Rep. Doc Hastings (R)
Washington 4th District
The rugged peaks of the Cascade Mountains divide Washington State into two starkly different climate zones and two almost as starkly different political cultures. West of the Cascades, Washington is moist, green and crammed with watery inlets. To the east, it is barren and brown, except where irrigation ditches channel the water of the Columbia River into thirsty valleys and where the mountaintop waters fall east, as they do above the apple orchards in the Yakima Valley. The federal government has been a presence east of the Cascades since the 1930s, when it began to build dams that provided cheap power and boosted economic development in this forbidding, often surreal, landscape. A giant bust of Franklin D. Roosevelt gazes from a bluff on the Columbia out over 550-foot-high Grand Coulee Dam, which Roosevelt initiated and which was one of his favorite projects. Other dams are strung like beads on the necklace of the Columbia most of the way downriver to Bonneville Dam near Portland, where the river breaks through the Cascades. In 1996, a 9,300-year-old skeleton was found on the banks of the Columbia River in Richland. It was named the Kennewick man and is one of the oldest skeletons ever found in North America.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The last undammed, undeveloped stretch of the upper Columbia River is near the 640-square-mile Hanford Nuclear Reservation, north of the Tri-Cities of Richland, Kennewick and Pasco. Hanford was built by the Army to manufacture plutonium for the Manhattan Project and was where the Nagasaki bomb was constructed. After the war, the Hanford Works became the primary producer of materials for America’s nuclear weapons and eastern Washington’s largest employer. Then in 1989, Hanford’s plutonium plant, which produced two-thirds of the nation’s plutonium, was shut down because of hazardous leaks and contaminated waste. The spent fuel was scheduled to be shipped to a permanent repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, but that project has been delayed by stiff resistance from Nevada politicians, leaving the future of Hanford’s high-level waste in doubt. In 2004, voters approved a referendum to prohibit the Energy Department from sending more radioactive waste into Washington until the existing sites were cleaned up. In 2009, the ongoing clean-up effort received $2 billion from the federal economic-stimulus bill; but the final cost could approach $50 billion.
The 4th Congressional District of Washington covers much of the center of the state east of the Cascades, running from Grand Coulee and the Columbia River through the Hanford Works down to the Dalles Dam and the Columbia River Gorge. Thirty percent of the district’s residents are Hispanic, many of them farm workers or the children of farm workers who have picked fruit for generations. Farmers in the Yakima Valley, which produces most of the nation’s apples and many other crops, were enraged when environmentalists proposed breaching the Snake River dams upriver to save salmon. Lumber towns in the Cascades responded angrily when the logging business was hurt by efforts to preserve the spotted owl. In an area that was once narrowly split between the parties and that as recently as 1992 elected a Democrat to Congress, this has become the most Republican district in the state. The cultural liberalism of Seattle seems very far away.
Rep. Doc Hastings (R)
Elected: 1994, 8th term.
Born: Feb. 7, 1941, Spokane .
Education: Columbia Basin Col., 1959-61, Central Washington U., 1963-64.
Family: Married (Claire); 3 children.
Military career: Army Reserves, 1964–69.
Elected office: WA House of Reps., 1979–87.
Professional Career: Pres., Columbia Basin Paper & Supply, 1967–94.
The congressman from the 4th District is Doc Hastings, a Republican first elected in 1994. He became the ranking Republican on the House Natural Resources Committee in 2009. Hastings grew up in the Tri-Cities, went to college in Ellensburg and is one of the few members of Congress without a college degree. He got his nickname from a brother who could not pronounce his given name, Richard, when they were kids. Hastings served in the Army Reserves and for 27 years ran the Columbia Basin Paper and Supply Company in Pasco, where he was also president of the Chamber of Commerce. In 1979, he was elected to the state House, served as a Republican leader, then retired in 1987. In 1992, he won the Republican nomination for the U.S. House seat, but was beaten 51%-49% by Democrat Jay Inslee. In office, Inslee voted for the Clinton budget and tax package and for the crime bill with its gun-control provisions—big liabilities when ran for re-election in 1994 and faced Hastings again. In their second contest, Hastings won 53%-47%. Since then, Democrats have not seriously competed here.
|Doc Hastings (R)||169,940||(63%)||($682,931)|
|George Fearing (D)||99,430||(37%)||($291,784)|
|Doc Hastings (R)||93,241||(62%)|
|George Fearing (D)||49,841||(33%)|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (60%), 2004 (63%), 2002 (67%), 2000 (61%), 1998 (69%), 1996 (53%), 1994 (53%)
In the House, Hastings has had a mostly conservative voting record. Until 2009, he had a seat on the leadership-run Rules Committee, and he has been a prominent behind-the-scenes player in the House GOP. Hastings is a friend and ally of House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio.
As chairman of the investigating subcommittee of the House Ethics Committee, he had the thankless task of reviewing the case against Ohio Democrat James Traficant, who was convicted of bribery in federal court in 2002. The panel voted unanimously to expel Traficant from the House, only the second such action since the Civil War. Hastings also was part of the unanimous, 10-member panel in 2004 that voted to admonish Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas three times, the mildest possible sanction. DeLay was accused of a host of infractions surrounding his close ties with lobbyists who wanted favors from him. In what was viewed as a ham-handed rebuke to the committee for even mildly punishing his ally DeLay, Republican Speaker Dennis Hastert removed Colorado’s Joel Hefley as chairman and replaced him with Hastings.
The next year, Hastings was at the center of another dustup at the committee that did not reflect well on him or other Republicans. He supported the GOP leadership’s change in House rules to make it harder to launch investigations of members. He also ousted the committee’s top staff. When committee Democrats protested by refusing to attend committee meetings, Hastings and the Republicans agreed to restore the earlier rules. They redeemed themselves somewhat in 2006 with an aggressive review of what Republican leaders and their staffs knew about Florida Republican Mark Foley’s sexually explicit emails to House pages, with Hastert and others testifying in the committee’s pre-election probe. All of the testimony was behind closed doors, but the revelations became a black eye for House Republicans. In December 2006, following the election, the committee issued a unanimous report saying that no members or employees had violated House rules but that panel members were “disturbed” by the conduct of some of those involved who chose “to remain willfully ignorant of the potential consequences of former Representative Foley’s conduct with respect to House pages.”
When Republicans lost the House majority in 2007, Hastings objected to the Democrats’ creation of an independent panel of House members to consider ethics complaints against other members, saying such a panel would interfere with the committee’s work and bring about more partisan attacks. He was briefly embroiled in the 2007 scandal surrounding Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and the firing of several U.S. attorneys around the country. One of the fired attorneys, John McKay, alleged that in 2005, Hastings’ chief of staff, Ed Cassidy, called him and asked about allegations of voter fraud in the 2004 Washington gubernatorial election, which had resulted in the election of a Democrat, Christine Gregoire. Hastings said he did not remember instructing Cassidy to contact McKay.
Hastings is a vocal defender of Washington’s asparagus industry, and during the 110th Congress (2007-08), he voted against the United States-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement Implementation Act and an extension of the 1991 Andean Trade Preferences Act, both of which he said hurt Washington growers. Much of his time has been spent on issues surrounding the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. When President George W. Bush proposed cuts in the Energy Department budget, Hastings protected the Hanford cleanup program from reductions. Congress enacted his bill requiring the Interior Department to study preservation of the Manhattan Project’s historic sites at Hanford as part of the national park system. Hastings says that his proudest legislative achievement was the 2003 passage of the Citizens’ Soldier Act, which makes legal immigrants serving in the military eligible for citizenship after one year in uniform.
In 2006, Democratic challenger Richard Wright criticized Hastings for his handling of ethics issues, but Hastings won 60%-40%—not a bad performance in a rough year for Republicans.