Kennewick attorney George Cicotte says people who hear his message are coming to his side in the crowded race to replace retiring Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Pasco.
That was most evident by his victory in a straw poll taken after last month's Benton County Republican Party forum in Richland, where his 126 votes were nearly four times the total of the second-place finishers.
"We were hoping to do well, but that's huge," Cicotte said. "I guarantee you we did not have that many supporters there. That shows that when everybody listens to all of the candidates, my answers come off as most sincere, and not just rehashing conservative talking points."
Cicotte, 46, a father of seven, calls what to do about funding for Hanford cleanup "a very simple question with a very complicated answer."
The Department of Energy has an obligation to clean up the site on an agreed-to timeline, Cicotte said. But he does feel that amendments could be made to the Tri-Party Agreement if the country faced a budget shortfall, allowing for a delay in completing tasks if it does not pose significant environmental risk.
"Can we add a couple years to it and not add any irreparable harm?" he said.
The state Department of Ecology has been overly aggressive in its criticism of the work being done at Hanford, Cicotte said.
"It seems to me that they're trying to flex their muscles and stand up to the feds," he said. "I think they're grandstanding and trying to appeal to their west side base."
Cicotte is for preserving Hanford's historic B Reactor, but whether or not it becomes part of a Manhattan Project National Historic Park should depend on having adequate money in the federal budget, he said. Hastings, who is retiring after 10 terms in Washington, D.C., has helped the proposed park, which would also include historic sites at Oak Ridge, Tenn., and Los Alamos, N.M., get through the House, but it is yet to get Senate approval.
Cicotte agrees with Hastings on his attempts to open Rattlesnake Mountain up to the public. The trail planned to traverse the ridges of Little Badger, Badger, Candy and Red mountains should eventually reach Rattlesnake as well, he said.
The federal government needs to come up with an immigration guest worker plan that is market-based, Cicotte said. The government now allows a total of 5,000 foreign workers into Washington each year on visas, and he has an agricultural client who needs that many on his own.
"Right now we have the government centrally planning and saying, 'Here's how many agriculture worker visas you get a year,' " he said. "That has no basis in reality."
Cicotte also stressed the importance of completing the Columbia Basin and Yakima Basin projects to help irrigation for agriculture in the area. The projects will protect agriculture during droughts and allow the area to increase exports, he said. Some Republican opponents, like tea party favorite Clint Didier, have questioned why government would get involved in the Yakima project.
"I think that's penny-wise and pound foolish," Cicotte said. "When we have a very productive valley and we have a need for water as time goes on. Yes it's going to be an investment on the front end, but it's going to pay off well over time."
Cicotte suggests that targeted bonds can be used to pay for the project.
"It doesn't have to come out of general spending," he said. "It can be targeted to folks who want to invest in that growth."
Cicotte has raised a total of $112,935, according to the most recent filing with the Federal Election Commission. That includes a $75,000 loan and $10,215 in contributions from himself.
Donors include Richland attorney Chad Mitchell, Pay Plus CEO John Heaton of Kennewick, California homemaker Diana Hodson and Melissa Neal of Kennewick ($2,600 each); Kennewick filmmaker Doug Browning ($2,570); Nolan Empey of Sheffield Farms in Mesa ($2,000); Richland economic development person John Horton and Kennewick attorney Eric Butterworth ($1,000 each); Roger Hastings of Richland ($600); Kennewick photographer Rob DiPiazza, Richland dentist Rob Bagley; Dr. Michael Pattillo of Richland, Richland publisher Philip Johnson; Kennewick dentist Andrew Mohlman, Kadlec manager Jeff Clark of Richland, Kennewick lawyer Michael McKinney, Texas consultant Walter Kalmans and Kennewick financial advisor Eldon Monson ($500 each); Richland attorney Sandra Fowler ($400); Kennewick physical therapist Brian Brooks ($350); Kennewick architect Brandon Wilm and Kennewick endodontist Rolf Wuerch ($300); Ohio ophthalmologist Heather Koelling, Kennewick insurance agent LaPrele Hernandez, Institute for Applied Management & Law Inc. CEO Eric Jackson of California and Uniwest owner Mark Gehlen of Richland ($250 each).
U.S. representatives are currently paid an annual salary of $174,000 and are elected for two-year terms.
Primary ballots will be mailed to registered voters beginning July 18. Washington state has open primaries for partisan office, meaning all candidates regardless of political affiliation compete against each other. The two candidates receiving the most votes go on to the general election.
For more election stories, go to tricityherald.com/election.
-- Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom