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November 09, 2007

George Fearing – The Other Democratic Challenger

Doc Hastings, the staunchest rightie of our three right-wing Republican Congresscritters, will have an opponent in his race next year – although most of us haven’t yet heard about him.  Over in central Washington, in the 4th Congressional District, George Fearing, a well-dressed lawyer, looks for all the world like he’d be a Republican himself.  Instead, George is running an early, determined race to unseat the ethically challenged Hastings.Georgefearing

George says he is meeting with LD and County Democratic Chairs, with Labor leaders and with just about anyone who wants to hear why he thinks he can defeat Doc Hastings next year.  He is talking about Doc’s wrong-headed, lockstep support of the Bush Administration, his willingness to take money from Jack Abramoff and Tom DeLay, and the increasing gap between Hastings and his constituents on crucial issues like the war, trade, and healthcare.

I had an opportunity to talk with him at YearlyKos this year.  George looked very much out of place there – dressed in a great suit in the midst of 1500 mostly dressed-down bloggers and activists.  But he was there, meeting the folks who came to our Northwest caucus, stealing into listen to as many of the Presidential candidates as he could, and asking Darcy questions about jump-starting his campaign.

That openness, that willingness to attend YearlyKos and see what the heck it was all about, especially when it was not his natural milieu, impressed me.

In the same spirit he drove over to Seattle one Tuesday evening to join us at the Seattle chapter of Drinking Liberally and to introduce himself to the bloggers and activists there.  I was able to ask him some questions.  The interview, plus a reminder of just how bad Doc Hastings is, is over the fold.

Interview with George Fearing, Candidate for Congress from WA-04

Q:  Since this election is as much about throwing Doc Hastings out of office as electing you, why do you think Hastings is vulnerable this year?

GF:   I think it’s a combination of things.  Doc is on a list of the 22 most corrupt members of Congress to start.  He received money from Jack Abramoff and the firm he worked for at the time, Preston Gates Ellis, and never returned it, unlike many other Republican Congressmen and Congresswomen.  In 1996, Abramoff’s team worked closely with Hastings and secured his opposition to a key bill in the House Resources subcommittee that would have forced the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands to adhere to American labor standards.  The billing records show that it was a day later that Abramoff donated money to his campaign. 

Hastings’s long-time Chief of Staff, Ed Cassidy, called former U.S. attorney in Washington, John McKay, shortly after the 2004 election, on behalf of Hastings, to inquire about McKay’s investigation of the Gregoire-Rossi gubernatorial election, a call that was highly improper and ended quickly after McKay pointed that out.

And, my favorite: Doc Hastings was the presiding officer of the House the night that the vote was kept open for an unprecedented 2 hours and 51 minutes for President Bush’s Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act.  Normally votes occur in about 15 minutes. 

After the first 15 minutes, the vote stood at 210 in favor and 224 opposed with 17 Republicans voting with the Democrats to defeat the measure.  At the urging of the Republican leaders, Doc Hastings kept the vote open, over and over again, in the middle of the night, as the leaders - DeLay, Hastert and Blunt - worked the Republicans who opposed the bill.  They offering money for upcoming elections, threatened to withhold money and even run primary challenges against recalcitrant Representatives.   

They also allowed drug firm lobbyists to roam the halls making their own offers.  They brought in Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, and then at 5:00 AM in the morning, got President Bush to call Representatives himself and plead his case. 

All that time, Doc Hastings refused to call for the vote.  Finally, Majority Leader Tom DeLay went to the floor and announced that they had 218 yeas to the 216 nays.  At 5:51 AM, the vote passed amidst Republican cheering by 220 to 215, taking twice as long as any previous vote in the history of the House.

Q: Given that Doc Hastings is not much of an asset to the folks of central Washington and is sometimes absolutely an embarrassment, why do they continue to vote for him?  And what makes you think they’ll vote for you?

GF:  The Democrats who’ve run against Hastings haven’t gotten into the race early enough or run hard enough.  They haven’t clarified just how bad Hastings is.  I will.

I’m spending a lot of time with the rank and file Democrats as well as with the Democratic leaders.  In the past, the leaders have supported the candidate but the regular people, who might consider a Democratic candidate, haven’t.

I’ve been going to talk with the legislative district chairs, county chairs, labor folks, anyone who’ll invite me.  I’m talking about who Doc Hastings is and about how closely he is aligned with President Bush and this administration and with the folks who have kept him in power.

In addition, Hastings has not stood for the interests of the people of the 4th CD and they are starting to notice. 

Q: How so?

GF: When I talk with the voters of this district, I say that no matter what party you are in, the role of Congress is to challenge and check the role of the administration.  Doc Hastings doesn’t do that.  He simply follows the Bush Administration on the Iraq War and on trade, neither of which resonate well with voters here. 

When I was walking in the Ellensburg Rodeo Parade in early September, I got treated like a rock star.  People applauded because of my stand on Iraq.   

Doc is in lockstep with the trade policies of Bush.  It hurts our farmers.  Free trade is fine but it needs to be fair. 

And the S-CHIP vote is big.  The state’s other two Republicans Representatives voted for the increase in money for insuring children (ed. – after voting “No” many times), but not Hastings.  He says no one should get their health insurance paid for, either by the government or their employer.  He says that if people paid out of their own pocket, they’d be a lot more practical.  That’s pretty extreme.

Nor does he believe in global warming, something farmers understand quite well.  They can see the impact of the warming we’re already experiencing on their crops.

So, people are paying attention.

Q: Tell us about the voters of the 4th CD.  They haven’t voted for a Democrat for Congress since they sent Jay Inslee to Congress in 1992 and then turned around and voted him out in 1994.  What are they thinking at this point in time?

GF:  In the 4th district, people pride themselves on being Independents.  They have typically voted Republican but I think that is changing.  I meet with a lot of Republicans and they are not happy.  They are upset at the scandals and tired of the large corporations giving so much money to members of Congress.  Even the so-called Religious Right are realizing that global warming is a real threat and they need to pay attention. 

Q:  So tell us something about yourself.

GF:  I worked as an intern for both Tom Foley and Warren Magnuson when I was younger.  I’ve been a lawyer in the Tri-Cities for many years; the firm is generally considered a Republican firm.  In fact, Doc Hastings is one of our clients.  I’ve been involved in Democratic politics and involved with my conservative church.  I’m a staunch believer in a clear separation of church and state. 

I look like a Republican (ed. – Yes, he does) but I think like a Democrat, albeit a Democrat from a pretty independent place. 

Thank you.  Best of luck.    

Posted by Lynn Allen on November 9, 2007 at 07:53 AM in Candidate Races, Interviews, National and International Politics | Permalink

Comments

Thanks for this interview --- this is a great introduction to someone we'll be hearing a lot more about.

George Fearing sounds like he's on top of things -- he's got it right: get in early, establish relationships with the grassroots and the community as well as the party leadership, and communicate to the voters who you are and how that's different from your opponent. I read this & I get that gut-level sense -- 'this guy's going to win'

Posted by: Noemie Maxwell | Nov 9, 2007 8:37:05 AM

George Fearing sounds like someone Washingtonians would be proud to have serve. He' a straight shooter, and his criticisms of Hastings are rightly focused on accountability and transparency -- the two things everyone wants to see in government and its officials.

The SCHIP vote is the perfect place to make comparisons between Hastings and his congressional colleagues. He is so out of step, and as noted, so extreme on the issue, I can't imagine the district's constituents giving him much thanks for it.

I'm also glad to see Fearing targeting Hastings for his role in McKay's ouster. As chair of the ethics committee, Hastings' involvement in the scandal, as well as his refusal to recuse himself on ensuing ethics issues afterward, were grounds for his resignation from that leadership position. Conflict of Interest and Malfeasance never knew such a ripe breeding ground.

Posted by: shoephone | Nov 9, 2007 8:49:32 AM

You know, I think Hillary has hit upon an idea that could work well for Fearing...that's the website that was set up to counter GOP swiftboat myths. Certainly that technique was used against Peter Goldmark and dear Doc has never been shy about slinging s***t. Thanks for the heads up on him, I'll keep an eye out.

Posted by: mainsailset | Nov 9, 2007 12:59:22 PM

There is one attribute that was not touched on in this article; an attribute that is just as (if not more)important than any of the good points listed above.
That is:
George listens to all people concerned enough to voice an opinion and share their views with him. He is sincere in his concerns and interest in the betterment of a system that (at the present time) is clearly biased in favor of the haves over the have nots. More important; after listening he remembers and considers the input from all - not just the big campaign donors.

Perhaps because of this, his campaign is handicapped by the fact that his supporters are not wealthy and cannot match the contributions of the special interest supporters of the incumbent.

I didn't start this out to ask for help but ....If any readers would like to see the East side get a little closer to the progressives on the West side and happen to have a dollar or two that isn't already committed there couldn't be a better investment than George.

Posted by: Roy DeHart | Nov 17, 2007 2:44:12 PM

I want to echo what Roy DeHart said. George is the right person for the job. It's not enough that we win the west-side districts we always win. Money can make a big difference over here. From 2004 to 2006 Dems went from 30% to 40% of the vote with no effort on our part. It seems that with the way things are, it wouldn't take much to get past 50%.

But it's going to take money, and there just isn't enough around here. With county central committee memberships counted in the dozens and serious contributors less than that, George is going to need some serious help from statewide backers to be sure to win. He can't do it on his good looks and winning arguments alone.

So how about it? Isn't it worth unseated Hastings? George is the man to do it, and he needs and deserves your help.

Posted by: David Chassin | Nov 18, 2007 7:07:39 PM

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