PORT ANGELES — Susan Hutchison, the Republican candidate seeking to unseat three-term U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, visited Port Angeles this week and sharply criticized her opponent, saying she has ties to “far-left environmentalists,” as she promoted management of federal timber lands.
Hutchison, a former KIRO-TV anchor and former chair of the Washington State Republican Party, visited Port Angeles on Wednesday, where she met with a timber company, political leaders and held a fundraiser for her campaign for the Nov. 6 general election.
“My opponent is very much beholden to the mentality of the far-left environmentalists, which is ‘hands-off the forests,’ ” Hutchison said in an interview Wednesday afternoon. “It’s impractical and brings so much harm and pollution to our area.”
It’s a point she made in a video she posted Aug. 21 on Facebook. In the video, Hutchison stands on a balcony with a view shrouded by smoke from Canadian wildfires as she criticizes Cantwell, D-Mountlake Terrace, and Gov. Jay Inslee.
“We have got to change our policies,” she says in the video. “I am not beholden to the let-it-burn Seattle extreme environmentalists like Maria Cantwell is.”
Hutchison garnered 24.3 percent of the vote during the primary election, ousting 27 other candidates opposing Cantwell. Cantwell earned 54.68 percent of the vote.
On Tuesday, Hutchison she said she would push for science-based forest management practices that includes culling the underbrush in national forests and “intelligent logging,” which she said would include fire breaks.
She said Cantwell believes global warming is the root of the problem, but that “experts will tell you it’s mismanagement of our forests.”
In March, Cantwell led a group of bipartisan lawmakers to enact the largest package of forestry and wildfire legislation in 15 years.
The deal freed up more than $100 million for fire prevention projects and recreation programs and established a $2 billion contingency account to use during bad fire years.
Hutchison criticized Cantwell for not supporting a bipartisan bill concerning wildfires in 2015.
Hutchison did not say if she supports the proposed Wild Olympics legislation — which would extend Wild and Scenic River designations to 19 rivers and disallow logging on 20 percent of Olympic National Forest lands — but criticized “Seattle left-wing extreme environmentalists who are always going to push and push and push.”
She said people in coastal communities need jobs and that “most of these efforts that have come along in recent years are Draconian in nature and they don’t serve the people that live here.”
Hutchison, who described herself as an environmentalist, would not say whether she believes humans are contributing to climate change. She was asked three times whether she believes humans are contributing to climate change.
“Well, let’s talk about the forests,” she said in response to the first question. “The forests and the mismanagement of the forests is the reason we’re having this terrible pollution and ruining the summers because of the smoke in the atmosphere.”
When asked a second time, Hutchison referred to a blog post by meteorologist Cliff Mass, in which he writes that wildfires were much worse in the past and that the fires seen recently are a result of poor forest management across the Pacific Northwest.
When asked a third time, Hutchison said she supports science-based solutions to anything that is related to science.
“It’s a favorite dividing wedge that Democrats use and they use it to build up their bases and get them fired up,” she said. “Climate change is something that deserves serious attention in a united way across the world, using science as a basis for all decisions.”
What also deserves attention is the nation’s approach to health care, she said.
When asked whether she supports repealing the Affordable Care Act, Hutchison said the ACA needs fixed. She did not say whether she supports repealing the act.
“The ACA, or Obamacare, really was written by three constituents: the insurance companies, hospital corporations and big pharma,” she said. “What we need is health care that serves people and patients that allows the people in control to be our caregivers and our patients.”
Hutchison said the government should not be in charge of health care. She pointed to other government agencies as examples of poor customer service.
“Let’s just pick Amtrak, how about the postal system, how about the Department of Licensing, how about the passport office, just take a look at how all of them work,” she said. “None of them are customer focused — not a one. We just don’t need to turn over all of our health needs to a system that has no conscious.”
She said insurance companies should not be allowed to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.
“It’s pretty well established we need to have pre-existing conditions covered,” she said.
Hutchison has challenged Cantwell to a series of 10 debates — one in each of Washington’s congressional districts.
Cantwell — who was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2000 and is the has not responded to that challenge.
“Our campaign has received dozens of requests from organizations and media outlets. With the Supreme Court nomination and Senate work schedule, our campaign will try to accommodate as many as possible,” said Nate Caminos, Cantwell’s campaign manager, according to Cantwell spokesman Bryan Watt, in answer to an inquiry from the Peninsula Daily News.
For more about Hutchison, see https://www.susan 4senate.com/.
For more about Cantwell, see www.cantwell.senate.gov.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected] dailynews.com.