George Cicotte went on the attack Tuesday against congressional candidate Dan Newhouse and U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings, accusing them of "crony politics."
Cicotte, who finished fifth in the 12-person District 4 primary with 6.4 percent of the vote, said Hastings' former campaign manager, Tim Kovis, joined Newhouse's staff shortly after Hastings announced his retirement in February.
That gave the impression Newhouse was Hastings' "anointed successor" long before the 20-year congressman officially endorsed Newhouse Sept. 3, Cicotte said.
Cicotte made the remarks at a news conference to endorse Newhouse's opponent, Eltopia farmer Clint Didier.
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"What I'm talking about here today is not merely Doc endorsing the opposition publicly a couple weeks ago; it's deeper than that," Cicotte said. "The elected politician's campaign manager going to work for one of 12 candidates and selecting which one ought to be the winner. If that's not crony politics, what is?"
Newhouse campaign spokesman Jim Keough said there was no implied endorsement when Kovis came to work for Newhouse, who received no assistance from Hastings until after the endorsement.
"Tim made his decision on his own," Keough said. "His boss was retiring, he was looking for a job and he came to work with the Newhouse campaign."
When questioned, Cicotte said the implied endorsement was different from his decision to publicize his own endorsement by Hastings' brother, Roger.
"I was doing whatever I could to draw attention to the ideas that I was campaigning on, and Roger and I had been business associates for more than 20 years, and I knew that certainly his name would draw attention," Cicotte said.
Cicotte attributed Newhouse's lead in fundraising in the campaign to having access to Hastings' donor list. Newhouse raised $391,094 as of mid-July, compared with $247,974 for Didier.
Didier took a shot at people who have endorsed Newhouse, a former state representative and agriculture director.
"As we've seen from my opponent, getting all of his endorsements from the west side, I would much rather have a fellow candidate, one who stands for limited government, that stands for God, that stands for family, endorsing this candidacy," Didier said.
Newhouse has been endorsed by numerous Eastern Washington elected leaders, including Hastings, Benton County commissioners Jerome Delvin and Jim Beaver, Kennewick Mayor Steve Young and nine state legislators, including Reps. Larry Haler, Terry Nealey and Maureen Walsh.
"I think Doc would be surprised that he lives on the west side of the state," Keough said.
Newhouse also picked up endorsements from the National Rifle Association and Washington Farm Bureau.
Didier's other endorsements include former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the Human Life PAC of Washington, the Republican Liberty Caucus of Washington and Jerry Martin of the Tri-Cities Tea Party.
Cicotte gained inside knowledge of Didier and Newhouse during the campaign and found Didier to be a better leader, he said.
Cicotte and Didier also share a desire to restore respect for the Constitution, questioning how anyone can equate the desire for free contraceptives with the freedom to exercise religion, Cicotte said.
Now is not the time to elect a follower, who will go along with what the congressional hierarchy directs, Cicotte said.
"Look where that has gotten us -- to a Congress that doesn't lead, but merely spends as much as possible to keep lobbyists and special interests happy, and to assure reelection for decades," he said.
Cicotte differed from Didier on several issues during the campaign. Cicotte stood out among Republican candidates in refusing to agree to a no new taxes pledge from Americans for Tax Reform, an organization founded by Grover Norquist. He called it a "special interest pledge" during the primary campaign, but Tuesday said that he largely opposed it because he wants to raise taxes on low-income residents.
"The people that aren't paying taxes now, and so, consequently, if I signed an agreement to never raise them, I couldn't solve that problem," Cicotte said. "Now I think most people didn't look into it that deeply. I think most people just say, 'Hey, I'm against raising taxes, so I'll sign on with Norquist's pledge.' "
Didier and Newhouse signed the Norquist pledge.
Didier led the August primary with 31.8 percent of the vote. Newhouse, also a Sunnyside farmer, qualified for the Nov. 4 general election by finishing with 25.6 percent.
Newhouse told the Herald's editorial board Sept. 10 that he had discussed an endorsement with Cicotte.
"He's wanting to wait and see for a while, he's got some reasons I suppose," Newhouse said. "He and I, actually if you recall, leading up to the primary, we were similar on a lot of the things that we talked about how we believed issues should be solved. I'm confident that a lot of his supporters will come my direction."
Cicotte's voters will still support Newhouse, Keough said Tuesday.
"When people learn the facts and learn who the candidates are, that Dan is a conservative problem solver and Didier is a person who wants to phase out Social Security and Medicare and VA medical services, I think they will vote for Newhouse," said Keough, reflecting the message of Newhouse's newly released TV advertisement.
Richard Badalamente of Kennewick, who resigned from the Citizens' Climate Lobby so he could publicly oppose Didier, supported Cicotte in the primary. He said Tuesday that he was disappointed to see Cicotte support Didier, a man he calls an "obstructionist."
The Citizens's Climate Lobby works on market-based solutions to climate change. Didier has called global warming a hoax for the government to gain more support for taxation.
"I think George Cicotte is making a mistake, not just because I think Clint Didier is exactly the wrong kind of person to send to (Washington, D.C.), but because there's really no need for George to endorse either candidate -- let the people decide," Badalamente said.
-- Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543; email@example.com; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom