Health care blitz escalates

The intense lobbying campaign over health care reform that targeted U.S. Rep. Brian Baird peaked Friday with mass e-mails from the White House urging Vancouver residents to generate 193 calls to Baird’s Washington, D.C., office by day’s end. Considering that the Vancouver Democrat’s staff fielded 4,000 calls last week seeking to influence his vote, that seemed like a low bar.

Meanwhile, candidates in the race to succeed Baird have been applying pressure on one of their opponents, Olympia Democrat Denny Heck.

Republican David Castillo took the most innovative approach, unveiling a “health care watch” on Thursday that purports to keep track of how long it has been since Heck refused to take a firm position on the health care bill. Castillo calculates that the clock started on Feb. 26, when he called on all his Democratic opponents to clearly state their positions on the bill.

Republican state Rep. Jaime Herrera chimed in Friday, complaining that “Heck has yet to say whether he will support it or not.”

State Sen. Craig Pridemore, the other leading Democrat in the race, is still shackled to the Legislature’s special session in Olympia. But he released a campaign video declaring his support for reforms that inject competition into the private insurance market and hold drug companies in check.

“The problem right now is that we have a health care system dominated by insurance and pharmaceutical companies and Wall Street,” Pridemore said in a campaign press release. He repeated his support for a public option, while conceding that it’s likely a lost cause in this round of reforms.

“It is essential that we encourage competition in the health care market, and the only way to do that is to hold the special interests in Washington, D.C., accountable to the struggling families across our nation,” he said.

Pridemore joined his Republican opponents in jabbing Heck for “standing on the sidelines” in the health care debate.

Here’s what Heck told us on March 13: “We need insurance reform, we need more people covered because it’s suffocating the life out of our economy, and we need cost containment.”

Baird, who has endorsed Heck, told us he agrees with Heck’s broad-brush stance on the issue, saying, “It’s not his job to take a position on this bill.”

Kathie Durbin

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