Jason Rittereiser, Kim Schrier, and Shannon Hader agree: Let's flip the 8th!
Jason Rittereiser, Kim Schrier, and Shannon Hader agree: Let's flip the 8th! (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

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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