Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Michael Baumgartner’s WA-05 Campaign

Michael Baumgartner, a former Republican state senator and the current treasurer of Spokane County, is running to replace Cathy McMorris Rodgers in the House of Representatives with a platform that he describes as protecting the American dream and border security. He announced his run on Feb. 26, according to the Spokesman-Review.

“I grew up in Eastern Washington,” Baumgartner said. “My father was a professor of forestry at Washington State — Baumgartner literally means “tree farmer” in German — and my mom was a kindergarten teacher.”

Baumgartner was a Vice Chair on the Ways and Means Committee, Vice Chair of the Higher Education Committee and Chair of the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee in the Washington State Senate.

“I have a really good track record,” Baumgartner said. “We created new medical schools in Eastern Washington. [Now] we have two medical schools in Spokane and we produce more doctors [than] they do in Seattle … when I was Vice Chair of Higher Education, [we] reduced the price — the only time in American history the price of public education has gone down. [We] actually reduced the price of public higher education by 20 percent at the regions and 15 percent at UW [University of Washington] and WSU [Washington State University].”

The Wire could not independently confirm the statistics provided by Baumgartner as to the reduction in cost of education from bills passed during his time in the legislature.

One of Baumgartner’s focuses is protecting the American dream, which he referred to as a sense of continual progress from generation-to-generation.

“I think folks really sense that we’re losing that [feeling of continual progress] now for a number of reasons: both from the rampant inflation that we have, the massive amount of debt, the uncontrolled crime in some of our cities, the failure to prosecute lawbreakers, a growing homelessness problem [and] the sense that America has lost its strength abroad,” Baumgartner said.

Baumgartner described what he sees as American weakness abroad, pointing to the U.S. retreat from Afghanistan in 2021 and chemical weapons use in Syria in 2013.

“When the country does things like say there’s going to be a red line in the sand [and] then nothing happens, it makes America weaker. America should be respected and feared on the world stage, and right now we’re sliding toward neither,” Baumgartner said.

One of the stated main areas of focus on Baumgartner’s campaign is border security, which he called a multifaceted issue.

“I would look at it like a counterinsurgency — which I don’t mean in a military sense — but just the fact that you have to look at all aspects of your relations with your neighbors on the issue … one of the biggest problems right now is that our refugee system has been absolutely abused [and] you have many economic migrants claiming asylum,” Baumgartner said. “You cannot be a country if you don’t secure your borders and that doesn’t mean you have to be mean or unfair, but you do have to control who comes into your country.”

As a wave of protests over the war in Gaza has spread across the country, Baumgartner said that while he supports free expression on college campuses, he is concerned that some protests have crossed the line into intimidation and antisemitism.

“Colleges should be a place of free speech and learning, and activism. That’s fine, but when it crosses the line into violence or intimidation or antisemitism, it’s not fine. So we’ve seen some of that with these protests and that needs to be an area of concern for universities,” Baumgartner said. “For the most part, it’s up to the university of decide how they want to deal with those situations, but I do think with respect to foreign students who are here in our country, as guests, and on student visas, when they are engaging with [any form] racism or anti-Americanism then as guests [we] need to look at whether these are the kinds of folks we want studying at our universities.”

Baumgartner also spoke to the book bans that have occurred across the country as well as within the fifth district and Walla Walla.

“Well, in general, I’m in favor of folks having access to literature … libraries should not be the tip of the spear for cultural battles, for either side. I get uncomfortable when there’s things [like] transgender reading hours, and these sorts of things directed at kids, which to me seem much more like a mechanism to score political points. So, I’d like to get libraries back to being libraries,” Baumgartner said.

The Walla Walla Public Library does not host designated reading hours for transgender patrons, nor has it hosted any Drag Story Hour events.

In 2022 the Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to abortion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, returning the legality of abortion to the states and congress. Baumgartner is a pro-life candidate.

“I was raised Catholic and am pro-life. [I] have five kids. I’m someone who thinks that the constitution has to be understood as by the folks at the time that they wrote it,” Baumgartner said. “I don’t see abortion mentioned in the constitution … as such I think it’s up to local states and their communities to enact abortion policies.”

Baumgartner sees himself as the candidate best positioned to represent the fifth district due to his past experiences as a diplomat and past work as a legislator.

“[The job is] that you’re a representative. You’re supposed to represent the people [of] the fifth congressional district. [You] need someone who understands this  big wonderful district from the Canadian border to Oregon,” Baumgartner said. “As someone who grew up in Washington [I] think I have a better understanding of the overall district, whether it’s universities or Fairchild Air Force Base, or protecting our dams, [or infrastructure]. I’m the only candidate in the race to have chaired a committee in the legislature.”

Editor’s note: The Wire has press inquiries pending with all other candidates currently running for WA-05; no other candidates were able to speak prior to publication. The Wire does not endorse candidates for local office. 

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