Two years ago, Democrats were divided about their choice to challenge U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers.
But this year, party officials worked to unite the party early behind Spokane businessman and filmmaker Rich Cowan and persuade other potential candidates, including former Spokane Mayor Mary Verner, to stay out of the race.
So while in 2010 the endorsed Democratic candidate didn’t even make it out of the primary, all bets are on Cowan to top two lesser-known candidates and emerge as the November challenger to McMorris Rodgers.
But while Democrats are excited about him, it’s unclear if he’ll have the backing needed to mount a serious challenge to McMorris Rodgers, who has become the highest-ranking woman in the U.S. House of Representatives and a high-profile party member on the national scene.
As of the end of June, Cowan had raised about $200,000 for his race, compared to McMorris Rodgers’ $1.4 million.
The following is an excerpt of a 15-question Spokesman-Review candidate questionnaire. Candidates were allowed up to 100 words for each response. The full questionnaires are available at spokesman.com/elections.
Why do you feel you are the best candidate?
Cowan: For 22 years I served as CEO of film company North by Northwest Productions. Our company brought a new industry to the Inland Northwest, and hundreds of family-wage jobs along with it. I know how to create jobs, minimize debt and build for the long term. Those are the skills we need in Congress. More importantly, I am not a puppet of a political party or corporate interest – I am dedicated to finding solutions to our common problems and fighting for the needs of Eastern Washington. We need a representative for “our” Washington, not the “other” Washington.
McMorris Rodgers: My background and values are very representative of Eastern Washington – growing up on a small farm, the first in my family to graduate from college, helping run the family business. It is an honor to represent you in Congress.
Today, our country is borrowing over a trillion dollars a year. Our future economic strength and national security depend on putting our fiscal house in order. I’ve balanced budgets at my kitchen table, in small business and in state government; I have the proven skills required to rein in spending by setting priorities so we can live within our means.
Moody: I have the vision, audacity, and heart to tackle tough issues and fight back when government encroaches on citizens’ rights. By nature and trade I am a caregiver, possessing over a decade of experience working directly with the disabled, aging and dying of Eastern Washington. I am the author and sponsor of marijuana regulation initiatives circulating in seven regional cities. When the Spokane City Council took steps to impede the initiative process earlier this year, I responded with a counterproposal in the form of a citizens’ initiative. I hope to represent a new generation of doers in Congress.
Yearout: The general feeling that the federal government has grown too big for its britches has a constitutional remedy, and I appear to be the only candidate who will work toward that remedy.
Do you support the Affordable Care Act, the health care legislation that was signed by President Barack Obama in 2010?
Cowan: I believe every American should have access to affordable health care. The Affordable Care Act is an important first step toward fulfilling that ideal. It lets those with pre-existing conditions have affordable health care, expands coverage for the most vulnerable in our society, allows young adults to remain on their parents’ plans until the age of 26, and ends price discrimination against women. But it is only a first step. There is much more work to be done. We need to put aside the partisan bickering that has gridlocked Congress in order to do it.
McMorris Rodgers: Sadly, the Affordable Care Act is a big government takeover of one of the most personal aspects of our lives. It takes decision making out of the hands of individual families and does nothing to rein in skyrocketing costs.
Health care decisions belong in the hands of individuals, families, and their doctors. I am committed to repealing the Affordable Care Act and replacing it with a patient-centered system with common sense step-by-step reforms. America needs health care reform that addresses skyrocketing costs, improves access, and promotes innovation, cutting-edge technologies, and high quality of care.
Moody: Although I do feel strongly about health care reform in this country, I know like many that Obama’s 2010 health care overhaul was a bureaucratic and partisan nightmare. Large insurance companies dominated negotiations, making it difficult for Congress to arrive at anything which could truly benefit the American people.
Any government mandate forcing citizens to participate or be penalized should be repealed as unconstitutional, regardless of the Supreme Court’s decision.
Yearout: I do not; this is a superb teaching moment for America regarding the violation of the public rights to use and dispose of their own property as they see fit. To use the force of government to 1) compel purchase of a private commercial product or 2) subordinate the dictates of religious conscience to our public servants is a clear violation of the public rights, which is Webster’s 1828 definition of a misdemeanor, which is required under Article 2 Section 4 of the Constitution to be dealt with by impeachment and removal from any office of public trust.
In retrospect, was the federal government correct to bail out the auto industry and financial institutions, including some local banks in Spokane?
Cowan: The collapse of both the American automobile industry and many financial institutions put our country at risk. The federal government correctly decided to extend a safety net in order to hold off further collapse, and in this it was largely successful. However, we need to learn our lesson. We can and should put regulations back in place to protect consumers and guide American businesses so such bailouts are not needed in the future.
McMorris Rodgers: I voted against the TARP bailout because I do not believe in the notion that banks are “too big to fail.” Sadly, many of the large Wall Street financial institutions that took unwise risks have still not been held accountable. Similarly, I am not convinced the bailout of auto companies was the only option. The General Motors bailout currently stands at a $35 billion loss for taxpayers. I particularly oppose efforts by the federal government to act as a venture capital firm, trying to choose winners and losers with taxpayers’ money, as it did with Solyndra.
Moody: In retrospect, there were some local institutions which may not have survived if it weren’t for the assistance of federal dollars. However, if it weren’t for the malfeasance of so-called “too big to fail” banks and crooks on Wall Street, these same entities may never have required assistance in the first place. I would have voted against the bailout. Tighter regulations on Wall Street and the banking industry are long overdue and the Federal Reserve banking system should be transparent and subject to audit, if not completely abolished.
Yearout: In the short term, the bailouts may have appeared to have been useful, but in the long term, I’m not so sure that we will not have created a monster given the tendency of men to continue a behavior if they are rewarded for it. So no, I do not support bailouts.
Do you support reforms to Social Security that include diverting payroll taxes to individual retirement accounts? Do you support increasing the retirement age for eligibility for Social Security?
Cowan: Social Security exists to provide for those who have contributed to the growth and strength of our nation. People should be free to supplement their savings by using individual retirement accounts, but there is too great a risk to tie Social Security funds to the whims of Wall Street. I oppose the privatization of Social Security. We must safeguard the continued ability of the program to provide for seniors. We also need to work on new ways for hard-working citizens to create dependable retirement savings to supplement Social Security.
McMorris Rodgers: We must keep our promise to seniors in regards to Social Security, that they will receive all the benefits they are entitled to as part of the program. That’s why I’ve opposed cuts to Social Security for those who are currently on the program as well as those who are close to receiving benefits. I support giving individuals in their 20s and 30s the voluntary option of investing part of their savings. I’ve supported gradually increasing the retirement age for younger Americans. To be clear I don’t support any changes to Social Security for anyone age 55 years or older.
Moody: I support reforms to Social Security, but not through privatization. In 2011, the trust fund was valued at $2.7 trillion. The program is predicted by many analysts to remain solvent for at least the next 20 years. Although it is imperative that we begin reforming Social Security today, we also have time to make gradual adjustments without cutting benefits. Balancing the budget and stopping Congress from raiding the trust fund are critical to maintaining Social Security for future generations. Reforms should include a steady increase in the retirement age beginning in 2020 and indexing benefits to price rather than wages.
Yearout: I do think Social Security should be reformed to allow complete opt-out. The retirement age should be adjusted to reflect increases or decreases in the life-expectancy and mortality tables used by those who have the best information, but are still disinterested parties in the disbursement of SSI (Supplemental Security Income) benefits.
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