Carolyn Long is ready for round two less than a year after falling short in her bid to unseat Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground.
She announced her campaign Monday during a rally at the Centralia Timberland Library, one of three announcement events in the district.
“We had a 23-point deficit when we started (the 2018 campaign) and we came within a couple of points,” Long said in an embargoed interview last week. “When we get our message out and we meet voters, we have a winning campaign. ... My job will be to continue to work as hard as possible and let people in Southwest Washington know how important this race is.”
The Washington State University, Vancouver professor surprised many last year by mounting a credible challenge to Herrera Beutler, outraising the incumbent and marking her first serious electoral threat since her initial campaign. Herrera Beutler ended up prevailing by a 53 to 47 percent margin. A second effort, Long believes — building on her newfound name recognition and an earlier start — has a real chance to succeed.
“I’ve heard anger,” Long said during the rally, outlining the motivation for her campaign. “Anger that politicians would rather meet with corporate lobbyists than the people they represent, anger at politicians who constantly put party over the people. Anger that this economy is rigged for those working at the top while it exploits hardworking Americans. Anger that we gave massive tax (breaks) to big corporations and wealthy billionaires and added $2 trillion to the national debt. That’s not fiscal responsibility.”
Long was joined Monday by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who lent his statewide political clout to the launch. He urged the several dozen supporters in attendance to do as much as they could to make sure Long wins the race.
“All of us need to commit to this campaign. We need to up our game,” he said. “She’s got the guts to go back and take this on again, we need to commit to her campaign. … Everybody in this room could literally make the difference in this campaign. It’s going to be that close again, and we all need to be there to help her out.”
Both Long and Ferguson touted Long’s commitment to meeting people in the district and drew contrasts with Herrera Beutler.
“(Long’s) opponent, you couldn’t find her anywhere at a town hall,” Ferguson said. “(Long) knows the district, she listens to the district, she interacts with the district.”
Long made similar jabs at the incumbent several times, highlighting what will be a likely line of attack throughout the campaign.
“Being a good teacher, being a good neighbor, isn’t always about what you say, it’s about how you listen,” she said. “I don’t support politicians like Jaime Herrera Beutler happily taking campaign donations and then marching orders from insurance companies and drug companies. … It’s no wonder she’ll meet with lobbyists in D.C. but refuse to face her constituents back home.”
During the rally, Long touched on four issues that she intends to make her focus — healthcare, infrastructure, education and the environment. While she didn’t get deep into policy specifics, Long said all her positions are motivated by a desire to make life better for people in the district.
“I’m in this fight for my daughter, and I’m in this fight for the family she will someday have, and I’m in this fight for you,” she said. “I’m not a D.C. insider. I’m not a professional politician. I’m an educator.”
In an interview with The Chronicle last week — conducted on condition that it not be published until after the announcement rally — Long spoke at length about her decision to run again. One thing that made it an exciting prospect was just how enjoyable she found her first campaign. Long said she loved the work of retail politics, conducting dozens of town halls throughout the district.
“Something you don't know until you run is just how fun it is and how enjoyable it is to meet people,” she said. “How wonderful it is to meet the voters face to face. That’s enormously important to have those meetings with people in the district. I just really look forward to continuing to do that.”
As for her early entry, nearly a year and a half before the 2020 election, Long said she will need all the time she can get to run the kind of on-the-ground campaign she hopes.
“It's a big district,” she said. “You need to have the time to make sure you can reach out to people as much as possible. ... We're excited to start this earlier than last time, which affords us that opportunity.”
She said her decision to launch the campaign was not affected by the entry of Peter Khalil — another Democrat — into the race earlier this year, but added that she hoped all candidates, including Herrera Beutler, would participate in debates during the primary election.
In contrast to her previous campaign, when she was considered a longshot underdog until late in the cycle, Long said her prior success should allow her to build momentum earlier in the election.
“If you haven't run for office, people don't know who you are,” she said. “I've already been introduced to a lot of voters, so it's just building off that.
After watching Democrats reclaim the House during the 2018 midterms, Long said she’s been encouraged by what she’s seen from the people she hopes will one day be her colleagues.
“What I've seen from the House of Representatives this year is Democrats who are committed to solving problems and trying to address those national issues that affect all Americans,” she said. “I’m there to work on public policies that help people in Southwest Washington, and I see that happening with the Democratic House.”
While asserting that Southwest Washington has been “left behind” during Herrera Beutler’s tenure, Long struggled to find local issues in which she could draw contrasts with her opponent. She has said that such issues are often areas of bipartisan agreement. Instead, she said it’s important to note how national policies affect the district.
“These national issues are local issues,” she said. “If we have economic policies, we want to make sure they help those in our rural communities. ... Having affordable healthcare, making sure people have access to doctors and lower-cost prescription drugs is something that helps everyone in the local community. You have to focus on those national issues that are hurting local communities.”
While she hails from Vancouver, Long pledged to spend much of her campaign among the district’s less-populated areas, spending time learning their issues even aside from regularly scheduled campaign events.
“There are needs that are unique to rural communities, and you have to reach out to them as much if not more than the urban areas,” she said. “That means going to places where people already don't necessarily support me. ... It really is about reaching out to show them what you're about rather than silly stereotypes.”