WASHINGTON — In a measure of their competitive — and bitter — contest for Congress, Clint Didier finally conceded to Dan Newhouse this week not with a congratulatory call but in a two-sentence posting on Facebook.
By then, Newhouse, had already been in Washington, D.C., for a week, enduring freshmen orientation, applying for committee assignments and prospecting for chief of staff and other aides.
In an interview on Capitol Hill minutes after Didier’s concession on Wednesday, Newhouse said he was looking forward to fulfilling “the responsibility we have to govern” as a member of the incoming Republican majority.
Newhouse, a former state legislator and farmer from Yakima, will be sworn in in January to fill the U.S. House seat being vacated by the retiring Rep. Doc Hastings.
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The race was the first in state history pitting two Republicans against each other in a general election for a congressional seat.
Newhouse edged out Didier, a tea party firebrand, by 2,494 votes. Newhouse won 50.8 percent of the votes cast in the 4th Congressional District in Eastern Washington.
Only about 1,000 ballots are left to be counted before the results are certified Nov. 25.
Newhouse is among some 70 new members — three quarters of them Republicans — elected to the House and the Senate in the 114th Congress. Despite the large class, Newhouse is almost as easy to spot as Utah’s Mia Love, the first black Republican woman in Congress. Newhouse’s cropped gray beard and mustache makes him the Capitol’s closest dead ringer for CNN host Wolf Blitzer.
Newhouse, 59, won in part by casting himself as a more mainstream Republican to Didier’s strident conservative. Didier filed, then dropped, a federal lawsuit against Newhouse over allegations that a Newhouse campaign volunteer used his state email and vehicle for election-related activities.
Still, Newhouse on Wednesday admitted to no acrimony between the two candidates, saying only the contest had “different dynamics” than his previous four legislative races.
Newhouse, who speaks with a courtly reserve, said his priorities in Congress includes getting the nation “back on track fiscally.” He pledged during the campaign never to vote for a tax increase or to raise any federal spending.
Asked whether he supported President Obama’s planned announcement Thursday to use his executive powers to provide deportation reprieve to more than 4 million undocumented immigrants, Newhouse said, “I think it would have been a better approach for the president and Congress to work together.”
At the same time, he said, immigration reform is needed urgently to allow farm hands, computer programmers and other temporary foreign workers legal ways to fill open jobs in the United States. As for those already living here, Newhouse said he favors eventually granting them legal status, though not necessarily citizenship.
Newhouse said he is interested foremost in joining the House Natural Resources Committee, which Hastings currently chairs. The committee has jurisdiction over many issues that affect Washington state, including endangered animals listings, timber management, water rights and federal parks.