Peace activist Crist enters race for District 3 seat

Thurston County peace activist Cheryl Crist says she is running for the U.S. House seat that incumbent Democrat Brian Baird will retire from next year.

Baird’s announcement Wednesday that he won’t run again in the 3rd District set off a flood of speculation about possible candidates. Crist and state Rep. Deb Wallace, D-Vancouver, are the only Democrats who have announced plans to run. Three Republicans have been running for months – David Castillo of Olympia, Jon Russell of Washougal and John William Hedrick of Camas.

“I never closed out my campaign so I could get going if need be,” said Crist, who labels herself a progressive and ran against Baird on an anti-war, health-care-for-all platform in 2006 and 2008.

“About a month ago I did start to put together a team again to run,” she said.

Crist said she made a difference by giving voters choices in two previous 3rd district campaigns. She said the 3rd, which takes up most of southwest Washington, has many working families who were open to her messages.

“The same issues exist: Wars costing lots of money. We need to spend that on nation-building here at home,” Crist said. “Every other modern nation has figured out how to get a doctor’s care to every person in the country; it’s time for us to figure that out, too, and stop dragging our feet and say it’s too expensive.”

She estimated that she has about $2,700 cash on hand. After Baird, Castillo has raised the most so far – nearly $54,000 as of the latest federal campaign report of Sept. 30.

The name of Mark Doumit, the former state senator from Wahkiakum County, also surfaced Friday in connection with Baird’s seat. Doumit did not rule himself out as a candidate but said it’s unlikely he’ll run.

Among Democrats, possible candidates other than Wallace and Crist are state Reps. Brendan Williams of Olympia and Jim Moeller of Vancouver; Sens. Craig Pridemore of Vancouver and Brian Hatfield of Raymond; Clark County Commissioner Scott Stuart; Doumit; and Cowlitz County Commissioner Axel Swanson, who told The Daily News in Longview that he plans to take “a hard look” at running.

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

One possible Republican candidate is state Rep. Jaimie Herrera of Ridgefield, who plans to state her plans next week.

Thurston County Republican Chairman Scott Roberts said he thinks there could be three candidates still to announce.

Baird’s campaign had $622,098 cash on hand as of Sept. 30, and his spokeswoman said he has not decided how to use the surplus money. Federal Elections Commission rules don’t allow him to keep the money, but he can refund it to donors or donate it to other campaigns.

If Baird donates to others, he will be limited to $2,000 per election per campaign, which means he could give his favorite successor candidate a maximum of $4,000 for the election cycle and the same amount to other campaigns, said Julia Queen, a public-affairs specialist with the FEC’s Washington, D.C., office. He also could repay campaign debts or return money to donors with a recommendation on where to donate it.

“They don’t have to do it right away,” Queen said. “He has time to decide what he wants to do with the money.”

Brad Shannon: 360-753-1688