The Race For A New Representative In Washington State’s 6th District

Oct 23, 2012

Republican Bill Driscoll and Democrat Derek Kilmer are running to replace US Representative Norm Dicks in Washington state’s 6th Congressional District.  The district encompasses the Olympic and Kitsap peninsulas, much of Tacoma and Bainbridge Island.

Since 1977 most of the 6th District has been Norm Dicks country. In fact, many of the voters in this election grew up with the formidable Democrat as their representative. Now that he’s retiring, Dicks has endorsed Gig Harbor Democratic State Senator Derek Kilmer as his successor.  

But his Republican challenger, Bill Driscoll, has picked up some heavyweight endorsements too, including former Republican Senator Slade Gorton who calls Driscoll "one of the best first time candidates for any office that I’ve ever met."

Gorton says he was impressed with Driscoll’s character. "I was simply blown away by the fact that he not only served in the Marines once back in 1990, but volunteered to return and served in both Iraq and Afghanistan in addition to being a fairly well off and a highly successful business man."

Driscoll worked for Weyerhaeuser, the timber harvesting giant founded by his great-great-grandfather. Driscoll’s financial success has allowed him to make a million dollars in personal contributions to his campaign.

Both candidates have raised roughly $1.5 million, but for Derek Kilmer, much of that has come from individuals and political action committees.

Kilmer says Driscoll’s personal wealth puts him out of touch with most of his would-be constituents.  Kilmer says he understands the challenges that middle class families face because he's lived them. Kilmer says he doesn't begrudge Driscoll's wealth, "But I think it brings us to very different takes on issues that matter to middle class families that I’m seeking to represent."

Both candidates have focused mainly on jobs and the economy. Kilmer says if elected he would vote to let the Bush-era tax cuts for the nation’s highest earners expire.  He disagrees with Driscoll’s plan to embrace the GOP’s proposal to overhaul Medicare. “[He] suggests that we should turn Medicare into a voucher program that would increase costs to seniors," says Kilmer. "That may not mean much to him, but it means a lot to my grandmother who’s 102-years-old. And he suggests we should do that to pay for another round of tax cuts for millionaires like himself."

But Driscoll says it’s not that simple. "Anything we do, we’ve got to address spending cuts as well as tax increases, and we have to link those together. Just revenue increases isn’t going to be enough. And it’s too easy just to raise taxes, and the spending cuts [are] really the hard part."

Driscoll says he’s willing to work with his Democratic counterparts. To him that means everything is on the table, including reforming entitlement programs and cutting defense spending.

Both candidates, however, acknowledge the Pacific Rim's strategic importance to the nation’s defense.   

Driscoll pitches himself as a moderate Republican. He’s fond of reminding voters he’s married to a Democrat.

And, indeed, Driscoll and Kilmer have some similarities. Both candidates support Referendum 74, which asks voters to decide on gay marriage.

While Kilmer says he supports the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, both candidates reject Initiative 502. It would legalize and tax pot sales in Washington.  

In a recent KING 5 poll, Kilmer leads Driscoll by 15 percentage points with 11 percent undecided.

Recent coverage of the 6th District on KUOW