MOUNT VERNON — Incumbent Suzan DelBene faces off against Sultan City Councilman Jeffrey Beeler for the U.S. House of Representatives seat in Washington’s 1st Congressional District.
The district encompasses most of Whatcom, Skagit and Snohomish counties, as well as part of King County.
DelBene, a Democrat, is running for a fourth full term.
“This is obviously a divisive and challenging environment, but the only way we are going to make it better is if we have people willing to make it better,” DelBene said. “I want to be in there working to make that happen because this is a critical time. It’s not going to get better if we’re not all working to make it better.”
Beeler, a Republican, has served for the past nine years on the Sultan City Council, where he said he’s worked with the other members of the council to find solutions, despite their political differences.
“That’s one of the things people have always brought up to me is: ‘You work well with other people,’” Beeler said.
He said he is frustrated with national politics, which is why he is running for federal office.
DelBene, he said, has become part of the problem.
“She has become part of what is referred to as ‘The Swamp,’” he said. “She no longer represents the voters, she represents the Democrat party.”
In answering a Skagit Valley Herald questionnaire, Beeler said he would limit his time in office to three terms, so as to avoid becoming part of what he calls “The Swamp.”
Both candidates cited the economy as a key issue.
“We have a diverse region, but people are still not seeing their wages increase to the cost of living,” DelBene said. “We need voices who are going to stand up for the middle class.”
Well-paying jobs, she said, are the key to a healthy economy.
Beeler, a small business owner, said that while the economic policies put into place in the past two years have helped the economy, Congress needs to address the country’s budget deficit.
“We’re always spending more money than we have and you can only do that so long,” he said. “We have to reverse that process. We have to get back to thinking about a balanced budget.”
When it came to Skagit County, both candidates said agriculture was high on their priority list.
“Agriculture is something I’ve been very focused on,” DelBene said. “We need to have a Farm Bill, that’s something that hasn’t been completed yet.”
The current five-year farm bill expired in September. The new bill would reauthorize federal farm and nutrition programs, including crop insurance, research, conservation and energy programs, and supplemental nutrition programs.
Tariffs were something both candidates agreed needed to be addressed.
DelBene, who sits on the House Ways and Means Committee, said the real issues regarding trade haven’t been addressed, and she intends to keep broaching the ramifications of a trade war with the Trump administration.
“We are not addressing the issue, and we have created a situation where we see retaliation against agriculture,” she said. “I continue to work and ask questions of the administration to understand what their goals are and to make sure they understand the impact their decisions have on our farmers.”
As a Republican, Beeler said he would be able to have the administration’s ear on such issues and would be able to guide decisions based on what is good for the district.
“The agricultural base (in Skagit County) is tremendous, with the tulips and the farming,” he said. “I think with what has happened with the trade stuff with Canada, dairies are going to be tremendously benefited. How are those trade wars going on right now, how are they going to affect businesses internationally?”
Both candidates also addressed health care as a top priority for whoever is elected to the seat.
As a small business owner, Beeler said the Affordable Healthcare Act has been problematic since its inception, while
“It was touted as being an affordable care act and the best thing for health care in generations and it has not turned out to be that way,” he said. “But the thing that bothers me is the Republicans don’t seem to want to make it better, but they just want to get rid of it.”
DelBene said she would stand up for the act.
“Making sure everyone has affordable, quality, healthcare is a critical issue to everyone,” she said.
Both candidates also touched on immigration and the need for comprehensive reform.