12th District candidate emphasizes public lands, healthy economy
By Ann McCreary
Ann Diamond says she is running to represent the 12th Legislative District in Washington’s House of Representatives to promote access to universal and affordable medical care, to protect public lands, and to strengthen the economy of North Central Washington.
But there are other issues that are important to residents of the expansive and diverse 12th District, Diamond said, and she plans to travel throughout the district in coming months to learn what those issues are.
“I feel rooted in the Methow Valley, but if I’m going to be representing the 12th District I need to learn more about the other communities,” said Diamond, a Mazama resident for more than 20 years. “What I want to do for the next five to six months is travel this very large district that goes from Stehekin to Osoyoos Lake, almost up to Stevens Pass and to Coulee City. We’re geographically enormous and very diverse socioeconomically. I need to learn from Leavenworth, from East Wenatchee and Coulee City what’s most important to them.”
Diamond, a family physician, said her interests and priorities as a candidate for the House of Representatives have been shaped by her experience as a rural, small-town doctor who founded her own medical clinic. Diamond opened The Country Clinic in Winthrop in 2000, and the facility grew from eight patients on opening day to serve 10,000 patients with a staff of 20, becoming one of the biggest employers in town, she said.
“You can’t have a healthy economy if you don’t have a healthy community. You can use the umbrella of health to cover people, natural resources and economic development. They’re all interrelated,” Diamond said.
Diamond sold her clinic to Confluence Health in 2015 and retired as a full-time physician after 24 years. During the past year, she has worked to share her conviction that people deserve access to affordable, universal health care. She created an ad-hoc advisory group with several other physicians from the region to provide information in support of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and health care reform to Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside, who represents North Central Washington’s 4th District in Congress.
“In our large Congressional district that runs from Oregon to Canada, so many people have benefited from the ACA,” Diamond said. The physicians talked with Newhouse by phone or in person on three occasions, but he would not be dissuaded from his assertions that the ACA “was in a death spiral and hospitals were closing,” she said.
“He knew there were no hospital closures in Washington state,” Diamond said “Hospital administrators had told him they were in the black for the first time because of the ACA. These small hospitals, like Brewster and Tonasket, are prime employers. They are not just health care facilities. They are economic drivers in the communities they serve.”
Diamond said Newhouse told the doctors that as a U.S. Representative, “‘I need to do what is good for the United States.’ I told him, ‘you need to represent us,’” she said.
Thinking of options
That advocacy work, along with other national and local political developments, got Diamond thinking about her future options. “You look at where you can make a difference,” she said.
Diamond announced her intention to run for the state Legislative District 12, Position 1, on Nov. 6, one year before the 2018 election. “We have a 15-year incumbent. It’s time someone challenged him,” Diamond said. The 12th District’s Position 1 seat has been held by Cary Condotta, a Republican from Wenatchee, since 2003.
Diamond said she doesn’t plan to dwell on Condotta’s record, but she didn’t hesitate to criticize Republicans in the state Legislature for refusing to pass a capital budget during the last legislative session. Action on the capital budget, which funds many infrastructure projects, was held up in a partisan dispute related to statewide water issues raised by the state Supreme Court’s “Hirst” decision.
“The capital budget is $4 billion. Projects are on the books … those are our tax dollars being held right now,” Diamond said. The money is earmarked for construction of schools, medical and mental health clinics, reforestation of fire-damaged lands, recreation and water projects — including repairs to the Pateros water system damaged in the 2014 Carlton Complex Fire, she said.
“The Republicans are holding the capital budget hostage — that is their term — until there is a Hirst fix. Hirst has to do with water. It has nothing to do with the capital budget. The only thing being held hostage is our constituency.”
Diamond said she plans to run as an Independent candidate. “Liberal, conservative or progressive — I don’t feel like those words mean much in the general sense. I’m going to avoid the labels for right now,” she said.
“I want to choose to represent what the constituency says is most important. If there’s a party platform that represents and matches the constituency, certainly running with a party is possibility,” she said. “There are political considerations. I’m not being naïve.”
Diamond said states have power to influence large issues such as health care, the environment and immigration. An “academic at heart,” Diamond said she has been reading The Federalist Papers that talk about “balancing state responsibility in opposition to a strong federal government. As tension is increasing at the federal level, it’s increasing at the state level,” Diamond said.
“If you don’t think states have power, you need to look at the Attorney General’s office,” she said. “Our state Attorney General has taken five different cases suing the Trump administration and Bob Ferguson is 5-0 right now.”
“At the state level, there is lots of activity trying to bring health care costs down, and I want to be part of that,” Diamond said. She said California, Ohio and Maine, for example, have introduced initiatives in recent years to try to control the cost of pharmaceuticals in those states.
“Most countries in the industrialized world provide universal health care and don’t do it through single payer, and do it for half our cost,” she said.
“People wonder what state politics have to do with health care. Many people don’t realize Medicaid is a jointly administered program. Many people have noticed that our current administration is stepping back from support for the ACA, and talking about capping what they’ll send to the state. This has become a huge budget issue, especially in states with Medicaid expansion,” she said.
Supports public lands
Diamond is also passionate about another subject where local, state and federal jurisdictions overlap. “I support preserving our public lands, managing them wisely, and not selling them off to private interests,” she said.
“The outdoor recreation industry — fishing, hunting, hiking, skiing — is the fourth-largest economic driver in the country and we … live among the most beautiful and expansive wildlands in the world. How we work together — local, state and federal in cooperation — is definitely part of my platform.”
While she owned and worked at the Country Clinic, Diamond provided free health care to uninsured children every Friday, and organized free physicals for all student athletes every August. She also sponsored an annual scholarship recognizing a Liberty Bell High School senior who contributed to the health of the community.
Diamond founded an Association of Parents and Teachers in the Methow Valley public schools and led it for six years. She also started and for 10 years organized the Mazama Community Market, held each weekend during the summer. She currently serves on the Winthrop Planning Commission and on the board of the Washington Academy of Family Physicians. She continues to work part-time as a community physician in Chelan and Wenatchee.
She lives in Mazama with her husband, Jerry Laverty, a building contractor. Her son Cory attends college in California. More information about Diamond and her campaign is available at www.diamond4house.com.
The 12th Legislative District represents Chelan and Douglas counties and part of Grant and Okanogan counties including Winthrop, Twisp, Brewster, Bridgeport, Nespelem, Grand Coulee, Chelan, Leavenworth, Cashmere, Wenatchee, East Wenatchee and Rockland.