Republicans wasted no time going on the offensive in the 3rd Congressional District race Wednesday after Democrat Denny Heck and Republican Jaime Herrera placed in the top two in the Washington primary.
“Denny Heck will be a rubber stamp for the Nancy Pelosi agenda of bloated government and more spending,” the National Republican Campaign Committee and the Herrera campaign warned in a joint statement.
Citing Heck’s public statements, the GOP said he was on the record as supporting more than $1.8 trillion in new federal spending.
Herrera campaign spokesman Casey Bowman said the $1.8 trillion figure includes the estimated $1 trillion cost of implementing health care reform, the $787 billion stimulus bill Congress passed last year, and the $26 billion “state bailout” Congress appropriated last week to help states cover Medicaid costs and protect schoolteacher jobs.
“I believe government needs to go the opposite direction, let employers invest their own money in job creation, and get people back to work,” Herrera said in the statement.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Heck campaign fired back with an accusation that Herrera, by opposing the $26 billion state bailout, favors protecting tax breaks for companies that ship American jobs overseas.
“The very last thing folks struggling in this economy need is a representative that pledges to protect tax breaks for companies that ship American jobs overseas and who won’t protect jobs at home,” said DCCC spokesman Andy Stone.
To help pay for the $26 billion measure, its Democratic sponsors included language that will end some tax breaks for multinational companies.
Both candidates released statements stressing their plans to boost economic recovery in Southwest Washington.
“As I have said throughout this campaign, in addition to controlling spending we can implement free market solutions to help stimulate our economy,” Herrera said. “Restructuring our tax system to encourage investment, passing market-oriented health care solutions that actually reduce costs of care, and passing a balanced budget amendment to ensure we stay on a sound fiscal course should be our top priorities.”
Heck said Clark County’s July unemployment rate of 13.3 percent underscores the need to “make getting people back to work our top priority.”
“I’ve got a plan to create jobs, grow small businesses and get our economy moving again,” Heck said. “And after all the years I’ve spent building companies and creating jobs here in Washington, I know what needs to be done.”
Stone of the DCCC said Heck has the right kind of experience to appeal to voters across the political spectrum.
Tea Party Republican David W. Hedrick, who finished third in the race, endorsed Herrera on Wednesday. Republican David Castillo, who finished fourth, said he was not ready to make an endorsement.
Peace activist Cheryl Crist, an Olympia Democrat, said she would vote for Heck and encourage her supporters to do so.
In tallies released late Wednesday, Heck had 32.1 percent; Herrera garnered 26.9 percent; David Hedrick had 13.5 percent; and David Castillo won 11.9 percent.
Luke Esser, chairman of the Washington State Republican Party, said he was elated at the results in the 3rd District. The party did not endorse a candidate in the race, one of about 10 congressional contests rated as toss-ups in national political rankings.
“I am supremely confident we will unite to win the 3rd Congressional District this year,” Esser said. “We thought we had a strong chance even before Brian Baird announced his retirement. The message is not only that we need to elect Jaime Herrera to Congress, but also that we need to fire Nancy Pelosi as speaker. This is the kind of district Republicans have to win if we are going to win control of Congress.”
Dwight Pelz, the state Democratic chairman, sought to downplay the primary results.
“You had a tightly contested primary,” he said. With three Republican candidates, “obviously there were a lot of Republicans voting. We had this so-called enthusiasm gap which favored Republicans in the primary. We think this August primary inflated Republican numbers.
“We think it’s a very competitive race and we’re feeling very good about our candidate,” Pelz said.
Locally, Republicans made strong showings in two 17th Legislative District races and in the contests for Clark County assessor and Clark County clerk.
State Rep. Tim Probst of Vancouver, a moderate Democrat who is running for his second term, trailed Republican Brian Peck by a small margin in partial results.
Probst said he’s been there before. Vote tallies in the 17th consistently show higher numbers for Republicans in the primary and higher numbers for Democrats in the general election, he said.
“After all that’s happened to the political mood over the last two years, my primary numbers are exactly the same,” he said in an e-mail. “My local voters know me well, and the national mood has not dented my numbers.”
Both Probst and Peck will advance to the general election.
In the other 17th District seat, Republican businessman Paul Harris held onto a 22 percentage point lead over Democrat Monica Stonier, a middle-school teacher. Harris said he had doorbelled more than 14,000 houses during the primary campaign.
Both Stonier and Harris will advance to the November election. Animation software developer Martin Hash finished third in the race.