While Congressman Doc Hastings is working to convince voters that the 2012 election has national importance, his opponent claims he focuses too much on the nation and not enough on the district he represents.
In particular, Democrat Mary Baechler of Yakima said Hastings has spent too much time working on behalf of special interests in the oil, natural gas and coal industries -- industries that she said don't have a presence in Central and Southeast Washington.
"Our area does not have any coal or oil," Baechler told the Herald. "My impression is that Doc works really hard for these industries to help them. We have farmers here. If I'm elected, I will do things to bring jobs to this area. ... It should be jobs, jobs, jobs. What can we do for the people of this district."
But Hastings countered that as a member of Congress and chairman of one of its committees, addressing national issues such as energy production is an important part of the job.
And addressing energy production nationally benefits residents, farmers and business owners in the 4th Congressional District, he said.
"So, yes, I've been spending time on that," Hastings told the Herald. "I acknowledge that. It is my responsibility as a chairman in a national legislative body."
Hastings, a Republican from Pasco, represents the state's 4th Congressional District, which under the redistricting plan adopted by the state's Redistricting Commission will include Adams, Benton, Franklin, Grant, Okanogan and Yakima counties, and parts of Douglas and Walla Walla counties.
He's held the position since January 1995, after defeating then-Congressman Jay Inslee in the 1994 "Republican wave."
If re-elected, he'll be sworn in for his 10th term in January.
Since Republicans took control of the House of Representatives in the 2010 election, Hastings has served as chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources and has been a vocal supporter of oil drilling offshore and on public lands, and an opponent of breaching Northwest hydroelectric dams.
Hastings told the Herald that he's supported bills that will allow for more oil production, and give energy producers more regulatory certainty that will help create jobs and lower gas costs.
"I think it's in our best interest to be as energy independent as possible," he said. "I have devoted time to that effort."
Baechler said she's concerned that some of the legislation Hastings has supported would allow more coal trains to cross Washington ultimately to be exported overseas from the state's ports.
"It would be very hazardous," said Baechler, who owned and operated the Baby Jogger company in Yakima with her husband for 19 years before selling the company in 2003.
Baechler said she'd prefer to see efforts in the district focused on development of alternative energies, including tax incentives for businesses doing that work.
Hastings also has been a vocal opponent of the Affordable Care Act passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama two years ago.
He told the Herald he believes this year's presidential and congressional elections will be a national referendum on Obama's policies, particularly the health reform law.
Hastings said he believes the health reform law will be a drain on the federal budget and national economy and must be cut to balance the budget.
"I voted twice to repeal it. It would be great savings in the out years," he said.
Baechler said she supports health reform, and would work to protect Social Security and Medicare if elected.
Hastings also has voted to stop federal funding for the Public Broadcasting Service, believes federal subsidies should be cut for Amtrak, and thinks Congress should take a hard look at how much money it sends overseas on foreign aid.
He also would support closing some tax loopholes to help balance the budget when that results in more fair tax policy.
He voted in favor of the budget plan Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan introduced in the House, and was critical of the Senate for failing to pass either the Ryan budget or one of its own to avoid the process known as sequestration in which automatic spending cuts will be triggered if Congress can't agree on a balanced budget.
Baechler, however, lambasted Hastings and the House for failing to prevent sequestration.
"On sequestration, it astonishes me that the House didn't come together to pass a one-year budget," she said. "(Sequestration) will have a devastating effect on the economy. All it would have taken is crossing the aisles and asking what is the best thing for the people of the district."
Hastings said Baechler's comments showed she didn't understand how Congress passes budgets.
"Maybe a civics lesson is needed here," Hastings said. "The House passed a bill. The Senate did not. It takes both."
The two also differ on immigration, with Baechler supporting "comprehensive immigration reform," including the DREAM Act, which would grant legal status to many undocumented immigrants who were brought here as children and graduate from high school. They could qualify for permanent residency if they attend a college or university or enlist in the military.
Hastings said he is "very sympathetic to the concept of the DREAM Act" but thinks the bill as drafted is too broad.
Instead, he's focusing his efforts on a guest worker program that would allow migrant farm workers to come to the United States for growing seasons to harvest crops and then return home when the season is over.
Both candidates said they believe Congress should fund Hanford cleanup.
Hastings has raised about $1.5 million in contributions. Baechler has raised $26,000.