That Washington

Herrera, Heck Square Off in 3rd District Forum

By Chris Kissel October 13, 2010

Standing before an audience of about a hundred business people and nonprofit leaders at today's Thurston County Chamber of Commerce candidate forum at the evergreen forest-buffered campus of St. Martin's University in Lacey, 3rd U.S. Congressional District candidates—Democrat Denny Heck and Republican Jaime Herrera—both stressed the dire economy. (At 14 percent, Heck noted, the Southwest Washington swing turf district has the highest unemployment in the state.)

The two candidates offered completely different solutions, though.  Heck stressed investment in small businesses. Herrera, said, simply: Let small business innovate and “get the government out of the way.”

Heck criticized Herrera's attacks on government spending as “simplistic.”

“[Herrera] offers a simplistic solution. 'Cut, cut, cut.'" he said.  "Her policies would create unemployment, as surely as night follows day.” Heck, a former aid to Booth Gardner and the founder of TVW, said he sees infrastructure spending and small business investment as the way out of the mire of unemployment.

However, Heck did not cheer the Democratic congress or president back in D.C.  He chastised the federal recovery policies for giving money directly to corporations, allowing them turn around and outsource jobs.  Heck also criticized the stimulus bill for taking too much time to go into effect and the government for, he says, continuing to delay half the infrastructure investments created in the bill. To solve that problem, Heck proposed that the government keep a database of public works projects for future investments. “If we can do Google docs, we can do something like this,” he said.

Herrera, a state rep from Ridgefield, Washington and a former aide to U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA, 5) stayed on a free-market blast throughout the forum, promising to help stop the influence of the federal government on the economic recovery. “I'm not an anarchist,” she said. “I don't want to get rid of government. But I do think the government needs to live within its means.”

Herrera said she thinks national debt is the country's biggest problem, and that spending bills like the $787 billion stimulus package are wastes of taxpayer money. “We've had spending bill after bailout after stimulus after spending bill. And where has it gotten us?”

“[Heck] believes that government knows better how to spend your money,” Herrera said. “We've seen that when the government spends our money, they can't get it right.”

Moderator Mike Oakland, editorial page editor at the Olympian, asked the candidates to lay out their top legislative priorities. Herrera said she would introduce a bill mandating the federal government to balance its budget during every session. “That's the first thing I'd do,” said Herrera.

Heck stressed government lending programs and the recently-signed $30 billion small business Obama bill, which provides tax breaks to small businesses and incentives for banks to loan to them.

Oakland also asked if the candidates could name the biggest mistakes they had made in their lives. Heck alluded to his age (58) praised his family, and admitted to lapses in his parenting. Herrera, 31, said she wished she hadn't relied on credit cards to pay back her student loans.

The Federal Elections Commission has not reported the fundraising numbers for the latest quarter. As of June, Heck had a substantial money advantage—raising just over $1 million ($350,000 of it being his own) with $707,000 cash on hand. Hererra had raised $410,000 with $113,000 on hand.

Herrera is leading in the polls. And Real Clear Politics says the race "leans" in her favor. However, the most recent poll by insider D.C. paper The Hill, has Herrera up by just two points, 42-40, a much slimmer lead than previous polls. (The PI's Joel Connelly looked at that poll today.)

We sat down with Heck last month. We've been trying to interview Herrera since May, but she hasn't given us one—although I spoke with her briefly when I covered her campaign kickoff in June (we've got video of that, too.)
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