With ballots headed out to voters next week, the folks at Leisure Estates in Renton this past week hosted a candidate forum on Oct. 6, moderated by the Renton Reporter, that featured all of the men and women running for office in the ninth congressional and 11th state legislative district.
The candidates discussed a wide-range of issue, from national politics to state education and transportation and even provided a deep dive into the issues that matter most to the hosts of the forum, such as landlord-tenant law.
On hand for the event were Congressman Adam Smith (D) and his opponent, businessman Doug Basler (R), as well as state Representative Zack Hudgins (D) and his opponent Erin Smith Aboudara (R), State Senator Bob Hasegawa (D) and his opponent, Dennis Price (L), and state Representative Steve Bergquist (D), who is running unopposed this year.
Each office was given about 30 minutes of discussion, including some crossover of questions.
Adam Smith vs Doug Basler (Ninth district, Congress)
The chippiest confrontation of the entire evening was the one between Smith and Basler, which touched on topics as wide-ranging as the fight against ISIS, social security adjustments, immigration, pay raises for congress and even the cost of Smith’s Bellevue home.
Basler introduced himself as a small business owner who said he is running because he believes the Founding Fathers set up a government so that citizens could serve in the government and then go back to their homes and businesses.
“I believe our government was never intended to be career politicians,” he said, adding that he does not “fault” Smith for making that choice, but disagrees.
Smith, who was first elected to congress in 1997, contrasted himself with Basler by saying that experience matters, especially in the “very complicated business” of government.
“Understanding how to legislate, understanding how to represent people, how to listen is a difficult job,” Smith said.
He also took umbrage to Basler’s characterization of him as a creature of the other Washington and said despite working in DC, he spends two-thirds of his time here, pays a mortgage here and his children go to school here.
The candidates were also what they thought was the biggest threat facing the nation and what they would do about the terrorist network known as ISIS.
Basler said the biggest issues was budget cuts to the military and swore to invest in the military.
“We’re our own worst problem in that way,” he said, adding that he would prioritize safety and find additional money for the military by cutting what called “ridiculous waste.”
Smith, again, disagreed and said the US already spends more than the next 12 nations in the world on defense and that he did not want to continue to spend money on more offense. Smith said the top threat was “violent islamic extremism” but called for a more “comprehensive” policy than just an attack.
“You don’t defeat an ideology with guns,” he said.
Smith also said the nation’s infrastructure was another major threat to be addressed.
On the topic of immigration, Smith said he supported “comprehensive immigration reform” including a “pathway to citizenship” for people already living and working here.
“We are renewed each generation by immigrants,” Smith said, adding that there are currently too many people living in the shadows.
Basler said he thought the current immigration system was broken, saying it takes up to 10 years for legal immigrants to be approved and “feel cheated” when others are rewarded for “cutting the line.”
“Are we a nation of laws or aren’t we?” he asked, adding thatthe border was “not as secure as it should be.”
The two also clashed on refugees with Basler saying they are not vetted enough and Smith saying that there’s a two-year process that vets refugees at a higher level than other immigrant groups.
Asked about the lack of a Social Security cost of living adjustment over the past few years, Smith said he co-sponsored a bill to change the way the COLA is calculated because it does not deal with the things seniors are actually buying. He also said he opposes privatization and supports scrapping the cap on taxable income for social security.
Basler said the program was “in trouble” and said he believed the difference could be made up by eliminating waste.
Each candidate was also asked if they support their party’s presidential candidate.
Basler said supports Republican Nominee Donald trump, whom he called a successful businessman, adding that our nation’s tendency toward political correctness needs to be broken. He also called Democratic Nominee Hillary Clinton an “unindicted criminal.” (Basler made his statement prior to the release of the “hot mic tape” of Donald Trump from a 2005 “Access Hollywood” appearance. The Renton Reporter reached out to Basler on Tuesday and he confirmed he is still supporting and endorsing Trump for prresident.)
Smith, on the other hand, called it a “very stark choice” and said he was supporting Clinton over Trump, whom he called unqualified.
THIS STORY HAS BEEN CORRECTED: Due to an editing error, Dennis Price’s name was wrong in the original version of this story. We regret the error.