Washington’s 3rd U.S House District race is being closely watched by both major political parties as Democrat Denny Heck and Republican Jaime Herrera compete for a seat left open by the departure of a longtime incumbent. When Democratic congressman Brian Baird announced he was stepping down after six terms in office, the Republicans set their sights on overtaking a seat held by Democrats for all but two terms during the last 50 years.
In an energetic top-two primary race, Democrat Heck came out on top with 5,000 more votes than Herrera, and outperformed Herrera in her home county. Although the Democrat claimed the most votes, more votes were cast for Republicans than Democrats overall in the six-way race, 54 percent to 42 percent. And now recent polls indicate that Herrera has taken the lead in this race.
Candidate: Jaime Herrera
Political experience: In 2007, Herrera was appointed to a vacant seat in the legislature and was re-elected in the subsequent election, according to her website. From 2005 to 2007, she worked as a legislative assistant to the Washington 5th Congressional District representative, Cathy McMorris Rodgers. After graduating from college, she held temporary positions in the state senate, worked on the George W. Bush campaign and then obtained a job in the White House Office of Political Affairs before taking the job with Rodgers.
Professional experience: Herrera career experience is all political, according to her campaign biography. Herrera earned her bachelor’s degree at the University of Washington.
Key issues: Herrera has designated jobs the No. 1 issue in her campaign, citing the district’s high unemployment. Her proposal to create jobs is to balance the budget and cut taxes, letting businesses succeed or fail on their own without government involvement.
Herrera opposes the national health care plan enacted by Congress. Her plan for making health care affordable would include small-business pools, portability features and tort reform.
On national security, Herrera opposes the closing of the Guantanamo Bay facility and civilian trials for terrorists. She would support providing resources for a “robust” military and veteran care.
Endorsements: Among her organizational endorsements are the National Rifle Association, National Federation of Independent Business, Washington Association of Realtors and Washington Credit Union League.
Chances of winning the race: According to Real Clear Politics, Washington’s 3rd congressional district is leaning Republican. A Survey USA poll taken for KING TV from Sept. 12 to 14 shows her up nine percentage points over her opponent. Herrera’s lead declined by two points compared to a similar poll conducted three weeks earlier in the wake of the primary. Cook Political Report and CQ Politics consider this contest a toss-up and too close to call.
Candidate: Denny Heck
Political experience: Denny Heck’s political experience includes serving as chief of staff to Gov. Booth Gardner from 1989 to 1993. Heck served five terms in the state house of representatives, beginning in 1976 where he served as majority leader and co-chaired the Education Committee.
Professional experience: In 1993, Denny founded state public affairs station TVW where he worked until retiring in 2003. He was host of Inside Olympia. He co-founded Intrepid Learning Solutions, a worker-training company and is a co-owner of Bruin Development.
He received his bachelor’s degree from Evergreen State College.
Key issues: Wall St. reform, green jobs and health care reform are priorities in the Heck platform.
To reform Wall St., Heck advocates re-enactment of the Glass-Steagall Act, limiting banks to a traditional banking role and requiring the trade of derivatives to take place on public exchanges.
Heck wants to see targeted green-energy investments, renewable energy development and creation of a Smart Grid.
He contends that the national health care reform bill is imperfect and a work in progress but a step in the right direction. To bring down health costs, Heck advocates policies to attract greater numbers of doctors to work as primary care physicians and strengthening comparative effectiveness research throughout the health care industry.
Endorsements: Heck got the endorsements of Sierra Club and Planned Parenthood.
Chances of winning the race: The Cook Political Report and CQ Politics are both calling this race a toss-up, while Real Clear Politics would hand it over to the Republicans. The only voter surveys in this race, conducted for KING TV, give his opponent a nine-point advantage. But Heck is running in a Democratic stronghold, beat his opponent in the primary, and won the nod of his opponent’s home county in the primary, all signs he could come out the victor in this unusual contest.
Key Differences between Jaime Herrera and Denny Heck
On jobs creation, the difference between Herrera and Heck is the difference between laissez-faire and targeted investment.
The candidates are polar opposites on health care with Hererra opposing the national health care reform bill and Heck supporting it and wanting to expand upon it.
Hererra has staked out a “go get ’em” approach to fighting terrorism and advocates increased military spending, while Heck did not address national security as a primary issue in his campaign.
Heck advocates green investments while Herrera has not made that an issue in her campaign.
2008 results: Democrat Brian Baird defeated Republican Michael Delavar 64 percent to 36 percent.
Demographics: Washington’s 3rd District is home to 662,111 people, whose median age is 35.8. The population is 69.3 percent white, 6.5 percent black and 3.5 percent Asian. 30.8 percent of the population identifies as Latino, regardless of race. More than one-fifth of the population is foreign-born. 39.6 percent of the district’s residents speak a language other than English at home. Only 22.7 percent of the population has a bachelor’s or higher degree, compared to a 27.4 percent national average. Of the subset of the population over 16 years of age, 64.9 percent were in the labor force during the survey period.