Democrats hoping to knock off U.S. Rep. George Nethercutt clashed Tuesday in Spokane over the right way to fund that challenge, but agreed they’d spend what they could to win.
Judy Olson of Garfield and Sue Kaun of Spokane disagreed over the best way to limit campaign gifts.
At a forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters, Olson said she is not accepting more than $500 from any individual, which is half the limit allowed by federal election laws.
That was a backhanded shot at Republican Nethercutt, who has about 85 people who have given him $1,000.
Kaun said she was surprised Olson would limit the money she takes from voters in the district, but not from “nebulous” political action committees. That was an unspoken criticism of Olson, who has $20,000 from PACs, compared to $2,000 for Kaun.
“I want to represent middle-class families. Most are not in a position to contribute $500 - $200 is an extremely large contribution,” Olson replied.
The third Democrat in the primary, Don McCloskey of Spokane, injected a little humor to the debate by suggesting he has the least money, and therefore the most right to denounce the high cost of campaigning. He’s raised less than $5,000 so far.
“Necessity breeds principle,” McCloskey, a mediator, said.
By comparison, Kaun, a civic activist, has raised about $40,000 and Olson, a Palouse wheat farmer, about $74,000. Nethercutt, the freshman incumbent, has more than $450,000.
The nation might want to take a hint from Australia, which limits the amount of time for campaigning and fines people who don’t vote, McCloskey said. It may be unconstitutional, he said, but “I think it’s a great idea.”
All three criticized Nethercutt, who did not attend the forum, and his GOP colleagues for their handling of budget cuts. All three were against the tax cut proposed by Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole.
McCloskey said Congress should concentrate on cuts in defense spending instead of welfare.
“We’ve got troops all over the world in places that don’t need us,” he said.
Olson said proposed changes in Medicare are irresponsible and any reductions should be used to reform the national health care system for the elderly or reduce the deficit.
Offering a tax cut before the deficit is eliminated is like letting children have dessert before they eat their vegetables, she said.
“The deficit and the debt cannot be addressed through a tax cut,” Kaun said.
All three listed education as a major problem facing the country - even though each said their children had attended public schools and received good educations.
Kaun said the nation needs lifetime education. The federal government should play a leadership role, “look at our role as a world citizen,” and provide schools with ideas from all over the country. She accused Republicans in Congress of abolishing the Department of Education.
Olson said public education is important, but not an issue for a member of Congress. It’s the job of state and local government.
“I’d like to correct Ms. Kaun. The Department of Education has not yet been abolished, although it has been threatened,” Olson added.
The forum, held at Spokane City Hall, will be broadcast on Cox Cable Channel 5 on Sept. 13 and 15 at 7 p.m.
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