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McDonald hopes district swings again

"He's hoping to ride the see-saw for one more cycle.Former state senate Republican leader Dan McDonald of Kirkland formally kicked off his campaign this week, bidding to unseat Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Bainbridge Island) as the representative from Washington's 1st Congressional District.Echoing the national Republican theme, McDonald told the Review in an interview this week that We need to use good times for great ideas and issues.The horseshoe-shaped district, which takes in Bainbridge Island and north Kitsap County, some of the northern Seattle suburbs and much of King County's Eastside, is considered one of the few true swing districts in the country. The district turned out a Republican for Democrat Maria Cantwell in 1992, replaced her with Republican Rick White in 1994, then went with Democrat Inslee in 1998.But as McDonald is quick to point out, conservative third-party candidate Bruce Craswell drew some 6 percent of the vote in 1998 - just about equal to Inslee's margin of victory. With no third candidate this year, Republicans view the district as a golden opportunity to bolster their slim 11-seat majority in the House.The district's close balance appears to be reflected in the candidates, both of whom represent the more moderate wings of their own parties. In fact, finding sharp differences between the two is not easy.The principal areas on which we differ are education and taxes, McDonald said. We need to make parents and schools more powerful, and Washington less powerful.Specifically, McDonald said he favored teacher competency testing, merit pay to reward good teachers and eliminating outmoded teacher-certification rules that would prevent Bill Gates from teaching computer science at North Kitsap High.Admitting that those are state or local issues, McDonald suggested that federal financial incentives could prompt states and school districts to implement the changes he favors.He agreed with a bill Inslee has co-sponsored to forgive federal student loans for teachers, particularly in math and science.On taxation, he said tax reductions are appropriate to continue economic growth, allow families to save and invest, and prevent runaway federal spending.He said he favors eliminating the estate tax, ending the so-called marriage penalty under which two married workers sometimes pay more income tax than they would pay if they were single, and eliminating all taxes on Social Security benefits.While acknowledging that Inslee voted for the estate-tax repeal on the House floor, McDonald asserted that the Democrat voted against the measure in preliminary procedural votes, and therefore can't proclaim himself a true tax-cutter.McDonald, a mechanical engineer, has served in the state senate since 1984. He has been the Republican Senate leader recent years, serving as majority leader in 1997-98 when the GOP gained a majority in Olympia, and as minority leader before and since. He resigned from the senate earlier this year to make the race against Inslee.I couldn't do an effective job of both, he said.The Vietnam veteran favors increased defense spending for better training, equipment and pay, and favors a missile defense system. He says a defense system would not increase world tension if we do what President Reagan suggested and offer the defense technology to friends and foes alike.McDonald describes himself as an unequivocal free-trader. When you open yourself to trade, you open yourself to ideas as well, he said. And in a departure from Republican orthodoxy, he believes the free-trade policy should extend to Cuba.I don't think what we've been doing in Cuba (with a trade boycott) is terribly effective, he said. McDonald says the biggest single issue facing this district is transportation - ferry travel across the sound, and highway gridlock on the east side. And to best position himself to address that problem, as well as to deal with issue affecting the high-tech economy of the district, he said that if elected, he would ask to serve on the House Commerce Committee.McDonald has no apologies for the relatively moderate tone of his campaign.We need some bipartisanship, he said. I favor bringing people together, listening a lot, and getting things done for people. There's a real need for that in Washington D.C. "

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