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SIXTH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT | Three candidates who want to unseat Kilmer make their arguments at forum
By JOE SMILLIE | Peninsula Daily News
PORT ANGELES — Their concerns for the district ranged from immigration to marijuana to the plight of the planet.
Marty McClendon, William “Greybeard” McPherson and Douglas Milholland, who are running for the Sixth Congressional District seat now held by Derek Kilmer, laid out those concerns at a candidate forum last week.
“Our planet Earth is in grave danger of destruction by our own greed,” McPherson, a nonpartisan candidate and self-described “unpaid citizen lobbyist” from Port Angeles, told about 30 people at the Clallam County League of Women Voters forum at the Port Angeles Senior Center on July 10.
Kilmer, a Democrat from Gig Harbor, had announced earlier that he could not attend the forum but would send a representative. He was in Washington, D.C., to vote on bills about water and energy development appropriations and to revise tax codes for businesses.
Meadow Johnson, Kilmer's district director, read a statement from Kilmer, who is seeking a second term, and answered questions submitted by the league prior to the debate. From an iPad, Johnson read Kilmer's statement touting his efforts to put “folks back to work.”
“Having grown up in Port Angeles and having seen the struggles of our local economy, I've dedicated my adult life to trying to help people in the community keep and grow jobs,” Kilmer wrote. “It's why I entered public service in the first place.”
Two of the four candidates for the race will advance to the November general election after the Aug. 5 primary. Ballots for the primary were mailed to registered voters July 16.
Milholland, a commercial diver and Green Party candidate from Port Townsend, said Kilmer and his congressional colleagues are ignoring the threat posed by nuclear waste.
“What happened in Fukushima is a clear warning sign that we must proceed on a path to pursue safety,” he said, referring to the release of low levels of radiation from the nuclear power plant in Japan after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
“I will take to the halls of Congress the question that isn't really being asked by the Republicans or the Democrats in power: Do we really need to build the next generation of Trident nuclear submarines?” Milholland added.
Kilmer serves on the House Committee on Armed Services.
McClendon, a Republican, pastor and real estate agent from Gig Harbor, criticized Congress.
“The key issue facing Congress is credibility,” McClendon said, citing as evidence attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya, and what he said were IRS targets of conservative advocacy groups.
“They looked the other way while Veterans Administration officials ran amok,” McClendon said.
McClendon called for tighter border security.
“This is a massive issue. Not only do we have unaccompanied children coming over with disease and all sorts of stuff, we have a real issue with securing our borders,” he said. “Our borders are a sieve for illegals and terrorists to penetrate.”
Milholland and McPherson said past U.S. foreign policy created many of the problems in Latin America that people seek to flee.
“The problem isn't just that they want to come here so that they can live better. The problem is that our actions in the past have destroyed their own governments and their economies,” McPherson said.
Milholland said, “I saw kids sitting on the tops of freight cars when I was in southern Mexico last summer. This is a tragedy of our own creation. If they do have family in the United States, it makes sense to make an attempt to connect them with humans who will take care of them in the best degree possible.”
Candidates were asked whether they would support efforts to have recreational marijuana, which voters legalized in Washington state in 2012, made legal under federal policy.
“I'm all for the legalization of it,” McPherson said, adding that marijuana has medical benefits. “It's not just another get-high drug.”
Milholland said the Declaration of Independence was written on paper made from hemp, toting benefits he said the plant has outside recreational use.
“There's something about the fact that the Declaration of Independence was written on it that tells me it is part of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” he said.
McClendon said he personally objects to marijuana use, but would work to protect the state's right to legalize it and let the free market control it.
Joe Smillie is a reporter for the Peninsula Daily News in Port Angeles.