Carolyn Long

Carolyn Long, Democratic candidate for the Washington’s Third Legislative District, speaks earlier this month during a similar event in Chehalis.

WASHOUGAL — Carolyn Long, a Democrat running for Congress, is taking to the streets for a version of the town halls that became a hallmark of her campaign in 2018 but were stymied this year by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Long is hosting a series of drive-in town halls around Washington's 3rd Congressional District, which encompasses Clark, Cowlitz, Lewis, Pacific, Wahkiakum, Skamania and Klickitat counties and part of Thurston County.

The candidate held one in the parking lot of a Washougal brewery, 54 40 Brewing Co., on Monday evening.

She's planning to host a second Clark County drive-in town hall at 5:30 p.m. today at IAFF Local 452 Vancouver Firefighters headquarters, located at 2807 N.W. Fruit Valley Road.

At Monday's event, Long addressed the occupants of around a dozen cars. Campaign interns waved signs indicating the radio station to which attendees should turn their dials, allowing people to listen from inside their vehicles.

The candidate, a Washington State University Vancouver political science professor, took questions from the audience submitted via text message. She fielded questions about health care, student debt, COVID-19, tax policy, the Interstate 5 Bridge and -- at one point -- her favorite beer.

"My faith in democracy is renewed every time I do this," Long said, standing at the microphone in front of the line of cars.

"Imagine what it would be like if you had a representative who was always out here talking to you," she added, reviving her pointed and oft-repeated criticism of the incumbent, who usually conducts her town halls via telephone.

The socially distanced town halls are a return to form for Long, who held dozens of in-person public events when she sought to unseat the incumbent, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, in 2018.

Long fell short in the midterm election by 5 percentage points. But she made the town halls a cornerstone of her brand as a candidate -- a strategy that proved impossible to maintain when COVID-19 hit.

Erin Schneider, a spokesperson for Long's campaign, said that the pivot required some logistical legwork. Monday's town hall was Long's fourth drive-in event.

"Carolyn was about to start doing live in-person town halls again in March when the coronavirus hit. She started doing Facebook Live town halls until we could figure out a safe way to do them in person," Schneider wrote in an email. "The drive-in town halls have been a great way for folks to gather safely, sit in their cars, but still get to see Carolyn in person and ask questions live."

Both Long and Herrera Beutler are seeking socially distanced ways to connect with residents in the 3rd District. The two candidates participated in a remote debate on Friday, hosted by the League of Women Voters and broadcast on Clark/Vancouver Television.

On Thursday, Herrera Beutler will host a virtual Q&A session with Camas native and NASA astronaut Dr. Michael Barratt, along with students from Vancouver's iTech Preparatory and Camas' Odyssey Middle School.

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(c)2020 The Columbian (Vancouver, Wash.)

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