t put enough money into infrastructure projects that would serve as a true economic stimulus. Muri said he would not have approved extra money for states to spend on Medicaid or local schools, for instance.
Republican Party leader Esser said he thinks the public is increasingly uncomfortable with the Obama administration’s economic-stimulus package.
“Democrats are going to have to take ownership of a lot of spending, a lot of debt, a lot of deficits, a lot of bailouts,” Esser said. “That gives Republicans a good chance to show where they are different from Democratic incumbents following Nancy Pelosi down this dangerous path.”
Despite the surge of candidate interest, the 9th district is not the top one on the radar of national Democratic and Republican groups. The 8th district race pitting Republican U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert against Eastside Democrat Suzan DelBene is getting the most attention from the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Also being watched is the 3rd district, which takes in Olympia. Democratic U.S. Rep. Brian Baird of Vancouver faces a challenge from Republican David Castillo, a former congressional and legislative staffer. Castillo had not raised money as of March 31, and Baird was sitting on $578,627 left over from last year’s election victory.
Joanna Burgos of the NRCC said it is too early to say whether money would go into the race against Smith, but she said his votes correlate highly with that of the Democratic leadership and that the race will be watched. Esser said the 3rd district is trending toward Republicans and that the GOP hopes to show Baird’s record is out of step with voters’ beliefs and too much like House Speaker Pelosi’s.
Brad Shannon: 360-753-1688