Christmas came early for anyone aspiring to represent the 3rd Congressional District. On Dec. 9, Brian Baird announced he would retire after 12 years in Congress. Floodgates opened on a rare open race for Congress, and six candidates bring a variety of talents, potential and promises before voters. This race holds national significance; the 3rd is considered a swing district. Democrat Jolene Unsoeld served from 1989 to 1995, Republican Linda Smith from 1995 to 1999 and Democrat Baird through 2010. George W. Bush carried the district in 2000 and 2004, Barack Obama in 2008.
This transition calls for more than just a new face and a new name. It calls for new perspective. That’s why The Columbian endorses Republicans Jaime Herrera of Camas and David Castillo of Olympia as the two best candidates to advance beyond the Aug. 17 primary to the Nov. 2 election. Herrera has served impressively since November 2007 as a state legislator. She is confident, informed, prepared and enthusiastic. Castillo is a financial adviser and former deputy assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. He is bold, outspoken, aggressive and gregarious.
Olympia businessman and former legislator Denny Heck is the campaign’s top fundraiser, a fact that did not escape fellow Democrats Craig Pridemore and Deb Wallace, who dropped out of the race. Heck now has raised almost a million dollars, more than twice the amount raised by Herrera ($377,415) or Castillo ($245,334). Heck, the amiable and progressive founder of TVW public network, wields vast name-recognition power in and around Vancouver. He grew up in Lake Shore and represented Vancouver as a five-term legislator, rising to power as House majority leader.
We’re concerned with whether Heck would be able to rein in spending, especially on the salaries, pensions and benefits of governmental workers. His campaign signs read, “Give ’em Heck.” If that speaks to the congressional status quo, we don’t think so. Heck’s strengths are reflected in where he’s been, but more important in this race is where the 3rd Congressional District is headed.
The new voices of Castillo and Herrera resonate more compellingly with both traditional and visionary values.
Castillo entered the race early, months before Baird retired, and wasted no time attacking both the incumbent and the Obama administration. His cut-spending, promote-the-private-sector platform is imbued with bedrock GOP principles, but he also proffers innovative ideas. For example, as reported in a recent Columbian story, he wants to replace the federal income tax with a flat tax and ultimately a national sales tax. His residence in Olympia will not diminish his eagerness to represent Clark County, he insists.
Herrera is more familiar here than is Castillo. As an appointed and then elected state legislator, she represented Ridgefield before moving within the 3rd Congressional District to Camas. Her former employer, U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Colville, describes Herrera as “a hard worker, rock-solid on the issues, competent and compassionate.”
Some hard-core Republicans disagree, citing her favorable vote on a labor-backed bill to help unionize day care workers. Herrera said big labor gives her a low rating, and the bill was to strengthen the social safety net. Her greater emphasis is on reversing the spending stampede in Congress and creating jobs in Southwest Washington.
Other candidates include Republican David Hedrick, who rose to fame after berating Baird at a town hall meeting, peace activist Cheryl Crist and Pacific County resident Norma Jean Stevens. For more information about Columbian endorsements, visit http://columbian.com/news/opinion.