3rd District candidates weigh in on CRC

Herrera Beutler, two challengers also discuss economy, foreign policy

By Stevie Mathieu, Columbian assistant metro editor


Updated: July 17, 2012, 9:55 AM

photoNorma Stevens

First-term U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas, faces two challengers in the Aug. 7 primary -- one an independently minded Democrat, the other a nonpartisan candidate who has described herself as a libertarian.

The three sat down Monday afternoon with The Columbian's editorial board (video excerpts below) to discuss major political issues, including foreign policy, the Columbia River Crossing, government spending and the economy.

The top two vote-getters in the primary advance to the Nov. 6 general election ballot.

3rd District congressional candidates

Jon Haugen

• Age: 53.

• Party: Democrat.

• Residence: Vancouver.

• Campaign website, click here.

• Money raised: Has not raised enough money to meet the Federal Election Commission’s reporting requirements.

U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler

• Age: 33.

• Party: Republican.

• Residence: Camas.

• Campaign website, click here.

• Money raised: $1.29 million.

Norma Stevens

• Age: 49.

• Party: Nonpartisan.

• Residence: Ocean Park.

• Campaign website, click here.

• Money raised: Has not raised enough money to meet the Federal Election Commission’s reporting requirements.

Herrera Beutler said she supports replacing the Interstate 5 Bridge over the Columbia River and she was happy to see that most Clark County residents will be able to vote on whether the sales tax should be raised to cover light rail costs. If voters reject a sales tax increase, Herrera Beutler said she would support a bridge replacement project that either doesn't include light rail, or one that at least includes the infrastructure to support light rail in the future.

She said the bridge project is "going to impact our ability to grow and thrive and prosper," and she would like to see the federal government pay its fair share of the bridge. When it comes to tolls, she said that's a discussion that needs to be made at the state level.

One of her opponents, Democrat Jon Haugen, called the CRC project a "jobs mirage," adding that "the closer we get to it, the farther it moves away."

Because the start date on the project keeps getting pushed back, it would be better to build a nearby third bridge in the meantime. A supplemental bridge would be less expensive and not require tolls, he said.

"That will bring thousands of jobs — good-paying jobs — in construction," Haugen said. That in turn will give a boost to the local economy, he said.

Haugen said he disagrees with Columbia River Crossing proponents who say the I-5 Bridge is dangerous. He doesn't see an immediate need to replace it.

"It's a scare tactic," Haugen said. "You can do upgrades to it."

Haugen said he supports the idea of extending light rail over the bridge in the future, if that's what people in Clark County want. Right now, he said there doesn't seem to be an appetite for light rail among residents in the county.

Haugen is a commercial pilot for Delta Air Lines. He has made two unsuccessful attempts at becoming a state legislator for the 18th District. In 2008, he ran against then-Sen. Joseph Zarelli, and in 2010, he ran as an independent for an open House seat.

The nonpartisan candidate in the race, Norma Stevens, said she's opposed to raising any taxes or creating any debt to pay for the CRC. She would also like to see statewide votes in Oregon and Washington on whether the bridge should be built and if it should include light rail. She is opposed to using tolls to pay for the bridge.

Stevens runs a small financial business called Prestige Funding. She was a Democrat for most of her life, and she was a supporter of Hillary Rodham Clinton during the 2008 presidential election season.

"I wouldn't vote for her now if somebody paid me," Stevens said. Now, Stevens advocates for individual liberty and states' rights.

Government spending

Haugen wants to cut defense spending, and raise some taxes on wealthier Americans to pay for the country's entitlement programs.

He would like to see people who make more than $250,000 a year pay more in taxes, and he would like to eliminate the wage-based cap on Social Security taxes. People who make $110,000 a year or more all pay the same Social Security tax rate, even if they make millions more than that $110,000 cap.

"We need to have those who have benefited in the last 10 to 15 years pay their fair share," Haugen said. "They've got all sorts of tax shelters."

Herrera Beutler says she supports cutting wasteful spending within the Department of Defense. She also said she doesn't believe it's possible to raise enough taxes to solve the nation's financial problems and raising taxes isn't smart in economic hard times.

"Raising taxes, it endangers us," Herrera Beutler said. "And growing jobs is our focus."

In regards to the pledge she signed promising no new taxes, Herrera Beutler said: "I stand by telling folks in this region I'm not going to raise their taxes to treat them like a piggy bank."

Stevens said the government should audit all of its departments to identify wasteful spending, and eliminate every "unconstitutional department," including the federal Department of Education and the Internal Revenue Service.

She also supports extending Bush-era tax cuts to everyone, including those who make more than $250,000 a year. She calls for the elimination of Medicare and Social Security, calling them failed programs.

"The government needs to get out of the free market," Stevens said, adding that she doesn't support either party's plan to reduce the deficit. "They don't know. They're all corrupt. They're both the same. The only one who knows what to do is Ron Paul, and they don't care about him."

Foreign policy

When it comes to the United States' relationship with Syria, Haugen says he does not support any U.S. troops being sent to Syria or the U.S. supplying any weapons to the conflict-torn nation. If NATO and other world leaders agree to intervene in the country and form "a true coalition to invest their time and their military," he would consider supporting that effort with troops, but the U.S. shouldn't intervene alone.

Regarding the war in Afghanistan, Haugen said that if elected he would "bring troops home within 90 days of being sworn in as a congressman." He said waiting for the military leaders on the ground to tell us it's safe to leave is bad policy, and if it had been applied to the Vietnam War, "we'd still be in Vietnam."

Herrera Beutler said she supports bringing troops in Afghanistan home, especially because the goal of capturing Osama bin Laden has been accomplished. But she said she does not support a publicly disclosed timetable that would put "a target on the people who are there right now."

"The generals are figuring out how best to draw that down," she said of the Afghanistan pullout efforts.

Herrera Beutler said she has supported the international pressures being applied to Syria, but she's undecided about what, if any, military involvement is needed.

"It's something I'm monitoring," she said. "I'm not totally clear what our role should be. The international community has to work together on this one."

Stevens supports ending all foreign conflicts and closing foreign military bases, and eliminating the country's foreign aid program.

"The rich profit and the poor pay with their lives," Stevens said, "and I'm sick of it."

Stevens also said the U.S. should withdraw from the United Nations because the U.N. is not included in the Constitution.

All three candidates did not provide details of any endorsements they've received so far in the race.

Stevie Mathieu: 360-735-4523 or stevie.mathieu@columbian.com or www.facebook.com/reportermathieu or www.twitter.com/col_politics.