Politics & Government

Smith, three challengers vie for 9th Congressional District seat

Democratic Rep. Adam Smith has three opponents from across the political spectrum trying to unseat him as he runs for a 10th term in Congress. They face an uphill climb.

Smith of Bellevue commands a wealth of incumbent’s resources to defend his seat, from a flush campaign fund to a senior role in his party that gives him prominent voice on national security issues.

“If it was easy, everybody would do it,” said Doug Basler, a producer of TV commercials from Kent who is running against Smith as a Republican.

They’re campaigning to represent the 9th Congressional District, which centers on South King County but stretches from Tacoma to Bellevue. It’s the state’s only district in which minorities make up a majority of voters.

Smith’s opponents for the Aug. 5 primary election are:

• Democrat Don Rivers of Seattle, who is running an intensely local campaign charging that Smith is “culturally incompetent” to represent the district.

• Basler of Kent, who contends that government regulations overly burden small businesses and that social welfare programs risk making people dependent on government handouts.

• Mark Greene of Federal Way. He’s a legal assistant and community activist running as a third party candidate to find “common sense” compromises on global warming and employment.

Smith says he’s running for another term to raise economic issues. He said he’s most concerned about the concentration of wealth in the country’s upper class while middle- and lower-income families fall behind. He favors increasing the minimum wage as well as targeted efforts to help small businesses.

“The economy is the No. 1 priority,” he said. “We need to make sure that there are jobs for people across the board.”

His opponents share similar priorities, but would take different paths to spur the economy.

Basler would cut government regulation that he believes gets in the way of successful entrepreneurship.

Rivers wants to promote a South King County economic improvement zone that would highlight diversity and international trade.

And Greene would reexamine international trade agreements that he believes place American workers at a disadvantage in the job market.

Over the past 18 years, Smith has moved up the ranks on military affairs to become the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Service Committee.

Defense companies and individuals who work in the defense industry are among his greatest campaign contributors, giving his campaign $142,500 of the $624,000 it has raised for this campaign cycle as of March 31, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Smith’s challengers had not reported receiving any campaign contributions as of March, the most recent cutoff for federal campaign finance reporting.

In recent years, Smith has campaigned to close the detainee prison at Guantanamo Bay and to permit the Defense Department to move forward with a round of military base closures.

He’s open to spending cuts in the defense budget, including reductions in benefits for personnel, as the military comes out of the war in Afghanistan. He’d prefer to raise taxes or cut spending on infrastructure rather than take money away from military training.

“I understand the budget situation we’re in and I’m not going to say we can’t touch anything,” he said.

Rivers, who works for King County Metro, ran for Congress against Rep. Jim McDermott of Seattle in the 7th Congressional District four times since 2006 before challenging Smith this year. The 9th District was redrawn northward in 2012 to reflect new Census data.

Rivers is a community activist who has spoken out against racial profiling by law enforcement agencies. If elected, he wants to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs and take care of military service members.

He criticized Smith’s willingness to look at cuts to military benefits and he characterized Smith’s contributions from the defense industry as “blood money.”

“I’m here to teach him that he needs to go,” Rivers said.

Basler, who owns EZTV Spots in Kent, says he’s a moderate Republican who wants to give voters a choice in the district. He’s a former record store owner and passionate about small business.

Basler is in the midst of declaring bankruptcy for debts related to a previous company, Fast Trax Media.

He’s opposed to broad efforts that would raise the minimum wage as high as $15, but he said he’d consider a compromise if it included a training wage for employees who are new to the workforce.

“I think the government’s doing a terrible job,” he said. “The government was never intended to be the big provider for everyone. The best thing we can do for people is to get them jobs.”

Greene, a legal assistant and Marine veteran, is running as a member of the Citizens Party, a defunct political group that emphasized environmental issues in the 1980s. He says the country faces “intractable problems” that the two main political parties are failing to address in Congress, such as climate change and policies that allow companies to hire foreign workers too easily.

“The nation as a whole has to turn inward,” Greene said. “We’ve gone abroad too often, like with these international trade agreements that have done more harm than good. We need to turn inward and turn our focus back to the country.”