It was about 18 months ago, during a conversation over coffee, that Attorney General Rob McKenna decided to throw his support behind David Castillo, a first-time candidate who was mounting a challenge to U.S. Rep. Brian Baird.
The political sands have shifted since McKenna’s pledge: Baird opted to retire rather than run for re-election, leaving Castillo, state Rep. Jaime Herrera, R-Camas, and Democrat Denny Heck, among others, jockeying for position to advance beyond next month’s primary and into the general election.
What hasn’t changed, McKenna said Tuesday inside a ballroom at The Heathman Lodge, is his belief that Castillo has the “right experience, right convictions and the right skill-set” to become the first republican to capture the 3rd District since 1999.
“I got behind David early, and I think he will be a great congressman,” McKenna said.
Two key early endorsers of Castillo’s candidacy, McKenna and House Republican leader Richard DeBolt, R-Chehalis, made clear their support Tuesday morning in a fundraiser that drew about 75 supporters, who dined on eggs, potatoes and sausage at $35 a person.
“I know that if David Castillo is elected, we’re going to get this state and this country on track,” McKenna said.
DeBolt, under whom Castillo served as chief of staff, opted to support Castillo over Herrera, a member of his Republican caucus the past two years.
The House minority leader credited Castillo with Republican gains in the state House amid the nationwide Democratic landslide buoyed by President Barack Obama in 2008. He described Castillo as a hard worker with a track record of putting “policy through to action, people through to commitment.”
“When David asked me to help him out, there was no hesitation,” DeBolt said. “He is the person that is meant to be in D.C. right now.”
DeBolt introduced Castillo, a Centralia native and one of four children raised by a single mom, who broke from his regular stump speech Tuesday for a free-flowing exchange with supporters.
“We made the decision to run not because it’s my blind ambition to become a congressman,” said Castillo, referring to the choice made in concert with his wife, Calli. “We made the decision to run because it’s my blind ambition to make sure my son has the same opportunities I had.”
A former deputy assistant secretary at the Department of Veterans Affairs during the administration of President George W. Bush, Castillo has been in the 3rd District race since mid-2009.
He said he felt called to run because of concern over the direction of the country under Obama and the Democrat-controlled Congress.
“It’s unfortunate that it sounds trite to talk about the American dream,” Castillo said, energy in the ballroom building as supporters rose to their feet. “The American dream is under attack.
“We are going to win because America deserves leaders of good conscience and character.”
Castillo attempted Tuesday to seize on the momentum of endorsements in The Columbian and the Seattle Times, calling on McKenna, whom he introduced as “the next governor of Washington,” and DeBolt to help launch his campaign into the stretch run of the Aug. 17 primary. Ballots are being distributed this week. (The Columbian has also endorsed his chief Republican rival, state Rep. Jaime Herrera, R-Camas.)
“We have 18 days to take this country back,” Castillo said. “Here’s my pledge to you: The man that I am today is the man I will be when you send me to Congress.”
Read more political news at http://www.columbian.com/politics.