Democrat Jay Clough of West Richland announced Thursday that he will cease his campaign to unseat 4th District U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings and instead will enter the 8th District legislative race against state Rep. Brad Klippert.
Clough told the Herald he is entering the state race because it will allow him to engage in public service while also spending time with his family.
But he also criticized Klippert, a Kennewick Republican, as ineffective in the Legislature since being elected in 2008. Klippert was re-elected in 2010 with 62 percent of the vote.
"Rep. Klippert has had several years to bring new jobs to our area and create a better business climate. It hasn't happened," Clough said. "It's clear we need new leadership on job creation and a legislator who will constructively represent our interests in Olympia instead of engaging in unproductive partisan bickering."
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Klippert told the Herald he has worked across the aisle and claimed a track record of bringing Republicans and Democrats together.
He said an immigration assistance bill in the 2011 session was split along party lines until he had conferences with members of both parties and other stakeholders, and was able to write an amendment that gained unanimous support of both parties when the bill went to a floor vote.
"That was a great day for me because I was able to bring Republicans and Democrats together on a bill that was divided down the aisle," Klippert said.
But Clough said citizens in Eastern Washington would benefit from a spot of blue in the red sea that covers most this region of the state.
"I aspire to be like Bill Grant," he said, referring to the late Walla Walla Democrat who had a reputation for giving voice to Eastern Washington issues in the majority Democratic caucus in the Legislature.
Clough described himself as a "conservative Democrat" who would be able to get things done.
Clough, a 36-year-old former Marine, acknowledged that as a Democrat, he will be challenged to win over notoriously conservative Tri-City voters, but believes his message will resonate.
"I know this will be a tough race, but now is the time for leadership," he said. "My opponent's record is consistently lackluster, and I am ready to lead."
Klippert defended his record to the Herald on Thursday, noting that he successfully sponsored bills for bicycle and pedestrian safety, allowing longer trucks on the roads to save fuel and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and allowing the creation of a regional public facilities district in the Tri-Cities.
"That doesn't sound very lackluster to me," Klippert said.
Clough ran against Hastings in 2010 and said last year that he again would try to unseat the longtime Pasco Republican in the November 2012 election despite being defeated 68-32 percent.
He earned an endorsement from the 4th Congressional District Democrats and had raised $30,700 before deciding to switch races, according to the Federal Election Commission website.
Hastings has raised about $660,000.
The state's primary election is Aug. 7. Candidates who want to be on the primary ballot can file May 14-18.