Q&A with John Koster and Suzan DelBene

One of the hottest contests this election season is between Republican John Koster and Democrat Suzan DelBene for the open seat in the 1st Congressional District.

As part of our coverage, we posed a handful of questions to the candidates and plan to run their responses throughout the remaining weeks of the campaign. Click here for last week’s question.

Q: What individual or individuals most influenced your political and economic beliefs, and why?

John Koster

The individuals who most influenced my political and economic beliefs are Ronald Reagan and Henry “Scoop” Jackson. Regardless of their differing party registration, both men captured the spirit and vision of the American people. And, both lifted our nation.

President Reagan said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” This conviction offers future Americans a voice of wisdom for both foreign and fiscal futures.

I remember well the daunting financial challenges we faced as a nation before President Reagan. He took bold action and implemented proactive plans. Lest we forget: At the height of the recession, unemployment hit 10.8%, and fortunately declined by half to a low of 5.4% by 1988 (policy created a net job increase of about 21 million jobs through mid-1990). The Inflation rate before Reagan took the oath reached an unthinkable high level of 13.5%, and sharply dropped thankfully to 4% by the end of his term. And the GDP during his time as president averaged 22.4% (vs. the average of 20.6% from 1971 to 2009). Reagan’s 22.4% GDP brought about the second longest peacetime expansion in U.S. history, which continued into the Clinton administration.

When engaging foreign powers, both Senator Jackson and President Reagan applied that same philosophy as well.

Senator Jackson said, “If you believe in the cause of freedom, then proclaim it, live it and protect it, for humanity’s future depends on it.”

Senator Jackson (who was first elected to Congress in 1940) sponsored legislation that denied normal trade relations to certain countries with non-market economies that restricted the freedom of emigration. The amendment aided refugees, specifically Jews, to emigrate from the Soviet Bloc. Senator Jackson led the opposition within his own Democratic Party against SALT II treaty and was one of the leading proponents of increased foreign aid to Israel.

These two national leaders grasped the reality that not all nations and their representatives share our fundamental conviction in freedom and liberty and meant us harm.

We take for granted today the end of Cold War hostilities, but while in the midst of the continued agitation, Reagan held a vision and predicted in 1983 that communism would collapse and that the Soviet Union “runs against the tide of history by denying human freedom and human dignity to its citizens.” He boldly labeled the Soviet Union an evil empire. He was right on both counts and today, the USSR is indeed consigned to the “ash heap of history.”

Reagan supported democratic transitions in Honduras (1981), Bolivia (1982), Argentina (1983), Guatemala (1983), Uruguay (1984), and Brazil (1985). He also was the first to establish an official diplomatic relations with the Vatican in 1984, confirming the first U.S. Ambassador.

Senator Jackson also criticized Dwight Eisenhower for not spending enough on national defense, and called for more intercontinental ballistic missiles in the national arsenal.

Like Reagan, who was prescient about the Soviet Union, Senator Jackson challenged us to give focus and confront a burgeoning threat of terrorism: “I believe that international terrorism is a modern form of warfare against liberal democracies. I believe that the ultimate but seldom stated goal of these terrorists is to destroy the very fabric of democracy. I believe that it is both wrong and foolhardy for any democratic state to consider international terrorism to be ‘someone else’s’ problem…. Liberal democracies must acknowledge that international terrorism is a ‘collective problem.’”

In his words: “I’m not a hawk or a dove. I just don’t want my country to be a pigeon.”

All of us who contemplate seeking elected office carry inspirations from many sources. I prize many public servants, but the two leaders that stand out for me in recent American history were men who were direct, decisive and determined: President Reagan and U.S. Senator Henry Jackson.

Suzan DelBene

I admire Secretary of State Hillary Clinton a great deal for her tireless focus on delivering results and setting hyper-partisanship aside. Instead of rhetoric, she has built a reputation of rolling up her sleeves, working across the aisle, and across the globe for that matter, to get the job done.

While not specifically attributed to one individual, my experiences growing up have had a large influence on my political beliefs and values. When I was young, my dad lost his job and our family struggled financially, moving all over the country as they looked for work. But, my parents received unemployment between jobs and we always had access to health care. Thanks to financial aid, student loans and hard work, I was able to attend college, get a good education and build a successful career as a businesswoman and entrepreneur.

It’s because of the investments made by previous generations that opened the door of opportunity for my own success. And it’s why I’m running.

If elected, I’ll fight every day for programs that help Washingtonians get ahead: better schools, college loans, investments in energy, research and infrastructure and I’ll keep our promises to seniors regarding Social Security and Medicare. My focus is to find solutions to problems that affect middle class families. In Congress, I will place people above politics to get things done.

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