Weyerhaeuser heir announces 6th District congressional bid

A descendant of the founder of the Weyerhaeuser Co. with a personal fortune and a Marine Corps background announced his candidacy for Congress on Monday, seeking to take over the seat of retiring Congressman Norm Dicks.

Bill Driscoll, a Republican and political newcomer who lives in Tacoma with his wife and two young children, immediately showed the power of the pocket book by infusing his campaign with $500,000 of his own money.

“What’s most important for filling this seat is having someone with a strong business background and a strong military background and I didn’t see those qualities with the initial candidates running for Congress,” Driscoll said in an interview this morning.

Driscoll says he decided to use his own money because Democratic Congressional candidate Derek Kilmer had already raised more than $357,00 by the end of March. Kilmer has received the endorsement of Dicks and a slew of Democrats across the Olympic Peninsula and Tacoma.

Driscoll says Kilmer is using “special interest money and at that rate we estimate that he’s approaching half a million dollars by now. I’m investing $500,000 in my campaign, which should bring us even with Senator Kilmer. The rest of my campaign will be funded by individual donations, but now that we’re on equal footing let the best candidate win.”

Kilmer immediately tried to take advantage of Driscoll’s campaign donation, by sending an e-mail asking for even more money from his supporters, saying his “opponents think Democracy is an auction.”

“And now, this week, yet another Republican candidate has casually contributed $500,000 — half of a million dollars — to his own campaign,” Kilmer wrote. “That is wrong.”

“All this is going to be able to do is get my story out,” Driscoll countered. “The voters will look at my background, compare it to other candidates and Kilmer is almost insulting the people of the 6th District by saying they can be bought by that amount.”

Driscoll is the great-great grandson of Frederick Weyerhaeuser, who founded Weyerhaeuser in 1901. He says he’s worked for Weyerhaeuser and other forest products companies for 20 years, including at the Weyerhaeuser headquarters and the Longview pulp mill, among other jobs.

He’s also a Marine Corps veteran. In 2006 he voluntarily returned to service 18 years after leaving the Corps and served combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Driscoll says that as a Congressman, he could be a critical partner to continue to help the Port of Grays Harbor grow its business.

“The Port is a wonderful success story,” Driscoll said. “What they’ve done with exports is amazing.”

Driscoll said he also wants to be a voice to push the U.S. National Forest Service to allow more timber harvest on National Forest land.

“The harvest can be increased in a sustainable manner that accords with all our environmental regulations,” Driscoll said. “It would generate more fiber flow into the mills, which would help with jobs and is very important to generate more revenue to build forest roads to make sure they’re being maintained and to bring more revenue to a tax base, as well.”

Driscoll said that he recognized the importance of environmental stewardship and believes that there is “nothing incompatible in having a strong timber harvest and being a good environmentalist.”

Focusing on the Port and harvest levels could help put more residents on the Harbor back to work, Driscoll said.

“We also need to focus on education,” he said. “My wife is a professor at the University of Washington and I know firsthand the importance of a good education and we cannot give up on that.”

Driscoll said he is still analyzing the debate over the Wild Olympics proposal and does not yet want to take a position until he learns more.

Asked about the potential of a coal export facility at Hoquiam, Driscoll said, “Whether we export coal to China or they get it from somewhere else, they’re going to need coal. We have extensive regulations to cover this sort of thing. The EPA and the government will be very involved and we have regulations in place and it is important we live in a global environment and have energy of a global commodity.”

State Sen. Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, is the only Democrat running for Congress. But there are now several Republican candidates, including technology investment consultant Jesse Young, who has raised $130,514 — including $88,500 of his own money; and attorney Doug Cloud of Gig Harbor, who has raised $7,422 — including $1,700 of his own money. Both Young and Cloud have previously run for the 6th Congressional District and Young has developed quite a following on the Harbor.

Last week, Republican David “Ike” Eichner told The Kitsap Sun he was running for Congress. Eichner, who lives in Tacoma, vowed to “restore sanity to the federal government.” He’s a Navy veteran turned Certified Public Accountant and eventually founded his own software company, ICAN Software Corp.

Another Republican who emerged is Stephan Brodhead, who posted a resumé on his website that says he’s an Air Force veteran, and describes himself as a “worldwide aviator, real estate investor, and small business owner.” The resumé says he also worked for Boeing. Brodhead has donated $133,000 of his own money, according to the Federal Election Commission.

His website says he’s a descendant of of a soldier who defended George Washington’s midnight retreat at the Battle of Long Island in 1776 and he describes in great detail his frustration with the growing national debt.

“The current status quo Washington, D.C. bureaucratic socialists have abandoned fiscal common sense and are leaving our economy to die from the disease of deficits, debt, and an inappropriate energy policy,” Brodhead said on the website.