Democrat Denny Heck often says the biggest issue driving his campaign in Washington's newest congressional district is jobs. He says a new Congress broken free of gridlock can avoid the nation's fiscal "cliff" and help spur hiring by businesses.
Rival Republican Dick Muri says jobs are a top worry nationally and a problem locally, but he also is worried about deficits and taxes. And he thinks the No. 1 issue for the new 10th Congressional District is the care of veterans and other veterans issues.
In the closing month of their campaign, the differences between the two finalists could not be much greater -- on taxes, budget cuts, health reform, climate change and social issues. The campaigns have developed different tactics, too, as they try to connect with voters in a sprawling new political turf that spreads from Shelton to University Place and Puyallup and includes Joint Base Lewis-McChord and almost all of Thurston County.
In the primary, Heck had a huge financial edge over five rivals and easily outpolled them all. The most recent Federal Election Commission from mid-July showed he had amassed nearly $1.4 million.
That was eight times what Muri had, and it presages a huge advantage for Heck headed toward the Nov. 6 election. Barring a last-minute entry into the race by out-of-state super PACs or a large infusion of funds for Muri, Heck could be the only candidate hitting the television airwaves after ballots go out in mid-October.
Muri remains undaunted, and he's been showing up at numerous community forums and candidate nights that Heck is not attending. And he's calling attention to Heck's absences and questioning how Heck -- whose financial support includes donations from labor groups and political committees in the nation's capital -- can be free from special interest influence.
"He's 0 for 3 at candidate forums," Muri said last month at a Steilacoom Chamber of Commerce forum in his hometown, pointing to an empty chair at the end of the row that was meant for Heck. "I'd like to get to know the guy."
Heck bristles at the idea he is ducking joint appearances, arguing that he has agreed to four debates with Muri, including a League of Women Voters event Thursday in Olympia and another on KCTS 9 television that airs Oct. 22.
"What's the right number? ... Eight, 12, 15?" Heck asks.
FINDING AN EDGE IN NEW 10th DISTRICT
After a decade of population growth gave Washington its first new congressional district since 1992, there was speculation the 10th could be one of state's most competitive seats. Redistricting changed that equation, leaving the district with a lean toward Democrats. Meanwhile, political action committees have been focused instead on the state's redrawn 1st District north of Seattle, which Jay Inslee left to run for governor.
Without a barrage of negative ads, 10th District voters may find something to like about both men who are married and have adult children. Each is successful and in his second or third career, and each has a resume of public service.
Heck is a former state legislator from Vancouver who served in 1977-85 and quickly rose to House majority leader. He later served as chief of staff for Gov. Booth Gardner, ran unsuccessfully for state schools superintendent in 1988, and after leaving politics grew wealthy by investing in high-tech and starting small businesses.
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