From left to right, State Sen. Emily Randall, D-Bremerton, state Sen. Drew MacEwen, R-Union, Port Angeles attorney Graham Ralston and Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, all candidates for Washington’s 6th Congressional District, appear before the Port Angeles Business Association on Tuesday to answer questions about their priorities for serving in Congress. (Peter Segall/Peninsula Daily News)

From left to right, State Sen. Emily Randall, D-Bremerton, state Sen. Drew MacEwen, R-Union, Port Angeles attorney Graham Ralston and Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, all candidates for Washington’s 6th Congressional District, appear before the Port Angeles Business Association on Tuesday to answer questions about their priorities for serving in Congress. (Peter Segall/Peninsula Daily News)

Congress hopefuls meet for a forum

Candidates to focus on bipartisanship

PORT ANGELES — Four of the five candidates for Washington’s 6th Congressional District answered questions from constituents about their priorities, if elected.

Speaking to a packed meeting of the Port Angeles Business Association on Tuesday, state Sen. Emily Randall, D-Bremerton, state Sen. Drew MacEwen, R-Union, Port Angeles attorney Graham Ralston, an independent, and Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, a Democrat, urged the audience to vote for them in the primary race for the congressional seat.

All four candidates stressed their ability to work in a bipartisan way to address the needs of the district.

Franz and Randall both said they had worked across the aisle to advance critical policies, while MacEwen said bipartisanship was a requirement as part of the minority party in the state Legislature. Ralston emphasized his lack of party affiliation and repeatedly stated he was not beholden to party or outside influences.

Questions put to candidates ranged from the economy to green energy to rural healthcare.

“I’m not sure we need to be doing a massive incentivization of it,” Franz said in response to a question about investments in green energy. “I do think we need to help on the permitting and processing so it doesn’t take so long.”

Climate change and the environment is a top priority for younger generations, said Randall, the youngest of the candidates, and she said she was proud to have served in a Legislature that passed some of the strongest climate policy in the state.

“Some of the best ideas are in the minds of students and in the labs in our institutions where we are going to develop even more new technology,” Randall said. “It is just the truth that we have to be moving even faster than we are right now to ensure that we are protecting our climate for the next generation and generations to come.”

MacEwen said he supported pursuing various types of energy production but that the state should not try and shut down sources that are providing cheap power.

“Don’t get fooled that there’s some magical source that’s going to be perfectly clean,” MacEwen said. “I say do it all. If some company wants to develop a new technology, I say do it, but this state should not continue to embark on cutting off what’s providing our cheaper energy.”

Ralston said he believes in climate change but sees diminishing returns when it comes to investments in green energy.

“When we look at the embargo on Russia, canceling of oil pipelines in this country, who has to pay for those costs? It’s the small business owners or the families at the gas tank, and those are the people that I’m concerned about,” Ralston said.

Artificial intelligence could also help the country better understand environmental challenges, Ralston said, and there should be more investments in those technologies.

On the healthcare front, all candidates said they would work to expand coverage and access at rural hospitals.

Randall, MacEwen and Franz all mentioned the expansion of Medicaid reimbursement as critical to improving rural healthcare, and Ralston said removing the outside influence of lobbyists is key to bringing costs down.

Washington’s primary election is Aug. 6, and the state’s open primary system means the top two vote-getters will move on to the general election regardless of party affiliation.

There are currently five candidates registered for the 6th Congressional District seat, currently held by U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, according to the Secretary of State’s Office. The fifth candidate, Janis Clark, a Republican, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Kilmer announced late last year he would not seek re-election for the office in which he’s served since 2013. He endorsed Franz as his successor. Franz had been running for governor but changed races following Kilmer’s announcement.

Franz has raised the most money as of the end of March with $819,909, with some contributions coming from out of state, according to the Federal Elections Commission. Randall was second in fundraising with $528,958, also with some out-of-state contributors. MacEwen had raised $49,447 from only in-state sources. Ralston is not listed on the FEC’s website.

More candidate information and voter registration is available at votewa.gov.

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Reporter Peter Segall can be reached by email at peter.segall@peninsuladailynews.com.

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