Dan Newhouse, former director of the Washington State Department of Agriculture, and Brad Peck, a Franklin County commissioner, are seriously considering running for the 4th Congressional District seat being vacated by Doc Hastings.
Newhouse and Peck, both Republicans, may face a crowded primary contest in the strongly Republican district. Fredi Simpson, Washington state committeewoman of the Republican National Committee, said she can’t imagine less than five Republican candidates in the Aug. 5 primary. The deadline for candidates to file is May 16.
On Feb. 13, Hastings, a Pasco Republican and chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, announced his plan to retire at the end of his term, marking 20 years in Congress. He is 73.
His decision apparently took many by surprise. Jon DeVaney, executive director of the Yakima Valley Growers-Shippers Association and a former Hastings aide, said Hastings didn’t discuss the matter far in advance with many.
The timing is natural in that Republican chairmanship term limits would cause Hastings to lose his chairmanship of Natural Resources, DeVaney said.
“Us former Doc people are sad, but we can’t expect him to stay in the harness forever,” he said.
“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.
Peck said he thinks Hastings’ decision caught a lot of people by surprise and that he expected Hastings to run for another term or two.
Peck and Newhouse both said they are seriously considering running and are gauging support.
Newhouse, 58, a Sunnyside farmer, was midway through his fourth term as a state representative when Gov. Chris Gregoire, a Democrat, appointed him as state director of agriculture in February 2009. Newhouse said the district needs someone who “understands issues important to our key industry — agriculture.” His father, Irv Newhouse, was a state legislator for 34 years and died in 2001. A Senate office building in Olympia is named for him.
Peck, 55, grew up moving a lot in a military family but spent his high school years in Ellensburg. Working congressional liaison as assistant to the Air Force chief of staff at the pentagon whetted his appetite for politics, he said, noting he has worked closely with the Farm Bureau and state Cattlemen’s Association as commissioner and changed Franklin County ordinances to reduce cattlemen’s liability for stray cattle.
Simpson said people are speculating that Clint Didier, a Pasco 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, might run. State Sen. Janea Holmquist Newbry, R-Moses Lake, and state Rep. David Taylor, R-Moxee, have been mentioned, Simpson said.
Speaking personally, not for Yakima Valley Growers-Shippers, DeVaney said Newhouse is his top choice.
“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.
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.