September 12, 1996

U.S. Congress - 5th District

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Groups that favored gun rights and term limits helped catapult Republican George Nethercutt into Congress two years ago.

Groups that oppose changes to Medicare and environmental laws are trying this year to knock him out.

Nethercutt, a Spokane attorney, is one of the most famous of 73 Republican freshmen elected in the 1994 GOP victory. Dubbed the giant killer, he defeated sitting House Speaker Tom Foley.

His reward was a plum assignment on the Appropriations Committee where many battles in the Republican revolution were waged.

Now he’s the incumbent, fending off potential challenges from three Democrats.

Judy Olson, a Garfield farmer and former president of the National Association of Wheat Growers, is criticizing changes made in federal farm programs and attempted in labor law.

Sue Kaun, a civic activist and former manager of Liberty Lake Sewer District, wants to highlight such “women’s issues” as child care and health care reform.

Don McCloskey, a neighborhood mediator from Spokane, wants to set up centers to mediate the region’s thorniest disputes.

The Democratic winner will benefit from a growing crescendo of commercials sponsored by the AFL-CIO that criticizes Nethercutt for proposed changes in Medicare.

House Republicans sought to reduce the increases for Medicare that the federal agency says are needed to cover inflation and the expected growth in the number of beneficiaries. They quickly got into a shouting match with some senior citizen groups and the unions over whether that’s a cut, or just a needed slowdown in growth.

While the AFL-CIO ads suggest dire consequences for seniors, Nethercutt is responding with promises to protect the elderly - including his mother who underwent heart bypass surgery as a Medicare patient this year.

Olson and Kaun have echoed labor’s criticism that the Republican House was considering tax cuts, which they contend would primarily benefit the wealthy, while it was trying to revamp Medicare.

“Most of this was done as an appropriations process, rather than a serious discussion of how we were going to resolve the Medicare problem,” Olson said.

Neither proposes hard solutions to Medicare or other major problems, but both promise to do a better job seeking consensus.

Nethercutt, who has no Republican opposition, advances to the general election regardless of the primary results. If he’s kept to less than 50 percent in the voting, it could give the winner of the Democratic field a boost in raising money.

, DataTimes MEMO: See individual profiles by name of candidate.

This sidebar appeared with the story: THE JOB U.S. representatives serve two-year terms and are paid $133,600 annually. Washington’s 5th District covers all or most of 11 counties, stretching from the Canadian border to Oregon, and from Idaho to the center of the Columbia Basin.

See individual profiles by name of candidate.

This sidebar appeared with the story: THE JOB U.S. representatives serve two-year terms and are paid $133,600 annually. Washington’s 5th District covers all or most of 11 counties, stretching from the Canadian border to Oregon, and from Idaho to the center of the Columbia Basin.


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