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If It’s Broke, Fix It 

Congress is broken, and it starts at the top with John Boehner, Eric Cantor and Cathy McMorris Rodgers

click to enlarge Rich Cowan with senior citizens’ advocate Anne Whigham at the Southside Senior Center. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Rich Cowan with senior citizens’ advocate Anne Whigham at the Southside Senior Center.

Congress, 5th District-Washington

Rich Cowan

On the eve of the midterm elections in 2010, Sen. Mitch McConnell, the GOP’s leader in the Senate, said his top priority was to see to it that Obama would be a one-term president. No mention of where pulling America out of the Great Recession ranked — no, his mission was to toss a wrench into the gears of government at our moment of greatest need.

That “Tea Party” election put even more people in Congress devoted to that goal. And now, after the better part of four full years of blocking anything President Obama has proposed, they’re telling us, “Why re-elect Obama? He hasn’t been able to get anything done!”

That’s the worst kind of cynicism — a self-centered, future-be-damned approach to governing that betrays 236 years of American politics. The final insult to our intelligence is when members of Congress — like Cathy McMorris Rodgers — come home to run for re-election and tell us they need another two years to reform Congress. Do they think we haven’t noticed their four-year temper tantrum?

Of course there’s a fine tradition of standing up and opposing bad ideas. Elections have consequences, and minority parties have always sought consolation in having their input included through collaborating on legislation. But no more.

Ironically, opposing every idea coming out of the White House hasn’t delivered results for rank-and-file Republicans. On health care reform, the GOP was invited to participate, but they sat it out. Now one party’s vision has become the law of the land — and has been cemented into place by the Supreme Court. So instead of working together to craft something that addressed a variety of perspectives, they’re stuck with Obamacare. How did that work out for Republicans?

Or when leaders in Congress decided to play chicken with the nation’s credit rating, which ultimately was downgraded, every American took a hit. Our nation got a little less investment-worthy in the eyes of the world. Again, how did that work out for them?

Even while Congress has the lowest approval rating since Gallup started tracking it 38 years ago, people tend to like their own representative. Cathy McMorris Rodgers is likable — in fact, she’s even a moderate by her party’s current standards. You can almost feel sorry for members who are boxed in by a party that punishes independent thought and is ruled by a herd mentality. You’re either a teammate or a traitor.

But McMorris Rodgers, along with fellow leaders John Boehner and Eric Cantor, is the face of this debacle — presiding over the second-lowest number of bills passed since 1947 and the most vacation days since 1960. And her leadership post isn’t enough to even force a vote on her own party’s Farm Bill to help her ag-dependent district. McMorris Rodgers has even sworn an oath to a D.C. lobbyist. This is how far they can stray; the only oath she should be taking is her oath of office.

Most years, it’s been hard to consider replacing her as the competition has not inspired much confidence. But for this election, the 5th District has one of its best challengers in years. Rich Cowan has grown a business here and has the kind of fiscal prudence and innovative mindset it took to become a job creator. And he’s not just any job creator — he improbably created a movie-making industry right here in Spokane. He’s a clear change from McMorris Rodgers, who has been a professional politician her entire adult life.

This election is not all about McMorris Rodgers. It’s about fixing Congress. If the nasty politics we’ve seen keeps winning elections, nothing will change.

To vote for the status quo means you have no problem with Congress putting America’s needs on hold for four years while they scheme their political vendettas. Only you can fix Congress, and you only get a shot at it every two years. A vote for Rich Cowan is a step toward taking Congress back from the grip of political parties that have lost touch with what’s truly important. 


Spokane County Commissioners

Shelly O’Quinn, John Roskelley

Electing county commissioners can be a crapshoot. Sometimes it can be hard to gauge whether a candidate will have what it takes to steer one of the largest enterprises in Eastern Washington. With 1,900 employees and a $400 million budget, not everyone is cut out to lead Spokane County. But luckily, we have two candidates with a combined 17 years experience on the job. Unfortunately, we can’t vote for them both.

In a more perfect world, we’d be recommending John Roskelley and Todd Mielke as county commissioners — we’ve endorsed both men in the past. But as we all know, Spokane County government is not perfect. It might have been when the charter was adopted, but that was around the time they built the County Courthouse in 1895.

Our county commissioners run for office by district in the primary election, but at-large in the general election. As a result, Roskelley and Mielke are running against each other. Can anyone explain how this arrangement helps us?

The other outdated feature is that the job is partisan, which means it attracts the politically minded more than simply the wonky types who just want good government. And of late, these elections have attracted more statewide party money, as it inexorably flows into every cranny it can find.

Finally, there’s the matter of only having three commissioners. It’s probably fine when there’s a good mix on the board, as when Roskelley served two terms with Republicans Kate McCaslin and Phil Harris. Together, they represented the county well. Today, however, with three Republicans, the board is too monolithic. And ever since Bonnie Mager gave way to Al French, it’s as if a cone of silence has descended. When it’s that quiet, we should all be worried.

Todd Mielke has a deep understanding of local government that is valuable, and he has had some great successes over his eight years — the wastewater treatment plant, in particular. But he also often finds himself on the wrong side of public opinion — sometimes rightfully so, as with animal control, but sometimes not, as with the racetrack purchase.

John Roskelley is among the last of the independents; he hasn’t taken PAC money, union money or Democratic Party money for this election. He has long been a crusader for our local quality of life. He would not only bring his nine years of experience back to the board, but he would serve as a watchdog from the inside, sounding the alarm when bad ideas break out. He would bring the kind of balance and diversity to the top of Spokane County that is invaluable to maintain trust and proper representation.

Shelly O’Quinn will find out quickly that it’s about a lot more than jobs — serving as a county commissioner is as complex and challenging a public job as you’ll find anywhere. The learning curve will be steep, but O’Quinn has the tools to tackle the new challenge.

Washington State Representative, 6th District

Dennis Dellwo

It’s been two decades since Dennis Dellwo served in Olympia, and now he wants another shot. Jeff Holy is an up-and-coming candidate with a background in law enforcement, but we know what we’re getting with Dellwo. During his first tenure, Dellwo served as chairman of both the Health Care and the Banking and Insurance committees in Olympia. We need Dellwo’s unique experience on the job, especially on issues of health care. 

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