Hastings at news conference earlier this month discussing the Endangered Species Act. AP Photo
Richard “Doc” Hastings, Central Washington's veteran congressman, will call it quits this year after 20 years in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Hastings, 73, announced today he will not seek re-election to the 4th Congressional District seat he has held since beating one-term incumbent Democrat Jay Inslee in the 1994 Republican wave that turned control of the House over to the GOP. Inslee had edged Hastings for the open seat in 1992, but Hastings easily won the rematch.The defeated Inslee later moved to western Washington, where he won a House seat in 1998.
Hastings won most of his re-election contests with 60 percent of the vote or more, and his 20-year tenure makes him currently the senior member of Washington's House delegation. That's twice as long as Hastings said he serve when running for election in 1994, setting a personal term limit of 10 years, which was higher than the six years some other Republicans were advocating in the so-called "Contract with America". Washington voters had approved an initiative limiting House members to three terms, but that law was later overturned by U.S. Supreme Court rulings.
The Spokane native is chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee which sets most federal land and water policies, including the Endangered Species Act, which he has tried repeatedly to revise to make it more accommodating to business and development. He's been a watchdog of federal cleanup efforts of radioactive waste from weapons production at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, which is in his district.
His Central Washington district is solidly Republican and Hasting's retirement is likely to set off a scramble in the August primary. Under the state's Top 2 primary system, two Republicans could finish first in second in that election and vie for the seat in November.