4 consider running to replace Hastings

Kristi Pihl and Geoff Folsom Herald staff writersFebruary 14, 2014 

Four candidates from different parts of Central Washington announced Friday they are considering running to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Pasco.

State Sen. Sharon Brown, R-Kenewick, said Friday she's in the process of forming an exploratory committee to look at running for the seat Hastings is leaving after 10 terms.

Sen. Jana Holmquist Newbry, R-Moses Lake, who is considered to have one of the more conservative voting records in the state Senate, said Friday she has formed an exploratory committee

And Dan Newhouse, former director of the state Department of Agriculture, announced he is interested in Hastings' position.

The three are Republicans.

Also Friday, Josh Ramirez of Pasco, a project control specialist at Washington River Protection Solutions, said he plans to run as an independent.

Candidates must file for the office in May, with the primary Aug. 5. The top two vote-getters advance to the Nov. 4 general election.

w Brown completed her first session in Olympia in 2013 after being appointed by Benton County commissioners earlier this year. She also is a former Kennewick city councilwoman.

"The Tri-Cities has more federal issues than probably any other district in this state. We need a person representing the Tri-Cities that understands the complexity of the issues," Brown said in an email to the Herald.

w Holmquist Newbry, chairwoman of the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee, told the Herald she expects to be able to appeal to Tri-City voters.

"My proven track record of standing up for improving our business climate is something people can relate to anywhere in our state," she said.

Holmquist Newbry, who served in the state House of Representatives for six years before moving on to the Senate, has championed agriculture in her largely rural district.

Area officials including Yakima Mayor Micah Cawley, a member of her exploratory committee, Rep. Cary Condotta, R-Wenatchee, and Toby Bouchey, a former Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce board chairwoman, issued a statement of support.

They praised her for helping on issues related to Hanford, as well as agriculture and transportation.

Holmquist Newbry, an insurance consultant, has sponsored bills in Olympia that would reform workers compensation and set up a "training wage," below the state minimum wage, for teen workers.

She has been named "Legislator of the Year" by the Washington Farm Bureau, the Association of Washington Business and the National Federation of Business.

However, she is usually ranked low by environmental and labor organizations.

Holmquist Newbry plans to travel throughout Hastings' district, which stretches from the Oregon state line to the Canadian border, to meet residents. She hopes to make a decision on whether to run by the end of February.

"I will take time to gather information, and get feedback from the citizens who will be my bosses," she said.

w Newhouse said he's contemplated running for Congress, but wouldn't have run against Hastings. He said Hastings has worked hard to ensure that the interests and concerns of the 4th District were heard.

Newhouse, of Sunnyside, is from a farming background, growing hops, wine and juice grapes, apples, cherries and nectarines. But, he said, like Hastings, he is a fiscally conservative Republican.

"I think I would be a good fit for the district," he said.

Serving in Congress is a huge commitment, and Newhouse said he's taking some time to fully consider the opportunity before making a decision. He said he has received encouragement from family and others.

Newhouse served in the state House for six years representing the 15th Legislative District until he decided in 2009 to accept former Gov. Chris Gregoire's appointment to head of the Department of Agriculture.

He said he sees many similarities between the 4th District and 15th Legislative District, especially in the attitude toward fiscal and social issues.

Newhouse was part of the state Legislature when lawmakers successfully approved major legislation making more Columbia River water available.

Considering water's importance for Eastern Washington, he said his experience in that area would be an asset.

When Newhouse headed the agriculture department, he served under a Democratic governor.

He said he knew the position would allow him to have more influence on agricultural issues. And, he said, Gregoire was good to work with and supportive of his efforts and the state's agricultural industry.

"I would hope that my experiences reaching across the aisle here in Washington would help me be able to do the same thing there," Newhouse said.

People are frustrated with Congress' ability to move forward and get things done, he said. No one person can change the world in Washington, D.C., but with like-minded people working together, he said he thinks he could make progress.

Many of the issues that affect the state's agricultural industry are at the federal level, Newhouse said. He visited Washington, D.C., to work with the state's delegates on various issues.

w Ramirez said he's "90 percent" done putting his 4th District campaign together. He has set up a website (www. joshforcongress2014.com) and is selecting members of a campaign committee. He plans to file next week to be able to start raising campaign money.

Unlike some candidates, Ramirez said he wasn't waiting for Hastings to announce his retirement. He already was planning to challenge the 20-year incumbent.

"When he announced he was retiring, I decided to step up the game," he said.

The independent said he wants to go to Washington, D.C., because he was disturbed by last year's government shutdown and the uncertainty it created at Hanford.

"I believe as an independent I am free to represent the people, as opposed to representing the party," he said. "I can stand up for unity between the parties."

Ramirez said he believes he has a chance to win because statistics show independents now outnumber Republicans and Democrats nationally, and because Washington's "top two" primary system sends the top vote-getters regardless of party to the general election.

"I think there's common ground with most Americans in the middle," he said.

w Kristi Pihl: 582-1512; kpihl@tricityherald.com

w Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543; gfolsom@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom

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