Cheney Free Press -


Four candidates vie in primary for 5th District House seat

Two Republicans, a Democrat and an Independent are on the Aug. 5 ballot


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Candidates in the Aug. 5 primary for the 5th District seat in Congress are Tom Horn, Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, Joe Pakootas and Dave Wilson.

Since winning election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2004, incumbent 5th District Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers has faced multiple challengers in every primary election except once, 2006. That holds true for the Aug. 5 primary as she squares off against fellow Republican Tom Horn, Independent Dave Wilson and Democrat Joe Pakootas.

The Cheney Free Press sent the candidates questions regarding issues facing constituents of the far-flung 5th District.

What are the two most pressing challenges/needs you feel are the most important facing Eastern Washington residents? Why do you feel these are important? What measures would you institute as 5th District congressional representative to address these?

McMorris Rodgers - My top legislative goal is spending and tax reform that leads to a balanced federal budget and job creation. The tax code should be simpler and less burdensome for everyone. We should close tax loopholes and reduce tax brackets. If that were the case, there would be more jobs and opportunity because people would spend less on tax accountants and more on hiring and innovation.

Horn - Jobs and retirement security. Logging and mining and railroads, then farming provided the start for our development and prosperity. Logging and mining have been markedly reduced since the 1970s due to environmental concerns first raising costs and now by increased regulations and permit delays to the point of defacto prohibition of mining and logging on federal land.

Attitudes must be changed in EPA and Forest Service to open up mining and logging again to provide good jobs and a general economic boost.

Social Security is now cash flow negative. The SS Trust Fund draws on the General Fund to make up the difference, with 36 percent borrowed money, increasing the deficit.

We need to take a generation to privatize our retirement savings. The only store of value large enough for this purpose is the stock market, now being run like a pirate ship. The stock market must be fixed to provide a reliable store of value for our retirements.

Wilson - The two most pressing problems are the economy/jobs and the national debt/deficit. First, I believe we need to adopt something similar to the Simpson-Bowles proposal, a bi-partisan proposal that was submitted to Congress in 2010, but not adopted. This bill is a balanced approach to getting the deficit and debt under control.

Only after we get this legislation enacted, can we then pass an economic and jobs stimulus bill that focuses on infrastructure, research and education. If written carefully this stimulus bill can be structured in such a way that it does not add to the federal deficit or debt; these types of investments have proven in the past that they can pay for themselves by increasing tax revenues

Pakootas - The two most pressing challenges currently facing Eastern Washington are the economy and lack of family-wage jobs. One in five citizens in the 5th Congressional District rely on food stamps. Unemployment in this district is 30 percent higher than the national average. One in six people in this district live below the federal poverty level. I support a number of policy initiatives that could have immediate positive effects on our local economy.

Job creation incentives that put our unemployed back to work by incentivizing hiring in the private sector through common sense tax breaks and sensible government spending that rebuilds our nation's crumbling infrastructure.

I support workers' rights to collective bargaining. I'm a CEO - not a career politician. I have created hundreds of jobs and managed over a dozen businesses.

Congress seems hopelessly deadlocked and aligned staunchly along party lines on so many issues and does not seem to agree on much. What do you think could be an answer to bridge this gap?

Horn - Elections and term limits.

President Obama won with 52.7 percent in '08 and 51.1 percent in '12, and on that basis is attempting to fulfill his promise to "fundamentally change the USA." Those numbers are not a mandate sufficient to fundamentally change the country.

Our system is intentionally set up to make big changes difficult. We have had gridlock periods in the past and will again. 

One answer to reduce polarization and make compromise more likely would be term limits to prevent politicians from becoming entrenched captives of extreme special interests over time and reduce the power of senior members of congress.

Wilson - The first things that I will do in Congress is to form a Centrist Caucus and invite moderate representatives of both parties to join this group. My goal in doing this is to attract 25-30 members (or more) to join this caucus and try to move the balance of legislative power to the political center and away from the far left or far right.

There are 435 seats in Congress, so it takes 218 votes to make a majority to pass legislation. While 25-30 seats may not sound like a big number out of 435 seats, keep in mind that the Tea Party has exerted significant influence in Congress since 2010 with just 30-40 members. The 25-30 votes in a Centrist Caucus could position this group to act as a fulcrum in the balance of power between the two parties.

The Centrist Caucus, voting as a block, could move legislation to the political center, where there is typically more natural support and area for compromise than the far left or far right sides of the respective parties. I believe that a move to the center will result in more bi-partisan legislation and better politics than there has been the past few years.

Pakootas - There is a leadership void and a lack of trust in Congress that constrains polarized factions from being able to engage in civil discourse and reach meaningful compromises that benefit middle Americans.

In 2013 I was awarded the Bradford Award by the University of Washington as the top minority businessman in the State for my leadership in restructuring the Colville Tribal Federal Corporation using sustainable business practices.

This process included reevaluating our existing business practices and being willing to make sacrifices in order to meet new standards put into place. Our decisions were measured against the impact upon the local environment, economy and the community. Congress needs to set aside the politics and do what's right for the people of America.

McMorris Rodgers - One of the ways we have been able to do this successfully is through bipartisan groups like the Congressional Military Families Caucus - which I cofounded with a democrat member of Congress.

We're focused on listening to and addressing the concerns of military families and taking action in a bipartisan way. We've met several times, and we'll be meeting on Aug. 14 at Fairchild Air Force Base.

I believe in working in a bipartisan way, and I'm proud of recent bills I've sponsored that have received bipartisan support, including the "Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act, the National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act, the Primary Care Workforce Access Improvement Act" and the "Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act," which passed both the House and Senate and was signed into law in 2013.

Do you have an alternative to the national gas tax as a way to generate funding for our highways and roads?

Wilson - Yes, see my answer under No. 1 above - an economic and jobs stimulus bill. This would be my preference to a national gas tax, but absent this bill, a national gas tax is an acceptable solution. It is imperative that we keep our highways and roads in good condition. Infrastructure is the foundation to a strong economy - we must have the funding to maintain our infrastructure.

Pakootas - There are a number of comprehensive fixes being proposed. Taxing motorists on the miles they drive requires a system for tracking and invites odometer tampering. A mileage-based fee is touted as the free-market solution, but the cost of collection and idea of the government tracking where and when they drive doesn't sit well with people.

Toll roads are preferred by 61 percent of Americans, but without a full-scale shift to a broad mileage-based user fee, tolls will have a hard time replacing the tax.

A simple approach would be replacing the per-gallon tax with a percentage-based sales tax. If the goal is to make sure the funding grows at roughly the same pace as the need, tying the gas tax to some measure of inflation would be the way to do it. Unless we continue to proactively invest in alternative and diversified forms of energy we will remain dependent upon fossil fuel technology.

McMorris Rodgers - We need to work together at the local, state, and federal levels to develop a long-term solution that ensures a lasting infrastructure network for Eastern Washington. I'm happy that we recently passed H.R. 5021, the Highway and Transportation Funding Act of 2014, that ensures Eastern Washington roads remain open and jobs are protected. We must keep working to secure full funding for important transportation projects like the North Spokane Corridor and U.S. Highway 12. 

Horn – Answer:  No.

Cathy McMorris Rodgers

(Prefers Republican Party)

Currently serving fifth term as U.S. Representative from 5th Congressional District (Elected 2004); Chair of House Republican Conference and highest-ranking House Republican woman. Member, House Energy and Commerce Committee. Previously served in the Washington State House of Representatives; elected House Republican Leader in 2002.

Worked in family-owned orchard for 13 years.

Executive MBA University of Washington, bachelor of arts Pensacola Christian College.

More information at

Dave Wilson

(Prefers Independent Party)

Elected commissioner for the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training, 2005-2014; served as vice-chair 2007-2009, and chair 2009-2012.

President and founder of Interface College, Spokane 1982-2011.

Masters of arts in education, Gonzaga University; bachelor of arts, St. Ambrose University, Davenport Iowa.

Served as a board member and officer of the Northwest Career College Federation, and for the Washington State Private School Advisory Committee. Chamber of Commerce K-12 Education Committee, chairing committee for two years.

More information at

Joe Pakootas

(Prefers Democratic Party)

16 years Colville Indian Tribal Council, five years as chair. CEO Colville Tribal Federal Corporation, Coulee Dam. Has owned/operated a convenience store in Inchelium for 29 years.

Masters in Business Administration, University of Washington, 2006.

Received Seattle Seahawk NFL Community Quarterback Award for community service. Appointed by former Gov. Gary Locke to Digital Learning Commons, program promoting high school Internet education. Served on Spokane Native American Public Development Authority and Colville Tribal Enterprise Corporation.

More information at

Tom Horn (Prefers Republican Party)

First run for elected office.

U.S. Marine Corps, active duty 1972-1976 in tank battalions, reservist until 1980. Mechanical engineer working for shipyards, manufacturing plants, natural gas pipeline and consulting engineering firms. Two years in Saudi Arabian shipyard 1982 and 1983. Now retired.

Bachelor of science mechanical engineering, Washington State University, 1972. Junior high in a Russian public school in Moscow, U.S.S.R. while father stationed at the U.S. Embassy, 1961-1963.

Volunteer firefighter/EMT, Spokane County Fire District 8 for five years, currently volunteer firefighter/EMT with Stevens County Fire District 1.

More information at

Ballots have been mailed by the Spokane County Elections Department. Ballots must be postmarked by 5 p.m. of Election Day, Tuesday, Aug. 5.

John McCallum can be reached at

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