To allow readers to compare and contrast the main candidates for the U.S. Senate on several issues, The Spokesman-Review asked the three main Republican challengers and the incumbent Democrat the same five questions:
• What changes, if any, would you support for the health care reform that passed this year?
• What’s the most important step you’d take to reduce the federal deficit?
• What changes, if any, would you propose for the war in Afghanistan?
• What’s the most important thing Congress should do to improve the economy?
• Should any or all of the Bush tax cuts be extended?
Here are their answers:
50, Bellingham, inventor, owner of FastCap woodworking products company, Republican, first run for office. Campaign website: www.akersforussenate.com; campaign phone: (360) 961-4551.
• Health care reform: “It needs to be repealed; it’s an utter disaster. The free market is the best system. We have had the best health care in the world. It needs to be more competitive, allow people to purchase insurance across state lines, one line, with (a site) like Expedia.” Also wants tort reform and “lean strategy” for health care industry to cut costs.
• Deficit: “Cut taxes by 10 percent, cut spending by 10 percent for three consecutive years, and implement a lean strategy for government.”
• Afghanistan: “The No. 1 thing needed for us to win is time. The counterinsurgency strategy requires winning the hearts and minds of the people. Gen. Petraeus is a brilliant man, and I’m confident in his ability.”
• Economy: “The No. 1 thing that creates jobs is when you attract investment, but capital is sitting on the sidelines because of uncertainty over taxes, health care and fiscal policy. Congress needs to get their fiscal house in order, lower taxes and lessen the regulatory climate.”
• Bush tax cuts: “They should not be repealed because tax cuts create incentives to enter the marketplace.”
51, Eltopia, farmer, high school football coach, former pro football player, Republican, first run for office. Campaign website: clintdidier.org; campaign phone: (509) 297-4600.
• Health care reform: “I would really like to repeal it. This is a states’ rights issue. We need a more competitive arena for insurance companies across state lines. Tort reform definitely has to be part of the medical care solution. We need to encourage more people to go into the medical arena.”
• Deficit: “Quit government spending. One of the first bills I want to introduce is Congress doesn’t get paid unless they balance the budget. We’ve got to have some fiscally responsible spending.”
• Afghanistan: “We need a clear-cut plan for victory, and then an exit, and from then on, you just don’t go dabbling in other countries’ affairs. If we go to war, Congress must declare it. We need a safe exit, so that all our military personnel can get out. Give the commanders what they want, then, no holds barred, we go in there to win and get out.”
• Economy: “Take off these burdensome regulations on the private sector, or at least reduce them down. … Also cut fees, licenses and permits. All are big deterrents for our businesses to grow and create jobs.”
• Bush tax cuts: “They should all be retained and extended, and then we need to downsize government back to what our founders intended, with limited size and scope.”
60, Shoreline, former teacher, state senator, currently in third term in U.S. Senate where she’s a member of the Budget and Appropriations committees, Democrat. Campaign website: www.pattymurray.com; campaign phone: (206) 286-9199.
• Health care reform: She voted for it and said while no legislation is perfect, this one is working to lower costs, cover more children and keep seniors from falling into the “doughnut hole” on Medicare. “We need to watch to make sure that as it’s implemented, unforeseen problems don’t occur.” That includes making sure students are able to get into medical school.
• Deficit: “We got here by having two wars waged off-budget, the Bush tax cuts and Part D Medicare all not paid for, and a financial collapse.” She says all of those things will have to be placed on “pay as you go” in a budget plan that looks at all sides, investments as well as cuts.
• Afghanistan: “I want to see progress. We have to provide our service members with the best equipment and training. I have several questions about our strategy. The administration needs to define for us what progress is. Our enemy is the terrorists, and we have to go after them.”
• Economy: “Make sure we are focused on getting credit moving again for small business – we’ve focused far too much on Wall Street.”
• Bush tax cuts: “They have to be paid for. I’ll focus on tax cuts for the middle-class families (a permanent state sales tax deduction, first-time homebuyer credits, incentives for biofuels) rather than on the wealthy.”
50, Sammamish, former state senator, commercial real estate partner, Republican, third statewide run for office. Campaign website: www.dinorossi.com; campaign phone: (425) 451-2010.
• Health care reform : “It needs to be replaced. It was more of a tax-and-spend bill with a little health care in it. It’s going to kill tens of thousands of jobs across the state. We should replace it with a system to buy insurance across state lines, real lawsuit reform and health savings accounts.”
• Deficit: “We have to reduce spending.” He would apply unspent money from the Troubled Asset Relief Program and the stimulus legislation to the deficit, freeze federal salaries for a year, and only hire one federal employee for every two who leave.
• Afghanistan: “We need to make sure the troops on the ground have all the tools they need to be successful … and come home safely.”
• Economy: “First off, do no harm. It’s the degree of uncertainty from the federal level that’s bothering business owners. People are hunkering down, and that’s not going to make the economy grow. You need moderate taxation with predictable regulation.”
• Bush tax cuts: “Retain them. If they’re not reinstated, that’s a tax increase, and that gets back to that uncertainty that keeps the economy from growing and expanding.”
The ballot has a total of 15 candidates running for Senate. A few of the remaining 11 – four Democrats, three Republicans, one Reformer, one Centrist and two without any party preference – may harbor faint hopes that somehow they get one of the spots to move from the top-two primary to the general, and from there land in the Senate for a six-year term, annual pay of $174,000 and benefits.
But most are in it to highlight a particular cause or issue, or as an annual exercise in participatory democracy. Also on the primary ballot for U.S. Senate are:
Norma Gruber, of Walla Walla, a retired bank worker running as a Republican.
Mohammad Said, of Ephrata, a physician running for the Centrist Party.
Goodspaceguy, of Seattle, who supports space colonization, running as a Democrat.
Mike The Mover, of Mill Creek, a moving company owner running as a Democrat.
Mike Latimer, of Des Moines, who wants the nation to return to God, running as a Republican.
James Mercer, of Bellevue, a physicist and University of Washington professor, running with no party preference.
Schalk Leonard, of Poulsbo, a retired Navy judge advocate general, running with no party preference.
Bob Burr, of Bellingham, a retired insurance executive, running as a Democrat.
William Chovil, of Tacoma, a retired postal worker, running as a Republican.
Charles Allen, of Seattle, a health care administrator, running as a Democrat.
Will Baker, of Tacoma, a government activist, running for the Reform Party.