Denny Heck, a former state legislator who's running for the swing-district seat being vacated by Democrat Brian Baird, is pushing green jobs, the use of TARP money for small-business loans, stricter regulations on the financial sector, and increasing access to  union apprenticeships. It's a message that's particularly resonant in the 3rd District, which has one of the highest unemployment rates in the state—13.1 percent in Clark County.

Heck blames Wall Street for Southwest Washington's high unemployment rate, blasting the financial industry for its "casino capitalism"— gambling on stocks and bonds when it has a more essential function to perform: namely, securing credit for local small businesses, which stimulates the economy and creates jobs.

And he says the health-care reform bill passed earlier this year doesn't go far enough, arguing that the rising cost of health care is forcing employers to choose between “laying off employees or canceling health insurance.”

As chief of staff for former Gov. Booth Gardner, Heck was a strong advocate for transparency, founding TVW, the state's public-affairs cable network, over objections from state legislators who didn't to do business in the public eye.

The 3rd, which stretches from Vancouver to Olympia,  is a true swing district (it went to George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004, but was carried narrowly by Obama in 2008), and Heck faces two strong Republican challengers.

State Rep. Jaime Herrera, who's raised $378,000 from trucking and mining companies and GOP PACs, is trying to appeal to the the 3rd's bipartisan sensibility by criticizing both the Democrats and the Republicans for creating the federal deficit and by promoting herself as the new face of the GOP—young, Hispanic woman. (She explicitly told us she doesn't use the term Latina, though.)

But Herrera—who interned for ideologue state Sen. Joseph Zarrell, interned for George W. Bush, was a staffer for ideologue US Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, and finally became minority leader in the state House—is hardly bipartisan. With the exception of her vote for child care unionization (a vote that has caused her grief with some conservative bloggers), Herrera's voting record in the state House is boilerplate GOP: 'Nay' on domestic partner rights; 'Nay' on taxing oil companies for storm water clean up, 'Nay' on the working family tax exemption (a federal tax rebate for Washington's working poor), and 'Nay' on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

However, she's cooler than the Seattle Six (the six Seattle reps who voted to put Seattle on the hook for cost overruns on the tunnel, then voted for the tunnel itself): She voted against the viaduct replacement project. It almost makes us want to vote for her. But then, whoops, we noticed her 33 percent rating from enviros and 10 percent rating from labor—matched with her 100 percent rating from big business.

The other Republican in the race, David Castillo, has been courting the Tea Party vote, vowing to repeal health care reform,  oppose cap and trade, and replace all income taxes with a federal sales tax. Additionally, Castillo opposes abortion rights ("we must protect innocent life from conception until natural death"), supports laws defining marriage as a legal union between a man and a woman, and opposes restrictions on gun rights.

PubliCola picks Denny Heck.
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