4th District candidates take stage at Pasco chamber meeting

By Geoff Folsom, Tri-City HeraldApril 14, 2014 

It wasn't billed as a candidate forum, but eight of the candidates seeking to replace retiring Rep. Doc Hastings spoke Monday to 95 people at a Pasco Chamber of Commerce meeting.

Each received five minutes to speak at the group's monthly meeting at the Red Lion Hotel. They were: state Sen. Janea Holmquist Newbry of Moses Lake; Gary Downing of Kennewick, a maintenance worker with the Richland School District; Josh Ramirez of Pasco, a control specialist at Hanford; farmer and former NFL player Clint Didier of Eltopia; Franklin County Commissioner Brad Peck of Pasco; Kennewick caregiver Jamie Wheeler; Dan Newhouse of Sunnyside, a former state agriculture director and legislator; and Kennewick attorney George Cicotte.

Holmquist Newbry touted her work helping the state get a balanced budget amendment, telling the audience she has been able to take on Democratic governors Christine Gregoire and Jay Inslee in Washington. This experience will help her get President Obama and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi to change their "force-fed anti-American, socialist agenda," she said.

She also would work on enhancing the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Holmquist Newbry said.

"The potential is just off the charts for technology transferring into job creation," she said.

Downing, the only Democrat to speak, is a Pasco High School graduate like Hastings. But he showed he has little else in common with the man currently representing Washington's 4th District, blasting Republicans for their attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

"Everybody says we've got to go and repeal Obamacare," he said. "If you do that, 7.2 million people are going to be pissed off, I guarantee it."

Partisanship is a problem that led to last year's government shutdown and other problems, Ramirez said. That's why a growing number of Americans no longer identify themselves with a party.

"Everyone is frustrated with the typical political games," he said.

Didier promised to protect Second Amendment gun rights, but also criticized fellow Republicans. He said the Republican Congress that served with President George W. Bush went along with spending increases, created the Homeland Security Department and approved the Patriot Act, adding that these issues have only gotten worse under Obama.

"Our founders would roll over in their graves if they saw how many agencies, how many regulations and how it affects 'We the People,' " he said.

Peck detailed changes he would like to see made to the country's immigration laws. He called for securing the borders, improving the visa program and allowing temporary workers in who don't displace Americans. He also would like to see a path to citizenship for those in the country illegally, with Social Security money taken from their paychecks used to repay part of the fines they would have to pay.

Many in Washington, D.C., are failing to do the job they were hired to do, Peck said.

"I think my generation is the first to default on the idea of American idealism and leaving something behind," he said.

Wheeler said she would fight for fair tax legislation, expressing disappointment that no member of Congress from the Northwest has signed on as a sponsor of a bill that would replace the income tax system with a national consumption tax.

"I'm just an average American," she said. "Our kids are looking at a future where there's going to be a lower standard of living. In 2011, I became a grandma. I'm really concerned for that generation."

Newhouse plans to restructure the Affordable Care Act, getting rid of inefficient parts but keeping those that work, he said.

"People are losing their policies, they're paying more in premiums," he said. "They're losing the doctors they were promised they could keep."

Cicotte said he wants to serve as a congressman, even though it will mean he makes less money than he does as a health benefits attorney.

"I'm not building a political career, I'm not capping off a political career," he said. "I, like many of you in this room, have built a business and created jobs."

The audience was not able to ask questions during the hour-long meeting.

Democrat Estakio Beltran, a former staffer for Sen. Maria Cantwell, and Ephrata artist and filmmaker Gavin Seim, a Republican, were invited but did not attend, said chamber Executive Director Colin Hastings, Rep. Hastings' son.

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

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