Washington's Fourth Congressional District is currently considered to be staunchly Republican, but that doesn't mean Democrats are conceding the district.
To highlight that point, Democratic Party congressional candidate Richard Wright came to Bingen and White Salmon last Tuesday, Aug. 29, and said he believes the nation needs better leadership. Wright, a resident of Kennewick, is challenging incumbent U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings, who has served in Congress for the past 12 years. A two-year term in Congress will be at stake in the November general election.
Wright said he is no stranger to the local area, and offered a glimpse at his background and values.
"I have deep roots in central Washington," Wright said. "As a young man, I worked in potato sheds, bucked hay, and picked apples. My favorite summertime job was laying track for Burlington Northern Railroad in Klickitat and Skamania counties. I have raised my six wonderful children in central Washington, and have been a Boy Scout leader and coach in the Tri-cities. Marilyn, my wife of 30 years, and I like to dance, and this summer we spent a few hours a week teaching dances to church youth."
During his local visit, Wright toured the Insitu robotic aircraft facilities at Bingen Point, and followed that with an address to members of the local Rotary Club in White Salmon.
To give area voters a clearer picture of who Richard Wright is and his positions on several key issues, The Enterprise interviewed him last week.
(Editor's note: The Enterprise published an interview with Doc Hastings in our Aug. 17 issue.)
Are you sensing an anti-incumbent mood among voters you speak with?
Absolutely. There is a feeling in the country that Congress isn't doing a very good job. I've talked to so many people who are dissatisfied with Hastings' job performance. The feeling in the district is much different than in 2004.
The Medicare Drug Plan has been implemented, which has been so confusing for our seniors. Recent polling in the district shows that 60 percent of voters in central Washington feel the country is on the wrong track. Hastings' positions are not in line with the people here. He's out of touch with our increasing concerns about gas prices, health care, deficits, and the unending war in Iraq.
I am running for Congress because my own elderly mother is getting ripped off by the Medicare Drug Bill that Doc Hastings helped force through Congress. Hastings was in charge of timing the vote, which failed after the original 15-minute vote he had called for. He then held the vote open for nearly three hours, allowing the president time to twist arms and get the vote changed. I won't stand by as pharmaceutical companies and the insurance industry make a killing borne on the backs of American taxpayers and America's elderly.
I am a fiscal conservative and I am running because I will not stand by as we pile debt on our children and grandchildren. Four years of record budget deficits is totally irresponsible.
I am running for Congress because skyrocketing gas prices are hurting central Washington farmers and families. While families like yours and mine struggle to pay our bills, the oil companies are raking in the biggest profits in history. Yet Hastings supports an energy policy that gives billions to oil and gas industries and does nothing to stop price gouging. No wonder the oil companies have given him $40,000. I will be a leader whose vote can't be bought. I will work for the people of this district.
Timber harvest remains an important issue to our community's economy. Do you have any ideas as to how you could help our area's lumber mills thrive economically?
I think we can maintain a healthy timber industry in the Columbia Gorge while finding a balance between fire and forest management, timber and recreation economies, and wilderness preservation. Communities need protection from wildfires and local timber industries need a dependable source of logs. The industry can be sustainable and we can find ways to protect old growth and important habitats while keeping a strong logging industry alive and well.
Good management means healthier forests and job security in the area.
Amtrak has a local station stop (in Bingen) and many people value the service, but the Bush administration has continually tried to cut funds for rail passenger service. If you are elected to Congress, what would your view on this service be?
I regret that we have lost our train service out of Hermiston to Salt Lake City. I enjoyed traveling there by train, and with gas prices soaring and the fact that national security is tied closely to a need for energy independence, we must look to alternative forms of transportation.
I believe we need to bolster America's train system. This means keeping Amtrak lines going and expanding public transportation -- especially rail transportation systems in cities and between cities. I feel this is a great asset for the region and can help bolster the tourism industry. I will work to maintain and expand rail passenger service.
Your opponent, U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings, said there is debate on what is causing global warming and indicated he believes current conditions may simply be "natural cycles." Is this a view you share, or would you help to ensure that global warming is an issue addressed by Congress next year?
Global warming is real. We've seen the evidence: The number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes has almost doubled in the last 30 years. Malaria has spread to higher altitudes in places like the Colombian Andes, 7,000 feet above sea level. It's predicted that the flow in the Columbia River will decrease by 50 percent by 2050.
There is no doubt we can take measures to solve this problem. In fact, we have a moral obligation to do so. We have a responsibility to make sure the planet stays livable and beautiful for future generations. The time to take action is now, and I will work to address global warming as a priority in Congress.
President Bush says our military presence in Iraq will continue as long as he is president. If you have a voice in Congress, will you support the Bush policy?
The Bush administration and Doc Hastings insist the war is going well. Hastings does not believe we should set a timetable for American troop withdrawal. I do. I'm concerned that the message we are now sending to the Iraqi people is that we are there for a long-term occupation. This is the wrong message to send. We need to ensure them that we do plan on leaving and allowing them to control their own country. The best way to send this message is to set a reasonable deadline for withdrawing our troops from the front lines. I believe an open-ended occupation of Iraq is hurting America's national security and stretching our military too thin. We must have a plan for withdrawal. It's best for our soldiers, best for the Iraqis, and best for Americans.
I will be a leader who doesn't merely rubber-stamp the administration's agenda. I am running for Congress because we need independent leaders who will do what's right for this country. The brave soldiers in Iraq deserve a solid plan.
Five years after the attacks of Sept. 11, our ports and borders are no safer. The bi-partisan 9/11 Commission made recommendations that have not been followed. Our leaders have failed us, and I know we can do better. I am running for Congress because national security is a top priority and I believe we need strong leaders willing to change the course in Iraq and move toward a viable exit strategy.