McMorris-Rodgers, Pakootas Look Towards Rematch
It’s not often that the loser of a political race makes another effort to win an office, but the race for the 5th congressional district of Eastern Washington is a replay of two years. Once again Republican Cathy McMorris Rodgers is being challenged by Democrat Joe Pakootas.
Collville tribal business CEO Joe Pakootas says he decided in 2014 that if he could get 40% of the vote, he would run again in a challenge to 5th district congresswoman Cathy McMorris-Rodgers. His total was actually 39. 9%, but that was enough.
The Democratic challenger says he doesn’t feel McMorris-Rodgers has done a lot for her constituents.
“You look at how the veterans are being treated today, some of the services are being stopped," Pakootas told SPR. "The 24 hour service at Veterans hospital has been rescued to eight hour, there’s not many jobs happening, there are federal projects that have stopped, we have a freeway that basically stopped at Francis street and there’s a number of jobs that could be created there.”
In fact, only about 10% of the funding for that project has come from the federal government.
For her part, McMorris Rodgers, who has held office since 2005, says she has made veterans affairs one of her priorities on Congress. She describes her work as “bipartisan” and says she has worked across the aisle on legislation that includes expanding hydropower generation in the Pacific Northwest.
On the topic of bringing jobs to her economically challenged region, McMorris-Rodgers says her work on forest issues is helping reduce the high unemployment levels in Northeast Washington counties.
‘What happens in the Colville National forest is the biggest economic driver for Northeastern Washington. And you’ve seen me work proactively for the Colville National Forest on projects that are going to make a difference," McMorris-Rodgers told SPR.
Pakootas targets the Congresswoman for not doing enough in regard to fire prevention and firefighting on National forest lands by not voting on a funding bill put forward by the Obama administration. "It was in a four billion dollar area that was requested by the President of the United States. And she's going to say she does support wildfire because in the Paul Ryan budget it was 1.9 billion dollars that they’re putting in the budget but what that does, it does not fund it fully.”
McMorris Rodgers says she has some specific targets to help the economy when it comes to business owners. "What I see as stifling the economy right now is record regulations across the board, and when I talk to small business owners, and entrepreneurs it is the regulatory burden that is really making it difficult,” she said.
Pakootas feels more can be done to keep American businesses and manufacturers from moving operations overseas.
“A lot of them are going offshore, where they get different credits and tax breaks, but I think there has been discussion of increasing the amount of tax on those corporations when they bring their money back inside the United States, so there might be more incentive for them,” he said.
One issue where the two candidates clash is over the Afforable Care Act.
McMorris Rodgers has voted along with other Republicans to repeal the so called Obama Care, and she has specifics in ACA she would like to change. “I would like to see a repeal of the individual mandate, the employee mandate, and many of the requirements put on the states. Give the marketplace more freedom, so individuals and familes will have more choices for plans that best meet their needs.”
Pakootas would like to see some changes in ACA as well, but would like to see it essentially expanded. “You see the issues today with the expensive prescription drugs. With the original Affordable Care act language, there was a possibility lf negotiating , similar to what the veterans affairs does today, and also there’s language written in there as possible people of the united states could have the option for universal healthcare.”
McMorris Rodgers has also taken one action that has raised some eyebrows: in contrast to some of her Republican counterparts, she endorsed outsider Donald Trump for President.
“The reason I have decided to endorse and support Donald Trump is I believe he will be a positive disrupter and I am confident he is going to being an innovative approach and bring accountability to this government that is desperately needed,” she said.
And despite harsh words between establishment Republicans like Paul Ryan and John McCain , she feels her party could work cooperatively with Trump should he be elected.
Pakootas says he surprised by her endorsement, given some of Trump's actions.
“She is a woman, she has a child that is disabled, and her husband is a retired vet. And he has actually attacked all 3 of those demographics. So it’s kind of hard to believe and understand where he would get the endorsement,” he said.
In our interview McMorris Rodgers she has concerns about some of Trump's statements about women and the handicapped, but thinks he would a better leader than Hillary Clinton.
Full interviews with both candidates