SUNNYSIDE, Wash. — Dan Newhouse, former director of the Washington State Department of Agriculture, is seriously considering running for the 4th Congressional District being vacated by Doc Hastings.
“I was very surprised to hear Doc isn’t running again, but it’s something I’ve considered if the opportunity ever arose,” Newhouse told Capital Press.
“I have to decide if it’s right for me and my family personally, but I am interested and seriously considering it,” Newhouse said. “I am gauging support out there and so far it’s been very enthusiastic.”
Hastings, a Pasco Republican and chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, Feb. 13 announced his plan to retire at the end of his term, marking 20 years in Congress. He is 73.
Newhouse, also a Republican and a Sunnyside farmer, was midway through his fourth term as a state representative when Gov. Chris Gregoire, a Democrat, appointed him as director of agriculture in February 2009.
Newhouse said he thanks Hastings for his “two decades of fine service” and believes the district needs someone who “understands issues important to our key industry — agriculture.”
Campaigns take time and resources and the field likely will be crowded, Newhouse noted in saying he needs to make a decision quickly.
Another name being mention is Clint Didier, a Connell rancher and former NFL football player, who lost a Republican primary bid to Dino Rossi to take on Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., in 2010. Didier, active in the Tea Party, was backed by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Congressman Ron Paul. Didier subsequently lost a race for state Public Lands Commissioner to Peter Goldmark, an Okanogan Democrat.
Also mentioned are state Sen. Janea Holmquist Newbry, R-Moses Lake, state Rep. David Taylor, R-Moxee, and Franklin County Commissioner Brad Peck, said Fredi Simpson, Washington committeewoman of the Republican National Committee, of Wenatchee.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if Dan Newhouse runs. I would say five or more will run. I can’t imagine less than that,” Simpson said.
Jon DeVaney, executive director of Yakima Valley Growers-Shippers Association and a former Hastings aide, said people are sad to see Hastings retire, “but we can’t expect him to stay in the harness forever.”
“I suspected it might be this year, but I didn’t know,” DeVaney said. “He didn’t discuss it with anyone far in advance.”
The timing is natural in that Hastings would lose his chairmanship if he stayed, due to Republican chairmanship term limits, he said.
Speaking personally, not for Yakima Valley Growers-Shippers, DeVaney said Newhouse is his top choice of who he would like to see run.
“He knows agriculture and water issues and was a good conservative member of the Legislature who worked in constructive fashion with the other party, as does Hastings,” DeVaney said.
Newhouse was not afraid to publicly voice some differences with Gregoire, DeVaney said.
State Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima, also has been mentioned as a possible candidate but it’s unlikely a Republican state senator will run and jeopardize Republican control of the state Senate, DeVaney said.
He said the 4th Congressional District leans heavily Republican and that he can think of no obvious Democratic contender. But Simpson said it’s unlikely the Democratic Party will pass up the opportunity.
The top two vote-getters in the Aug. 5 primary will oppose each other in the November general election. It could be two Republicans, DeVaney said. Candidate filing deadline is May 16.