Moeller faces challenge from Riley in 49th

Republican has health care background, fed up with taxes

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Republican businessman Craig Riley of Vancouver has launched an aggressive campaign against Democratic Rep. Jim Moeller in the 49th Legislative District.

Riley, 59, owns Riley Financial, a benefit advisory business he built from scratch beginning in 1988, when he moved to Clark County with his wife and four children. The company, which now has more than 1,000 clients, specializes in providing health and retirement benefits to individuals and small businesses, he said. Riley Financial also offers workshops for individuals who are about to enter the Medicare system or change their benefits.

This race is not Riley’s political debut. In 1990, he challenged Democratic House Speaker Joe King for the same 49th District seat and lost by a narrow margin.

He made his 2010 debut at the March 20 Clark County GOP Convention, where he declared that the 49th, widely considered a Democratic stronghold, is fair game for Republicans this year. The 49th covers Vancouver west of I-205 and Hazel Dell.

“I’m running because I’m disgusted and fed up,” he declared at the convention. “Jim Moeller is well-entrenched. He’s a passionate man, he’s a hard-working man.” But he said Moeller has never met a tax he doesn’t like.

In contrast, Riley said in an interview, he believes government should take a page from the private sector when times are lean.

“This is a time for us to hold the line, get through this downturn and make the hard decisions we have to make,” he said.

On health reform, an issue he deals with every day, Riley said seniors will bear the burden for 50 percent of the cost of the new federal plan through increased Medicare premiums and reduced benefits. He said he is opposed to taking money from Medicare Advantage, the most popular form of health care coverage among Washington seniors because it assures them that they will be able to find medical care.

“When people can’t find a doctor, that hurts people,” he said.

Riley said he plans to campaign up close and personal with voters in the 49th.

“Money’s not going to beat Moeller,” he said. “It’s going to be talking to people face to face, door to door, eye to eye, saying, ‘Are you upset, are you disgusted with how things are being run in Olympia, can we bring fiscal sanity back to where we have lost it?’”

Riley will kick off his campaign from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. April 6 at the Brickhouse Grill, Mill Plain and Main in Vancouver.