State Rep. Jaime Herrera, R-Camas, is one of six candidates vying to replace retiring 3rd District Congressman Brian Baird in this month's primary. She recently spoke with Daily News reporter Tony Lystra about the issues facing the nation and the 3rd District. The discussion has been edited for length. Interviews with candidates David Castillo and Denny Heck ran Friday and Saturday. Interviews with the remaining candidates will come later this week.
• Let's talk about your background.
I grew up in east Clark County, Hockinson. My mom early on started helping on political local campaigns. We phone-banked and did parades for (former 3rd District Congresswoman) Linda Smith.
• How did that experience growing up affect the way you look at the world?
I think growing up in Southwest Washington impacted how I see the world. I think folks tend to think right of center when it comes to work ethic, personal responsibility. That caused me to look more closely at the Republican platform. That independent streak — the way my folks raised us — is a function of our region.
• Do you believe in a basic government safety net?
I am not opposed to the safety nets. They are a part of our communities and our society. I'm the first to say when it comes to our most vulnerable citizens — children, seniors, folks fighting disability — we have a safety net for a reason. I think protecting our most vulnerable is actually a conservative principle.
• Does the current system meet those standards?
I think that we always need to make reforms. Whenever government is involved, it can always be better. My goal isn't necessarily to slash and burn. My goal is to find the best way to deliver services, and within our means. With the trillion dollar-plus health care bill, you're jeopardizing the safety nets. You're adding on one piece of the federal budget, an unfunded mandate.
• Wasn't the health care bill supposed to be deficit-neutral?
It's not deficit-neutral. The Congressional Budget Office has come and said that it's not. There was a lot of budget gimmicks in there.
• So then, generally speaking, what's your view of government's place in U.S. society?
This election is about how government should relate to us. People continue to be frustrated that their representatives — and I hear this phrase often — are going to "shove things down our throats." People want to keep their own money. They want to decide their own health care. I think government has gotten a little too big for its britches. I think we are at a point as a country when we are going to have to decide: Are we going to be in charge of our democratic republic, or is it the other way around?
• Do you believe personal freedoms are really sliding away in this country?
Some of it comes with money. When the government steps in and says we're going to take more of your money. That represents more of your time, more of your investment. It is taking more and more ability from individuals and families to decide how they're going to spend their money.
• A lot of people believe the problems facing the country are going to involve at least some sacrifice for the American people. What do you think it would take for the American people to get together and agree to sacrifice the way we did during, say, World War II?
After 9/11, people came around to doing whatever it takes to defend our country. It was definitely a shared crisis, a shared ownership and responsibility. I am all for us finding the most energy-efficient methods possible to live our lives, whether it's hybrids or electric cars. My problem is the approach. I favor the incentive approach, not the punishment approach.
• You've mentioned that Republicans made big mistakes during the Bush years. What do you think happened?
Toward the end, they were spending into deficit and growing government. With health care reform, implementing free-enterprise approaches didn't happen. Republicans made those mistakes and the American people gave them their walking papers because of it. I've seen people in my party coming back and saying, "OK, we lost our way."
• Why weren't Republicans more vocal about deficit spending during the Bush years?
There were some. But I can't totally explain to you why certain people make bad decisions. I don't know. I can tell you the lesson for me was the moment you start disconnecting from the people you represent is the moment you're going to get shown the door — and that's good.
• How would you get the economy working again without programs that would add to the deficit?
We need to actually give some certainty to businesses. When they see us spending, they're not going to grow their businesses. They know it's going to come out of their hide. Add to that regulations, they know that they have to just hunker down.
• What did the Obama administration get right?
I've said that making fixing health care a priority was getting it right. Their approach needs to be fixed. One of the things that he hasn't done it yet but has talked about is having treaties ratified to increase our exports. Being one of the most trade-dependent states in the union, we want to see that happen. It is kind of a short list. I didn't vote for the guy.
• Let's talk about your take on the immigration issue. Walk me through how you'd solve the problem.
It is something that the government has been abdicating its responsibility for. People are talking about comprehensive immigration solutions. I think we need to do it in phases. We need to prove to the American people that the government can secure the border. I don't support amnesty. People do need to learn English.
• What are the three most important industries that are going to rejuvenate the economy in the 3rd District?
We are very diverse in the 3rd. If you're talking about Pacific County, you're talking about fish and farmers and timber. If you're talking about Clark County, you're talking about the tech sector and health care. Manufacturing has moved more into Cowlitz County with more timber and agriculture in Lewis County.
• What can Congress do to help those industries grow?
In general I'd like to create that environment where manufacturing can continue. We are seeing it wane because of state and federal regulations. That's part of it. The Columbia River bridge between Vancouver and Portland. Dredging projects and improvements to rail.
- Age: 31
- Residence: Camas
- Personal: Married
- Profession: State Rep., 18th Legislative District.
- Education: Bachelor's degree in communications, University of Washington.
- Civic and political experience: Former senior legislative aide to Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, former director of development for a Puget Sound-area nonprofit.