Wash. state: Hastings likely Natural Resources chairman
Republican gains in state and national elections bode well for ag, Farm Bureau says
By DAN WHEAT
and STEVE BROWN
Washington state's 4th District Congressman Doc Hastings is in line to become chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, and the Washington Farm Bureau says Republican victories bode well for agriculture.
Hastings, 69, Pasco, won his ninth term in his central Washington district with 68 percent of the vote. He is ranking Republican on Natural Resources, which oversees most federal land use and water policies. He helped lead opposition to the cap and trade national energy tax.
"Natural Resources oversees energy and I'm in favor of an all-of-the-above energy plan and also reducing the deficit," Hastings told Capital Press on Nov. 3.
He said he will continue to push the Obama administration to resolve Mexican tariffs on U.S. agricultural commodities and will continue to work for a better guestworker program for agriculture. He called the election a referendum on the Obama administration.
Fifth District Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, 41, R-Spokane, won her fourth term with 64 percent of the vote. She has been the fourth ranking House Republican the last two years as conference vice chair and might remain in that role.
More clout for Hastings and McMorris Rodgers, Republican gains of one or two other Washington state congressional seats and Republican control of the U.S. House bodes well for agriculture, said Scott Dahlman, director of national affairs for the Washington Farm Bureau.
Voters also rejected ballot measures calling for a state income tax on the richest 1 percent of state residents, rolled back increased snack taxes and made it harder for the Legislature to raise taxes in the future.
"The anti-tax trends are good for farmers and ranchers across the state," Farm Bureau public policy analyst Scott Dilley said. "In years past, income tax has been defeated four times. Adding more taxes, regardless of what they are, makes no sense right now."
The income tax measure, Initiative 1098, was being rejected 66 percent to 34 percent at press time.
Initiative 1082, which would have authorized employers to purchase private industrial insurance and eliminated the worker-paid share of medical-benefit premiums, was failing by a 58-42 margin.
"This was a complicated topic, a complex issue," Dilley said. "We plan to keep working with the Legislature to reform the system."
Early counts showed Democrats keeping control of the state House of Representatives, but at press time Republicans were holding leads in key Senate races.
Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, said he likes the prospect of a divided Legislature. "We have a chance to deliver a smaller, more-efficient government. ... Unlike the other Washington, we have to pass a budget. We have rules in place."
In the U.S. Senate race, Republican Dino Rossi trailed Democratic Sen. Patty Murray.
In other U.S. House races, Republican John Koster, a Snohomish County councilman, former dairyman and former state representative, narrowly led Democratic Rep. Rick Larsen in the 2nd District.
Republican state Rep. Jaime Herrera, a former McMorris Rodgers aide, defeated former Democratic state Rep. Denny Heck. in the 3rd Congressional District.
Republican Rep. Dave Reichert was re-elected in the 8th District.