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Friday, October 22, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

8th District hopefuls differ on most counts

By Warren Cornwall
Seattle Times Eastside bureau

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Q & A: Candidates take a stand on the issues

Voters in the 8th District are choosing between congressional candidates whose disagreements stretch from Iraqi battlefields to an Issaquah doctor's office.

Republican Dave Reichert, the King County sheriff, and Democrat Dave Ross, a former radio talk-show host, part ways over nearly every major federal issue in this election year, often mirroring disputes in the presidential race.

Democrats and Republicans have sponsored hard-edged ad campaigns that portray the opposing candidate as extreme and out of touch.

But the differences between Ross and Reichert are sometimes more subtle than the attack ads suggest.

Iraq war and security

Reichert says the invasion of Iraq is part of the broader war, and he would back the invasion again, even with information now showing there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Ross describes the invasion as poorly planned and a distraction from the pursuit of real terrorist threats such as al-Qaida. His critique stems partly from a weeklong trip he made to Baghdad in April for his talk show on KIRO-AM (710).

"We are seeing a mission that was justified as self-defense, re-justified as a rescue, became an occupation and is slipping into repression," Ross said in a column he wrote during the trip.

Ross also challenges several costly defense systems. He wants to scrap a $100 billion missile-defense system meant to shoot down intercontinental ballistic missiles. The technology is flawed and questioned even by government experts, he said.

Reichert says he doesn't support any cuts in military spending while the nation is at war.
 
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The two also differ on some security measures at home.

Reichert makes homeland security the cornerstone of his campaign, saying his law-enforcement experience will serve him well in Congress.

He hasn't offered any specific new initiatives or policies he wants to pursue. But he says improved intelligence sharing between local and federal agencies is crucial, and he wants to make sure enough money gets to local agencies.

Ross chides the Bush administration for not spending enough money on homeland-security matters such as inspecting containers in freighters coming from overseas. And he has criticized Reichert for supporting President Bush's proposal to cancel a federal grant program that helped hire police for local agencies, including the King County Sheriff's Office.

Health care

Ross has made health care the top issue of his campaign, arguing that Americans shouldn't go without health insurance, or live with the anxiety that they could lose it at any time.

In the Democratic primary, Ross floated the idea of having everyone get health coverage by putting medical bills on their credit cards. People would get reimbursed for a portion of the cost on a sliding scale based on income and the overall national health-care budget, according to an early version of his Web site.

The idea was criticized as simplistic and fraught with technical problems. Ross has since backed away from the idea.

He now promotes a beefed-up version of the health-care plan pushed by presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry. It would expand Medicaid to cover more people, provide government-funded insurance for uninsured children and help to make insurance more affordable for small businesses.

He promises to cover the costs by rolling back tax cuts for families earning more than $200,000 a year. He also wants to cut prescription-drug costs by allowing the federal government and states to negotiate for bulk discounts, and allowing people to buy drugs from Canada.

Reichert has said he doesn't support government health-care reform, though he promotes government regulations he says will make health care more affordable.

He has largely adopted the messages of the Bush campaign. He wants to limit malpractice lawsuits partly by capping jury awards for non-economic damages such as pain and suffering. That would drive down health-care costs by cutting malpractice insurance rates and keeping lawsuit-leery doctors from performing unnecessary procedures and tests, he says.

Reichert also wants to expand tax-free savings accounts that people can use to cover medical care, and to allow small businesses to group together to buy health insurance.

Comparisons of the Kerry and Bush blueprints offer some insight.

Kerry would get health insurance to more people and produce more cuts in healthcare costs for individuals, employers, states and businesses, according to an analysis by The Lewin Group, a national health care consulting firm.

But it would also cost the federal government a lot more than the Bush plan, something that would have to be covered through taxes.

Studies by two policy groups with different political leanings confirm the general findings, though they disagree on the details.

Cost estimates for Kerry's plan range from $653 billion to $1.5 trillion over 10 years. For Bush, it varies from $91 billion to $228 billion.

Of the roughly 45 million uninsured, between 25 million and 27 million would get insurance under Kerry's plan. The Bush plan is estimated to cover between 2.1 million and 8.2 million.

Warren Cornwall: 206-464-2311 or wcornwall@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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