Cicotte, Didier interested in House seat

By Geoff Folsom, Tri-City HeraldFebruary 17, 2014 

Two more candidates stepped forward Monday seeking to replace retiring Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Pasco.

Both of them are Republicans and have experience in Washington, D.C., though not as elected officials.

Kennewick attorney George Cicotte announced he is forming an exploratory committee, the first step in a congressional run to seek the seat Hastings will leave in January.

Clint Didier, a former pro football player and two-time statewide candidate, said he is "all in" for a run at the House of Representatives.

Hastings announced last week that he will not run for re-election to his seat representing the 4th Congressional District, which covers a Central Washington area from Oregon to Canada. The chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee is leaving after 20 years in D.C.

Other Republican candidates to announce they are considering a campaign for the seat include state Sens. Sharon Brown of Kennewick and Jana Holmquist Newbry of Moses Lake; former state Department of Agriculture director Dan Newhouse; Franklin County Commissioner Brad Peck; and Gavin Seim, an Ephrata portraitist and filmmaker. Josh Ramirez of Pasco, a Washington River Protection Solutions project control specialist, announced he will run as an independent.

w Cicotte said his legal experience will help him in Congress.

All of the candidates considering replacing Hastings will promise to try to keep funding for cleanup of the Hanford site, as well as helping area agriculture and water resources, Cicotte said.

But Cicotte said he separates himself from the pack because of his experience as a health benefits attorney.

Cicotte has worked for 20 years on federal benefits like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and most recently, the implications of the Affordable Care Act, he said. The entitlements make up a large portion of the federal budget.

"My opinion is that I have a unique skill at that and this can help get the government into a better position," he said.

Cicotte and his wife have seven children. He said a large family can also be an asset in Congress.

"There's a lot of compromising and working together as a family, and that experience will be very, very valuable in the Legislature," he said.

He also worries about his children's future. He said he doesn't want them to have to pay 50 percent of their income in taxes.

Cicotte has been interested in running for Congress since being offered a job working for the counsel for the House Education and Workforce Committee in 2001. The committee was chaired at the time by Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, now speaker of the house.

He turned the job down and returned to the Tri-Cities from Washington, D.C., the following year to start his own law firm and waited patiently for Hastings to retire, he said.

Before making his congressional announcement, Cicotte was most recently interviewed by the Herald when he camped overnight outside the new Costa Vida Mexican Fresh Grill in November in Richland with his wife, Wendy, and four of his children. They won free meals each week for a year for being among the first 25 customers. He said they waited all night as a family bonding experience.

"To be honest, I'm kind of tired of Costa Vida at this point," he said.

w Didier might not have won burritos, but he had two Super Bowl wins with the Washington Redskins as a tight end.

Didier lost his 2010 primary for Sen. Patty Murray's seat with 12 percent of the vote, but easily won Benton and Franklin counties. The tea party favorite was endorsed by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Rep. Ron Paul.

Didier, an Eltopia alfalfa farmer, said Monday that government has "run amok."

"Everyone I talk with seems to share an uneasiness about this time in America," he said in a news release. "It's an uneasiness about our future. Even though they can't put their finger on it, everyone seems to know it centers on the size and scope of the federal government. It has to change and we need those willing to take the tough votes to change it. I am."

Didier received 41 percent of the vote statewide in 2012, when he ran for public lands commissioner against Democrat Peter Goldmark. He took Benton and Franklin counties by about a 20 percentage point margin.

Voters are tired of Republican candidates who can't say "no" to higher taxes, bailouts and government regulations, Didier said, adding they do not like government becoming involved in their health care decisions.

Didier's farm received more than $291,000 in federal farm subsidies between 1995 and 2010, despite his calls for limited government, according to a database of United States Department of Agriculture maintained by the Environmental Working Group.

Didier told the Herald Tuesday that most of the money he received from the federal government came for dealing with disasters like damage from hail storms, as well as insurance programs that he paid into. Still, he now says he should not have taken part in those programs, comparing it to alcohol or drug addiction.

"I realized I was in the wrong by participating in this," he said. "I realized this was a social program."

Didier hasn't taken any federal money for his crops since 2010, and donated his last year of subsidies to Alaska's Healing Hearts, an outdoors program for disabled veterans, he said.

"Honestly, we have done much better since then," he said of his farm.

Didier, a Connell High School graduate, played football at Columbia Basin College and Portland State University. He has a political science degree.

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

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