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Originally published September 26, 2012 at 8:34 PM | Page modified September 26, 2012 at 8:41 PM

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Kilmer, Driscoll try to claim mantle of most bipartisan

Democrat Derek Kilmer and Republican Bill Driscoll sparred over taxes, foreign policy and health care in a Seattle Times editorial-board endorsement interview Wednesday, but one of the biggest disagreements was over who would be a more bipartisan congressman for the 6th District.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Derek Kilmer and Bill Driscoll each think they would represent the 6th Congressional District in the more bipartisan manner.

Perhaps cognizant of the competitiveness of the 6th — which includes Bainbridge Island, the Olympic Peninsula and part of Tacoma — both Kilmer and Driscoll touted their bipartisan credentials early and often during a Wednesday afternoon Seattle Times editorial-board endorsement interview.

The candidates, moderates who are vying to replace retiring Democratic Congressman Norm Dicks, also sparred over taxes, Social Security, foreign policy and health care during the hourlong interview.

Among the key differences, Kilmer supports President Obama's signature health-care legislation and ending the President George W. Bush tax cuts for those making more than $250,000 a year, while Driscoll wants to repeal the health-care law and keep all of Bush's tax cuts.

Still, the ability to work with the other party emerged as the central issue.

Kilmer, a Democrat who works on the Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County, said he has consistently collaborated with Republicans in his eight years in the state Legislature. He said 80 percent of the bills he's sponsored have had a Republican co-sponsor, noting in particular an effort to reduce state debt.

Driscoll doesn't have the luxury of pointing to past votes because he has never served in political office.

But the Republican real-estate executive said that's an advantage because those who come out of the political arena have partisanship infused in them. He said he has lived a life of bipartisanship, pointing to his marriage with his wife, who is a longtime Democrat.

A member of the Weyerhaeuser family, he also said that as a Weyerhaeuser manager he once worked with union leaders to save a pulp and paper mill.

Kilmer said bipartisanship is easier said than done.

"My opponent talks a good game about bipartisanship but is untested," he said.

The argument over who would be more bipartisan was one of only a few stark differences between the candidates.

Even on taxes, an area of disagreement, both Kilmer and Driscoll said they think both increased revenues and reduced spending were needed for Congress to rein in the budget deficit. To do that, both said they support lowering base tax rates but eliminating loopholes.

Both candidates took a similar all-options-open approach to reforming Social Security and other entitlement programs.

The hopefuls said they want to implement comprehensive immigration reform, agree with how Obama handled the recent crisis in Libya and think the United States should continue to work with international partners on sanctions against Iran.

"You're not going to see a lot of gaps here," Driscoll said of foreign policy.

Similarly, there are few gaps on social issues: Both candidates support gay marriage and abortion rights.

The only truly tense moment came in a discussion of the federal heath-care law.

Kilmer detailed his support for the measure and said it should be strengthened with more cost containment, support for small businesses and aid to rural health-care providers.

Driscoll, on the other hand, said the law's faults are too large to be addressed without full repeal. He added that the estimates of the bill's cost have increased since it was passed.

That prompted Kilmer to cite the Congressional Budget Office's estimate that repealing the legislation would increase the deficit.

"It's important to actually deal with the facts," he said.

Brian M. Rosenthal: 206-464-3195 or brosenthal@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @brianmrosenthal.

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