Congressional candidates face off in Port Angeles
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Paul Gottlieb/Peninsula Daily News
Republican Bill Driscoll, left, and Democrat Derek Kilmer share a laugh before their debate Monday in Port Angeles.

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

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PORT ANGELES — With the electoral clock ticking, 6th Congressional District candidates Derek Kilmer and Bill Driscoll sparred Monday over taxes and who is best-equipped to serve the interests of North Olympic Peninsula residents.

Democrat Kilmer, a state senator from Gig Harbor, and Republican Driscoll, a Tacoma businessman with roots in the forest products industry as well as military, met Monday at the Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce's weekly luncheon at the Red Lion Hotel.

Election officials in Jefferson and Clallam counties will mail general election ballots to voters Wednesday that are due by 8 p.m. Nov. 6, Election Day, or must be postmarked by then.

Kilmer, 38, also the vice president of the Economic Board of Tacoma-Pierce County, and Driscoll, 50, a former Marine who lives in Tacoma and has never run for public office, repeatedly emphasized their roots — Kilmer as a Port Angeles native and Driscoll as military veteran who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The boundaries of the two-year seat they seek for include Clallam and Jefferson counties. The district extends south to parts of Grays Harbor and Pierce counties.

The position is being vacated by 18-term U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Belfair, who is not seeking re-election.

Neither candidate said he supported term limits, but Driscoll pledged to serve “three or four terms” before not running for re-election, and said he had no intention of becoming a “career politician.”

He urged voters to elect someone like him “from the real world,” adding that if elected, he would be the only person in Washington's congressional delegation with combat experience, a manufacturing background and experience living in Asia, a major trading partner for Washington state.

Kilmer, who has represented the Bremerton-area 26th District in the state Senate since 2007 and served in the state House from 2005 to 2007, cited “real differences” between him and Driscoll, saying that the average household income in Clallam County is $40,000 a year and drawing a contrast with Driscoll's self-financed efforts to get elected.

“My opponent has put 25 times that amount of his own money into his own campaign,” Kilmer said.

“There are 253 millionaires in Congress, and he would like your vote to make him 254.”

The two also differed on extending the George W. Bush-era tax cuts.

Driscoll said he supported raising revenue, but only if it is tied to a equal amount of spending cuts, while Kilmer said he favors extending the tax cuts, but only to a point.

“I don't think it makes sense to extend tax cuts to wealthy Americans,” Kilmer added.

“When you work in economic development, you know there are no silver bullets to job creation,” he said.

“It's more like silver buckshot. We agree that the private sector is the key to job creation.”

Two of the half-dozen questions posed to the candidates touched the Wild Olympics Wilderness and Scenic Rivers Act of 2012, which is sponsored by Dicks and U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Bothell.

Logging would be banned on 126,500 acres that would be declared wilderness in 633,000-acre Olympic National Forest and are scattered on or near the border of Olympic National Park.

Nineteen area rivers and seven tributaries also would receive protection by being designated wild and scenic.

Driscoll said he “would be absolutely against” the proposal unless there are “significant increases” to harvest levels on federal lands.

Kilmer said he, too, supports increasing harvest levels in Olympic National Forest, though he stopped short of Driscoll's pledge of opposition.

“More thinning and less administration, that's what I advocate,” Kilmer said.

The Wild Olympics legislation was introduced in the House and Senate in June but has yet to receive a hearing in either chamber.

Driscoll and Kilmer both stressed the need for bipartisanship, and Driscoll said he has “stood aside” from many of his party colleagues by supporting gay marriage and a woman's right to choose.

“Bipartisanship is how I live my life,” quipped Driscoll — noting that his wife is a Democrat to laughter from the more than 100 in attendance.

Kilmer said 80 percent of the bills he has sponsored had bipartisan support, while Driscoll said that if elected, he will begin reaching across the aisle by finding other congressional representatives who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and “share that bond” for legislating.

Monday's debate was co-sponsored by Port Angeles Nor'wester Rotary, Port Angeles Rotary and Peninsula Young Professionals Network.

Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at

Last modified: October 15. 2012 6:05PM
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