Republican Doc Hastings appeared to be well on his way to a ninth term in Congress, according to preliminary results Tuesday night in the race for Washington's Fourth Congressional District.
Hastings, of Pasco, had a comfortable lead over Democratic challenger and political newcomer Jay Clough, with Hastings pulling in 97,610 votes, or 68 percent, across the district.
Clough, of Kennewick, had 45,099 votes, or 32 percent, early tallies showed.
"I am very pleased the people of this district have given me the trust to represent them in Congress for another term," Hastings said while celebrating with supporters at the Shilo Inn in Richland. "We have a lot of work to do. This country has a lot of problems. We have to get fiscal sanity back in place."
Hastings whomped Clough in Benton and Franklin counties by about the same margins. He won 26,083 votes, or 68 percent, in Benton, and 7,020, or 70 percent, in Franklin.
Clough's local tallies were 12,183 votes, or 32 percent, in Benton and 3,059 votes, or 30 percent, in Franklin.
The Fourth District also includes Chelan, Douglas, Grant, Kittitas, Klickitat, Yakima and parts of Adams and Skamania counties, all of which Hastings carried by wide margins.
Clough, a conservative Democrat, attempted during his campaign to paint Hastings as a Washington, D.C., insider who isn't much different than Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid or House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
"It is career politicians like himself who got us to the point of needing bailouts," Clough told the Herald's editorial board in October.
But preliminary election results indicate that didn't fly with voters, who have overwhelmingly supported Hastings in every election since he defeated incumbent Democrat Jay Inslee in the Republican wave of 1994.
Hastings said he believed the 2010 election was a referendum on the policies and actions of the Obama administration and majority Democrats in Congress.
"There's always a lot of factors, but I think clearly nationwide this election was about jobs," Hastings said. "Clearly, the American people have rejected what has gone on for the last two years. ... The American people have rejected the rhetoric of class warfare."
Hastings said ballooning deficits have scared the electorate, and that the health care reform law passed in March and Congress' failure to extend Bush-era tax cuts have left business owners feeling uncertain about the future.
Among his priorities would be making the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts permanent, and if he becomes chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil drilling.
"The issues we were focusing on -- energy production on national lands ... they are the things that lead to jobs," Hastings said.
Hastings is the ranking Republican on the Natural Resources Committee, and has said that allows him to have a hand in policies that affect the entire Northwest because the committee oversees the Bonneville Power Administration, Bureau of Reclamation and federal dams.
He expects he'll take over as chairman of the committee if nationwide election results Tuesday predicting a Republican takeover in the House hold.
It appeared Tuesday night the Democrats would hold a majority in the Senate, meaning the two parties would have to find some way to work together to govern, he said.
"After an election, the American people expect us to govern. I'm going back there with the attitude that we need to govern."
Election results will be certified Nov. 23.
-- Michelle Dupler: 582-1543; email@example.com