Voters will again have a choice of two Republican farmers to fill the 4th Congressional District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The race is a rematch of the 2014 election, when Dan Newhouse won the office with less than 2,500 votes more than Clint Didier.
Newhouse, 61, is running for a second term, after building a track record in his freshman term of working on local issues like funding for the Hanford nuclear reservation cleanup, ending the West Coast port slowdown and advancing the Yakima Integrated Water Resources Plan to solve issues with the over-allocated water supply in the Yakima Valley.
The two years in Washington, D.C., built on the Sunnyside farmer’s political experience as the former state director of the Department of Agriculture and four terms in the state House of Representatives. His time in the state Legislature proved to be valuable in understanding how to move issues forward on the national level, he said.
Didier, 57, a tea party favorite, says Newhouse’s voting record in his first term in Congress was not conservative enough.
Somebody from the East Coast dictating my vote — I’m just not going to let that happen.
Rep. Dan Newhouse
Didier, of Eltopia, is well-known as a former professional football player for the Washington Redskins. He is looking for his first win in his fourth run for public office.
He previously ran for state lands commissioner and U.S. senator, in addition to the 4th District seat. His experience includes an appointment by President George W. Bush to serve on the state committee for the Farm Service Agency.
Didier criticizes Newhouse for not earning better grades on certain conservative scorecards, with some scores hovering around 60 percent.
But Newhouse says he knows better what is in the best interest of central Washington, rather than East Coast groups not familiar with the area.
“Somebody from the East Coast dictating my vote — I’m just not going to let that happen,” he said.
For example, he’s been criticized by some groups for voting for the Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaced the unpopular No Child Left Behind but left some standardized testing requirements in place.
Newhouse liked the act’s repeal of about 50 regulations, which would help to decentralize education control, and its move away from Common Core, he said.
“Bills are more than just one line,” Newhouse said. “No bill is perfect and you can find something in almost everything that you can probably disagree with. But overall, if you look at the big picture and it moves a solution forward, it has to be considered strongly, especially if it is helpful for the people you represent.”
Didier also has been critical of Newhouse’s support for the omnibus appropriations bill last year, which set spending levels to prevent a possible government shutdown after individual agency spending levels were not approved.
I would have voted against spending us into bankruptcy.
Clint Didier, candidate for 4th Congressional District seat
Newhouse said he worked for almost a year to provide adequate funding for the Hanford nuclear reservation, which was included in the omnibus bill. Without the bill, money for Hanford would have been at risk, slowing work down and ultimately increasing costs for environmental cleanup. It would have put workers at risk of furloughs.
The bill included other positives, including the highest funding ever for border security and resources for troops, Newhouse said. It included an overall limit on refugees from all over the world.
The first bill he helped sponsor was a balanced budget amendment for the Constitution, in an attempt to force fiscal discipline on Congress, he said.
But Didier said fully funding all programs in legislation such as the omnibus bill enabled the Obama administration to continue its corruption. He criticized the bill for providing funds for bringing Syrian and Iraqi refugees into the United States.
“I would have voted against spending us into bankruptcy,” Didier said.
Government essentials, including payment of Social Security, would have continued if the bill were not passed, he said.
Didier is concerned about Hanford funding, as the owner of a nearby farm, and protecting the Columbia River.
Most of Newhouse’s votes in his two years in office were in line with Republican leadership. That’s a positive as Republicans work together at a grassroots level to unify behind an agenda that moves important issues forward, he said.
He stepped outside the party line to support the Export-Import Bank, which offers loans that help U.S. companies compete abroad against overseas corporations that are subsidized by their countries’ governments. Newhouse considers it an asset for businesses engaged in trade in his district.
Didier opposes the bank, saying only some companies benefit, he said.
“That is government picking winners and losers,” Didier said.
The two candidates also differ over the Trans Pacific Partnership with 11 other Pacific Rim countries, a complex deal intended to strengthen the economic ties among those countries by lowering tariffs and increasing trade.
I can’t think of a higher requirement to place on an individual seeking citizenship than to put their life on the line to protect the United States of America.
Rep. Dan Newhouse
It is another avenue to increase market opportunity for the district’s manufacturers, growers and processors, by reducing tariffs that drive up the costs of buying American goods in other countries, Newhouse said.
With about 40 percent of Washington jobs tied in some way to international trade, the partnership is an opportunity the district could not afford to pass up, he said.
Didier says the Trans Pacific Partnership does not create a level playing field and will cost American jobs. He’s suspicious of the size of the 5,553-page partnership document and that it can be changed after being passed into law.
It’s a push toward world government, he said.
Both candidates are troubled by the problems of the Veterans Administration.
Didier advocates downsizing the agency and using assets, such as proceeds from selling off its buildings, to give veterans money to go to the doctor and hospital of their choice.
Newhouse said veterans he has discussed the issue with are concerned that privatizing services would take the focus off veterans’ needs and allow them to be forgotten.
He’s worked to help veterans get care through the Veterans Administration system, most recently adding an amendment to the VA Accountability First and Appeals Modernization Act to guarantee veteran access to emergency care at all VA hospitals. The amendment was supported by Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion and the Disabled American Veterans.
Both candidates support secure borders and a path toward citizenship for some hard-working immigrants already in the country.
Newhouse said Didier called him a traitor to America after a vote to continue to allow immigrants who serve in the military the right to become naturalized citizens.
The military has a long history in past wars of immigrants who are not citizens fighting on the nation’s behalf, he said.
“I can’t think of a higher requirement to place on an individual seeking citizenship than to put their life on the line to protect the United States of America,” Newhouse said.
Didier links the issue to gang activity, including in the military.
“We are actually educating gang members in how to be a militant actor” and allowing them to bring that knowledge home to use in gangs, Didier said.
“Plenty of Americans are willing to serve and defend,” Didier said.
Didier and Newhouse both support secure borders and a path toward citizenship for immigrants not in the country legally if they show themselves to be hardworking, otherwise law-abiding and learn English. Both say paying a fine is a possibility.
I am anxious to see Mr. Trump as president of the U.S.
Clint Didier, candidate for 4th Congressional District seat
Didier emphasizes having U.S. troops train on both the Mexico and Canada borders. The wall that presidential candidate Donald Trump is proposing would be too easy to tunnel beneath, he said.
Newhouse emphasizes the need for an effective guest worker program to provide a legal source of workers for the district’s farmers. The current program is too slow and expensive for farmers, he said.
Both support Trump for president, with Didier appearing more enthusiastic.
“I am anxious to see Mr. Trump as president of the U.S.,” Didier said. “What do we have to lose?”
Without Trump’s leadership, the nation will continue its push toward corruption and a one-world order, Didier said.
Newhouse has not wavered from his early commitment to support the Republican nominee, but does not agree with some of Trump’s positions, he said. He’s talked to Trump and would continue, if needed, to educate him on Northwest issues.
Voting for Trump is the best way to advance the Republican agenda and to make sure the best choices are made as vacancies are filled on the Supreme Court, Newhouse said.
The election is Nov. 8, and voters in Benton, Franklin, Yakima, Grant, Adams, Douglas and Okanogan counties will cast ballots for the 4th District position.
The Yakima Herald-Republic contributed to this article.