In a year in which polling suggests the national election outlook may favor the Democratic Party, Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings is seeking to buck the trend and win another term in Washington's 4th Congressional District, which includes all of Klickitat County.
Hastings, who lives in Pasco when he is not at work in Washington, D.C., is running for an eighth two-year term in Congress against George Fearing, a Democrat who lives in Kennewick.
To give voters a better idea of where Hastings and Fearing stand on key issues, The Enterprise conducted interviews with both candidates last week.
What do you see as the two biggest problems currently facing residents of the 4th District, and what are your ideas to solve them?
First, creating jobs and growing the economy. Americans need low tax policies that create jobs and allow businesses to expand. Congress should balance the budget by cutting government spending -- not spend billions more paid for with tax hikes on hardworking families and businesses. I'm working to enact fair trade policies that provide new opportunities for American farmers and businesses, protect the dams that provide lower-cost power to the Northwest, and support locally driven economic solutions.
Second, lowering gas prices. Americans are right to demand that Congress act now to pursue all options that will produce more American-made energy and lower gas and diesel prices. That requires an "all of the above" energy plan that includes investing in alternative energy sources such as wind and solar, expanding nuclear power, protecting hydropower dams, and drilling offshore and in Alaska. We have the resources and technology to safely produce more American-made energy -- we just need congressional leaders who will actually allow it.
Economic security is the single-most important issue facing not only the 4th District, but the entire United States. We are on the brink of the greatest economic collapse since 1929. People in bad mortgages can't refinance. Business owners, farmers, and college students are having difficulty getting credit. People aren't purchasing major goods and machinery, which is slowing manufacturing and leading to layoffs. The Republican plan to spend $1.2 trillion of your tax dollars impacts every man, woman and child in America, and it was caused by deregulation championed by the incumbent, Doc Hastings.
I am running to make our district strong again and create jobs for our citizens. American taxpayers should not be robbed by bad managers and crooked CEOs. American taxpayers need greater protections, and ownership, before their government socializes the banking, mortgage, and insurance industries.
I will fight to rebuild safety protections at the oversight Securities & Exchange Commission, and in other agencies that ought to be more concerned with your house than the White House; and protect your local Main Street instead of Wall Street. I am for protecting homeowners who were defrauded into mortgages they couldn't afford, and working to ensure the savings and pensions of our citizens is secure.
I mentioned jobs, and our district ought to become the nation's largest producer of alternative energy. With our natural resources, we can further develop wind and solar, but also geothermal and bio-mass, creating thousands of new, safe, family wage jobs throughout our district.
What do you see as the best solution to resolve the increasingly serious energy issues the state and the nation are facing?
See answer to first question.
We have to drill for oil domestically, but do so on the land leases that oil companies already hold. Federal lands and waters with oil and gas resources that are already available for leasing contain over 100 billion barrels of oil. The vast majority of oil and natural gas resources on federal lands are already open for drilling, and they are not being tapped. We hear complaints about the 1.5 million acres closed off in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and yet 68 million acres are under lease to oil companies but not in production. Similarly, we need more oil refineries to increase production on U.S. soil. In 1981, the U.S. had 324 refineries with a total capacity of 18.6 million barrels per day. Today, there are just 132 oil refineries with a capacity of 16.8 million b.p.d., according to Oil & Gas Journal, a trade publication.
Taxpayers get soaked at the pump, and at tax time. The oil industry receives tens of billions in tax breaks every year. I think this is a travesty, and unlike my opponent, I will work to make oil companies pay their own way.
But we have to find other ways to wean ourselves off our oil addiction. We borrow $700 billion from China every year to buy oil from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, and we pay for it with the lives of American soldiers, sailors, and airmen. I recall a time, during World War II, when it was patriotic to conserve, and to look for other ways of doing things. We are a great country with great minds, and we can seek solutions when we are encouraged to do so. I want to serve on the Energy Committee like my Democratic predecessors Jay Inslee and Mike McCormack, who developed alternative energy solutions for central Washington. I want to expand alternative energy, and in so doing, create jobs as well as energy.
What do you see as the best way to bring down the national debt?
President Bill Clinton inherited a whopping debt, and at the end of his presidency, he handed over a record surplus. We must follow the path set forth 16 years ago by investing first in our people, creating jobs, monitoring and expanding markets through fair trade, and engaging a cautious monetary policy. We need to see that the oil being produced in Iraq goes to pay for the restructuring of that country, so the U.S. taxpayers can see the end of this obligation, along with the end of this costly war. The economy will grow when workers are working in jobs that pay family wages so those workers can purchase American-made goods and services. We must take a vigorous look at tax breaks given to industries and corporations; tax breaks that number in the hundreds of billions of dollars. We can get out of this problem, with resolve, reduction in waste, and reinvestment in America. I am ready to do this.
We must cut federal programs and spending that are unnecessary, duplicative, and wasteful. Restraint is needed and the federal budget needs to be balanced by reducing spending and not raising taxes.
Congress also must reform the earmark process. I support a one-year moratorium on all earmarks for all of Congress so needed changes can be put in place. And I am backing a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget.
What are the main strengths you would bring to this office? What would you say to voters who ask why you would-be the best person to represent Washington's 4th District?
I have legislative experience and a long record of service to local communities whether it's working to ensuring the federal commitment to Klickitat and Skamania County schools are kept, supporting local efforts to develop Broughton Mill, pressing the federal government to uphold promises to local counties of economic development and recreation, securing funds to study a new Columbia River bridge between White Salmon and Hood River, or helping provide Klickitat County law enforcement with advanced communications tools.
I support lower taxes, less government, tough security, and I strive to bring common sense to the policies that impact our daily lives. I place more faith in industry, families, and communities to make the best decisions about their needs and futures -- not the mindset that the federal government knows better than you and should control more of your life and paychecks.
As a lawyer for more than 25 years, I have put my clients' needs ahead of my own. I have learned to listen first, research and study, and only then to speak. Raised in central and eastern Washington as the son of a minister and a nurse, I learned a lot about listening, finding a solution, and working to heal. I will bring to this office a desire to heal the ethical problems of the incumbent, to heal the lack of attention to energy and agriculture, and a desire to build the manufacturing potential that exists so strongly throughout central Washington. Most importantly, I will always put the people of central Washington before any political party.
Central Washington has had some wonderful members of Congress from both parties -- incumbent excluded -- who worked for the good of the district and on the issues that were important to all of central Washington. Doc Hastings refused to investigate members of his own party for bribery, theft, pedophilia, and other crimes; three are now in jail and four under criminal indictment, but Hastings did nothing. I will demand the resignations of any member of either party who shames the American public. My job is to work for you, just as I did as an attorney representing towns, firefighters, sheriffs, and employees.
Do you have any ideas about how to bridge the partisan divide that appears to be worsening in Washington, D.C.?
I've already met with people in several parties -- Republican, Libertarian, and Democrat -- to seek solutions to the partisan divide. Our nation has come together time and again when we have a common purpose, or a common enemy. Our purpose now is to save this country from economic collapse, while building toward a safe and healthy future. These are not partisan issues.
There are good, honorable people in each party. When Congress convenes in January, I will work, as your newly elected Congressman, with everyone to solve the problems of this country. The committees I seek -- Agriculture and Energy -- rely upon bipartisanship to meet the needs of the country, as well as of members' districts.
Finally, I will work within the leadership of my own party to end the divisiveness and reach out on my own to others to ensure we put people before party.
I routinely work with my Democrat colleagues in Congress, whether it's the bill I authored with Congressman Brian Baird to protect endangered salmon from predatory sea lions around Bonneville Dam, serving as co-chairman of the bipartisan Northwest Energy Caucus, or working with Sen. Patty Murray to get a new veterans clinic opened.