|By Sean Robinson, The News Tribune (Tacoma, Wash.)|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
Nevertheless, Ritchie, a political newcomer and self-described "yellow dog Democrat," is taking a shot. He said he decided to run last October after becoming frustrated with the federal government shutdown: a bitter dispute between the Republican-controlled
A third candidate,
Ritchie is 43, married with two children. He owns Handi Habitat, a business that modifies homes to provide access to people with disabilities or physical challenges. His customers include seniors, veterans and injured workers who rely on federal aid to pay for access improvements.
The shutdown hurt his customers and his business, Ritchie said. It's his chief beef with Reichert, who consistently voted with House Republicans throughout the standoff. Ritchie thinks Reichert should have bucked party leaders and voted differently.
"I couldn't do what I needed to do because political games about the Affordable Care Act were being played back in
Reichert said he was also frustrated by the shutdown standoff. He said he supported a measure for a "clean" resolution to continue funding the government, but other factions within the House Republican majority would not consider it.
He compared the dynamics of working within
"The frustration is, even the speaker (of the House) does not have that sort of authority," he said. "Now there's almost immediate backlash from some factions within the party. It creates the sort of environment where the speaker has to go back and reinvent the wheel. That's what happened with the continuing resolution. The
The health-care law drove the shutdown debate. Ritchie likes the law. Reichert doesn't.
"It didn't make things affordable," Reichert said. "It created a situation where insurance premiums are higher for the majority of Americans. It also increased their co-pays. I think that access is slowly being denied, especially in the senior arena."
Reichert supports portions of the health-care law: allowing parents to keep their children on family insurance plans until the age of 26, and preventing denial of insurance due to pre-existing conditions. He said some low-income people have obtained insurance since the law's passage and called that a good thing. But he argues that the health-care law is funded in part by drawing money intended for
Ritchie said the law has helped him personally. He said his monthly insurance premiums dropped from
"It's the best step forward we've had in several generations," he said. "It's not radical -- it's buyer beware. I have the same insurance, the same doctors. I look at these things and I think this is good. It's cheaper because we have everyone paying into the system."
Both candidates say immigration is a hot topic in the
Ritchie favors H.R. 15, a comprehensive immigration reform plan passed by the
"It's not perfect, but it's the right step right now," he said.
He adds that he supports measures that would require employers to verify the citizenship status of workers they hire.
"The problem with the (U.S.) border isn't people coming across," he said. "The problem is they're being lured across because we have jobs they need and there are employers who will hire them illegally."
Reichert said he also supports immigration reform, but he adds that one big bill won't solve the problem.
"People have to understand that we're working in a real political world with real people who are divided. I think we can move forward, but it will be in steps," he said.
He adds that immigration matters just as much on the west side of the Cascades as the east.
"Dairy farmers in
When he hears suggestions of mass arrests and deportation, Reichert finds himself shifting into sheriff mode.
"Let's just imagine that we've surrounded 15 million people and we've been somehow successful in getting them in one place," he sad. "We've also got all the judges in the country put together. We can't just track them all up and put them on a plane. There's only one thing left to do, and that's fix (the system)."
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