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Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Friday, July 20th, 2018

Kittitas County Democrats host friendly WA-08 candidate debate in Ellensburg

Yes­ter­day evening, the Kit­ti­tas Coun­ty Democ­rats host­ed a debate between the Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­dates hop­ing to rep­re­sent the 8th Con­gres­sion­al Dis­trict in the U.S. House at the Hal Holmes Com­mu­ni­ty Cen­ter in Ellens­burg. The debate once again brought togeth­er Shan­non Had­er, Jason Rit­tereis­er, and Kim Schrier.

Rich Smith, staff writer for The Stranger, mod­er­at­ed the event.

The prin­ci­pal top­ics were health­care, immi­gra­tion, and strate­gies for defeat­ing Repub­li­can Dino Rossi in the gen­er­al election.

The debate uti­lized an intrigu­ing for­mat. Each can­di­date had five min­utes to address each of the issues. When not pre­sent­ing, the oth­er two can­di­dates were per­mit­ted to make two requests for infor­ma­tion. The pre­sent­ing can­di­date was then expect­ed to address at least one of those requests.

Requests for infor­ma­tion, how­ev­er, were used very spar­ing­ly by the can­di­dates. There was lit­tle attack­ing or dis­agree­ment among the three con­tenders, who main­ly used the event as an forum to fur­ther com­mu­ni­cate their qual­i­fi­ca­tions and visions.

The debate start­ed off with a dis­cus­sion on health­care. All three can­di­dates affirmed their com­mit­ment to work­ing towards acces­si­ble, qual­i­ty health­care for all.

The cen­tral point of con­tention dur­ing the health­care por­tion of the debate was the can­di­dates’ sup­port (or lack there­of) for H.R. 676, a bill intro­duced by John Cony­ers that seeks to expands Medicare to cov­er every American.

Jason Rit­tereis­er, a vocal sup­port­er of H.R. 676, held the bill in front of him and detailed his sup­port. He used requests for infor­ma­tion to ask both Shan­non Had­er and Kim Schri­er whether they would cospon­sor the bill in Congress.

Had­er said that while there were many pos­i­tive aspects to the bill, she would not nec­es­sar­i­ly cospon­sor the cur­rent iter­a­tion of it in Con­gress because it could elim­i­nate the Indi­an Health Ser­vice with­out trib­al approval.

Had­er focused her pre­sen­ta­tion address­ing the impor­tance of crit­i­cal access hos­pi­tals and the need to pre­serve and sup­port health­care in rur­al areas.

Had­er specif­i­cal­ly men­tioned Kit­ti­tas Val­ley Hos­pi­tal and her com­mit­ment to pre­serv­ing pub­lic  pay­ments to rur­al hos­pi­tals and expand­ing Medicare, both of which will help to make rur­al health­care sustainable.

Schri­er was also reluc­tant to com­mit to cospon­sor­ing H.R. 676 as cur­rent­ly writ­ten. She said she’s con­cerned that vet­er­ans would end up get­ting worse care under H.R. 676 and that health­care agree­ments pre­vi­ous­ly nego­ti­at­ed by unions on behalf of their work­ers could be neg­a­tive­ly affected.

Schri­er also dis­cussed her com­pre­hen­sive health­care pro­pos­al that she rolled out ear­li­er this month. Her plan includes expand­ing Medicare through an imme­di­ate pub­lic option, allow­ing the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment to nego­ti­ate drug prices, and improv­ing rur­al access to healthcare.

The sec­ond issue addressed by the can­di­dates was immigration.

There was lit­tle that dif­fer­en­ti­at­ed the candidate’s views. All three stressed the need for com­pre­hen­sive immi­gra­tion reform, the need for a clean Deferred Action For Child­hood Arrivals bill, the impor­tance of immi­gra­tion to the 8th District’s econ­o­my, and the moral atroc­i­ties of fam­i­ly sep­a­ra­tion and Trump’s immi­gra­tion directives.

Mod­er­a­tor Rich Smith chimed in and asked whether the can­di­dates sup­port Con­gress­woman Jayapal’s bill to estab­lish a task force to dis­man­tle ICE with­in a year. All three were unan­i­mous­ly against this idea, say­ing that the prob­lem was not with ICE but with the direc­tives hand­ed down to ICE from the White House.

One of the most impor­tant ques­tions for Democ­rats in the Top Two elec­tion is who has the best shot to beat Repub­li­can can­di­date Dino Rossi in the gen­er­al elec­tion. The Demo­c­ra­t­ic con­tenders each attempt­ed to answer this ques­tion in the final seg­ment of the debate, mak­ing the case for their candidacies.

Schri­er argued that she has been fight­ing against Dino Rossi for the longest amount of time and has built the cam­paign need­ed to defeat him. She not­ed her cam­paign has raised more from indi­vid­u­als than any oth­er can­di­date in the race.

Had­er cit­ed her track record of get­ting things done with­in the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment as what would pro­pel her to vic­to­ry over Rossi. Had­er served as direc­tor of the Divi­sion of Glob­al HIV & TB at the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Prevention.

Had­er also cit­ed her grass­roots sup­port. She has received endorse­ments from every sin­gle Demo­c­ra­t­ic leg­isla­tive dis­trict orga­ni­za­tion that has endorsed in the race. Twelve out of fif­teen of these have been sole endorsements.

Final­ly, Rit­tereis­er, born and raised in Ellens­burg, argued his con­nec­tion to East­ern Wash­ing­ton will help him to become the first Demo­c­rat to win a con­gres­sion­al elec­tion in the 8th. “There is an urban and rur­al divide that I am unique­ly sit­u­at­ed to unite,” Rit­tereis­er said. He also argued that his legal back­ground will help ensure that the Trump regime is sub­ject­ed to the tough over­sight it deserves.

All three can­di­dates end­ed the debate by stress­ing the impor­tance of the con­test for flip­ping the House major­i­ty. The can­di­dates urged all watch­ing to enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly cast their vote and make sure oth­er Wash­ing­to­ni­ans cast theirs.

Bal­lots for the August Top Two elec­tion were mailed out this week and have already arrived for some vot­ers. Vot­ers must return them to a drop box or post office by August 7th, 2018. For the first time, no postage will be nec­es­sary to return the bal­lots through U.S. Mail, as all return envelopes include pre­paid postage.

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