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Originally published July 23, 2010 at 2:40 PM | Page modified July 23, 2010 at 4:46 PM

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Denny Heck and David Castillo the primary picks in the 3rd Congressional District

The Seattle Times editorial board endorses Denny Heck and David Castillo in the primary in Washington's 3rd Congressional District race in Southwest Washington.

ONE incontrovertible truth about Washington's 3rd Congressional District is it is a swing district in the fullest sense of the term. President Obama won there, as did President George W. Bush.

Whoever represents Southwest Washington in Congress must be an independent thinker willing to buck his or her political party. With that in mind, The Seattle Times endorses Denny Heck, Democrat, and David Castillo, Republican, to advance to the general election.

Both have worked in the public and private sectors and have a strong grasp of the challenges facing the district, most notably its unacceptably high unemployment rate. Both appear creative enough to tackle tough issues from an independent vantage point.

The need for jobs and an improved economy overshadow most other issues. Heck touts the need to proceed with a new Columbia River crossing as an economic stimulator and the need to keep Washington ports humming. Castillo emphasizes the needs to improve infrastructure, including flood areas along Interstate 5, and create enterprise zones to help economically distressed counties.

Heck began his political career at age 24, and was elected to five terms in the state House of Representatives. He served as House Majority Leader, and later, as chief of staff to Gov. Booth Gardner.

Castillo, too, showed early interest in public service and worked for George W. Bush, including a stint as a senior official at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Castillo is currently a financial adviser, and was the first challenger in the race, before the incumbent, Brian Baird, decided not to seek re-election.

Heck is an innovator as evidenced by the fact that he was an early investor in RealNetworks, a digital-entertainment company, and co-founded TVW, the C-SPAN of Washington state — a triumph of achievement for transparency in state proceedings.

Both men are levelheaded about wars America can no longer afford. Both realize the U.S. may not know what success looks like in Afghanistan, and if the vision remains too foggy, are willing to move to the end game.

On numerous issues ranging from financial reform to federal spending, Heck elevates the discussion with his vast knowledge and solution-oriented approach. Castillo wraps no-nonsense earnestness into conservative principles, which have room for compassion for people living in poverty. Childhood poverty is part of his own story.

This contest will be close. Voters would be wise to pick Heck and Castillo to clarify their strengths and weaknesses in the general election.

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