The Democratic opponent of U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers in the November election used much of their first debate working to portray the incumbent Republican as an ingrained fixture in a bickering Congress.
“The biggest thing I hear is, ‘Where is our representative?’ She’s not here. She’s in the other Washington, serving the other Washington,” said Democrat Rich Cowan, the founder of North by Northwest Productions in Spokane.
McMorris Rodgers spent Monday’s debate on KSPS defending her record, which she said proves she can work with Democrats on issues like hydroelectric power. She said she fights for Eastern Washington on issues such as completing the North Spokane Corridor and protecting Fairchild Air Force Base.
“My values are those of Eastern Washington. My priorities are the priorities of Eastern Washington,” McMorris Rodgers said.
Cowan said McMorris Rodgers’ support for the north Spokane freeway is more talk than action and noted that she voted against the federal stimulus, which paid for a significant portion of the freeway already completed. McMorris Rodgers responded that she voted against the stimulus because it added too much to the deficit and was $786 billion of “money we didn’t have.”
The debate was filmed Tuesday morning and aired Tuesday night on KSPS. It was the first of two debates featuring the candidates of the 5th Congressional District, which includes all or part of 10 counties in Eastern Washington. The next debate, sponsored by Greater Spokane Incorporated, the regional chamber of commerce, will take place Friday.
Fifteen topics were addressed in the hourlong debate, including immigration, climate change and bank bailouts.
Cowan called Congress “broken” and noted that McMorris Rodgers has a leadership position in the House GOP. He said the inability of the Congress to pass the farm bill – a package of farm policies, subsidies and crop insurance that was approved by the House Agriculture Committee – is a “horrible situation for this district.”
“You could have come home a hero, an absolute hero to the farmers here, but it didn’t happen because of the broken politics,” Cowan told McMorris Rodgers.
McMorris Rodgers said she is confident that after the election Congress will approve the farm bill.
“I, too, was quite disappointed that we were not able to reach agreement on the farm bill,” McMorris Rodgers said. She said after the debate that she, like Cowan, would have voted for the proposal that was approved by the House committee.
McMorris Rodgers criticized the delay in approving the Keystone pipeline project, which would carry oil from Canada across the United States.
“If there’s ever a time to start saying yes to American energy it’s now,” she said.
Cowan said he’s “open-minded” about the Keystone pipeline, but said it is important that aquifers and the environment are protected.
“We do have one shot at this planet – this God-given infrastructure that we have,” he said.
Neither candidate directly stated what the United States should do to ensure Afghanistan is stable before and after withdrawing troops from the country as scheduled in 2014.
McMorris Rodgers said the withdrawal of troops should not occur until military leaders determine the country is stable. Cowan said he supported President Barack Obama’s timeline for withdrawing troops.
McMorris Rodgers asked voters to consider which candidate most shares their values.
“I believe in smaller government and living within your means and unleashing free minds, free enterprise,” she said.
Cowan said McMorris Rodgers’ positions leave too many behind.
“We have a path of survival of the fittest – you’re on your own – or we have a path that’s a combination of individual responsibility and accountability and shared responsibility and accountability, and that’s my path,” he said.