Candidates in race for Hastings' congressional seat hurl attacks

Tri-City HeraldJuly 11, 2014 

The race to replace retiring Rep. Doc Hastings heated up this week as some of the candidates began unleashing attacks on each other.

Democrat Estakio Beltran was ripped for a TV commercial by a group founded by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., who was shot in the head in 2011. Beltran's ad, released earlier this week, showed him shooting a pinata shaped like an elephant.

"Mr. Beltran's ad showing him shooting a stuffed elephant -- the longtime symbol of the Republican Party -- is irresponsible and offensive," said the statement from Americans for Responsible Solutions. "This kind of misguided imagery and rhetoric on both sides of the political spectrum just furthers the lack of balance in our nation's debate about guns."

Beltran said he could not comment until he read the statement.

Giffords and her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, started Americans for Responsible Solutions in 2013 in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut.

Beltran's campaign filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, accusing Kennewick attorney George Cicotte of failing to put an "I approved this message" disclaimer on his "Two Paths" ad that is now airing. Cicotte denies the claim.

"It's concerning to me as a citizen that he wants to get his hands on our budget and our healthcare, but he doesn't seem to be paying attention to details," Beltran, of Yakima, said in a news release.

The omission is particularly troubling coming from an experienced lawyer, Beltran goes on to say.

"His clients depend on him to know the law inside and out; for him to violate the law so blatantly is worrisome," he said. "This raises some serious questions."

Cicotte, one of eight Republicans in the 12-person race, responded that his TV and radio ads do contain the disclaimer. The disclaimer was not on a commercial that appeared on Facebook, because it is not required.

"Since we're not paying for anything on the Internet, it's not paid advertising," Cicotte told the Herald.

In fact, it is Beltran who is not in compliance because he has failed to disclose that he is a Democrat on campaign signs and literature, said Sean McGrath, Cicotte campaign strategist.

"It's amazing to me that he would be the one throwing stones," he said.

Cicotte said he will not file a complaint against Beltran.

But Beltran said his campaign literature and signs are all in compliance with FEC requirements. He also said the original TV ad that Cicotte aired, which was submitted to the FEC, did not have the disclaimer.

"If he knew anything about running for Congress, he would know you're required to have it both on the air and anything that goes on your website," he told the Herald.

An FEC spokeswoman said she could not comment on open cases.

Eltopia farmer and former pro football player Clint Didier set his sights on former state agriculture director and fellow Republican Dan Newhouse's campaign.

Didier posted a statement on his website saying that Chris Voigt, Newhouse's Grant County campaign chairman, promoted the campaigns of Newhouse and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., with his Washington Potato Commission email account.

"When I see an establishment Republican who served in the cabinet of a Democrat governor now teaming up with a state employee who uses taxpayer resources to campaign for him AND a Democrat senator -- I worry that someone is trying to pull a 'Thad Cochran' on us here in Washington state," Didier said, referring to the longtime Republican Mississippi senator who recently narrowly defeated a tea party-backed challenger.

Newhouse's campaign responded with the following statement:

"Obviously, it's nearly election time, because one of Dan's opponents is flinging mud everywhere ... Chris is a volunteer, and the campaign has an understanding with him that he would support Dan with his own time and resources."

The state Executive Ethics Board is investigating the allegations, including whether Voight used state resources to deliver campaign signs, according to the Yakima Herald-Republic.

The other Republican candidates in the Aug. 5 primary are Gavin Seim, an Ephrata portraitist; Kevin Midbust, a Rite Aid shift supervisor from Richland; Gordon Allen Pross, an organic farmer who lives near Ellensburg; Glen R. Stockwell, a Ritzville businessman; and state Sen. Janea Holmquist Newbry of Moses Lake. Also in the race are Democratic Yakima businessman Tony Sandoval and independents Josh Ramirez of Pasco, an analyst for Washington River Protection Solutions and Richard Wright, a Kennewick business owner.

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

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