Herrera on a roll; Castillo sees an opening

State Rep. Jaime Herrera, R-Camas, packed the Hilton Vancouver ballroom Wednesday for a fund-raising breakfast that drew an estimated 350 attendees willing pay $35 apiece for scrambled eggs, bacon and a rousing stump speech from the Republican candidate for Congress.

State Sen. Joe Zarelli, former U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton and U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Herrera’s former boss, all attested to Herrera’s qualifications for the 3rd District seat.

“She’ll go there carrying the banner of the Republican Party, but what is more important is that she will stay true to the party’s principles,” Zarelli said.

Gorton recalled being grilled by Herrera at a recent briefing on national defense and the federal budget deficit, and he noted that whoever is elected to the open seat is likely to be there a while.

“This is more than a race for one single-year term,” Gorton said, because Washington is likely to gain a 10th congressional seat in upcoming redistricting, and when the lines are redrawn, “inevitably incumbents will be favored.”

“The road to a Republican congressional majority runs through the 3rd Congressional District,” McMorris Rodgers declared.

Herrera positioned herself as a member of a 2010 class of younger Republican candidates for Congress who will work to curb the federal government’s “addiction to spending” but also offer free-market solutions on health care and economic development.

“I do believe that the American dream, which is to pass on a better life to our children, is in danger,” she said.

Herrera’s biggest fundraiser to date came one day after state Sen. Craig Pridemore, D-Vancouver, withdrew from the race and threw his support to Democrat Denny Heck.

David Castillo, the other leading Republican in the race, took the opportunity to compliment Pridemore and aim not-so-subtle barbs at both Heck and Herrera.

“While we may have differed on most things political, I admire (Pridemore’s) conviction to stand for what he believes is right and not use political-speak to hide his true positions on issues of importance to the voters in the 3rd District,” Castillo said in a statement.

While Pridemore’s departure “effectively clears the Democratic field,” he said, “voters opposed to bigger government and out-of-control spending led by Nancy Pelosi will have to decide who is most qualified to make that argument against Denny Heck.”

“If Republicans hope to prevail in November, we must challenge Heck with a candidate of substantive experience, unbending values, and a commitment to the free market conservatism that has sustained this country,” he said. “I am the only Republican running who meets that criteria and I very much look forward to bringing my experience and background to bear on this debate.”

Kathie Durbin

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