Richard “Doc” Hastings, a Pasco businessman and former state legislator who became his Central Washington district’s longest-serving member of Congress, is calling it quits at the end of this year.
Hastings, 73, announced Thursday he will not seek re-election to the 4th Congressional District seat he has held for 20 years.
“While I have the ability and seniority to continue serving Central Washington, it is time for the voters to choose a new person with new energy to represent them in the people’s House,” he said in a statement posted on his congressional website that noted he plans to spend more time with his wife, children and grandchildren, who all live in Washington state.
Hastings won his seat by beating one-term incumbent Democrat Jay Inslee in the 1994 Republican wave that turned control of the House over to the GOP. It was the second head-to-head race for the two. Inslee had edged Hastings for the open seat in 1992, but Hastings easily won the rematch. Inslee later moved to Western Washington, where he won a House seat in 1998, and they served together until 2012, when Inslee ran for governor.
“Despite the fact that we each beat the other once, we had a good working relationship, could enjoy a laugh together and swapped plenty of basketball tales,” Inslee said in a statement praising Hastings’ work on issues such as the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.
Hastings, a Spokane native, won most of his re-election contests with 60 percent of the vote or more, and his 20-year tenure was the longest for anyone representing the state’s 4th Congressional District. He’s currently the senior member of Washington’s House delegation.
When he first ran for Congress in 1994, Hastings was a supporter of term limits, although he favored 10 years, not the six years some other Republicans were advocating in their “Contract with America.” Washington voters placed a three-term limit on their U.S. representatives, but that law was later overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Hastings faced one other form of term limits, the restrictions House Republicans place on their top members of each committee. He would have to give up his chairmanship of the House Natural Resources Committee, which sets most federal land and water policies, including the Endangered Species Act. Hastings has tried repeatedly to revise the ESA 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.
Hastings’ district is solidly Republican, and his retirement is likely to set off a scramble in the August primary. Among the names being mentioned are state Sens. Janea Holmquist Newbry of Moses Lake, and Sharon Brown of Kennewick; Rep. Bruce Chandler of Granger; and Clint Didier, a former NFL player and Pasco-area rancher who has unsuccessfully run for U.S. Senate and state lands commissioner. Under the state’s top-two primary system, two Republicans could finish first and second in that election and vie for the seat in November.