A national Democratic committee has planned a slew of local events during the August congressional recess when Battle Ground Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler will be back in Southwest Washington, signaling the start of a more aggressive challenge from the left in the 2020 election.
The events — organized by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), which works to get Democrats elected to the U.S. House of Representatives — include rallies, letter to the editor writing campaigns and weekly visits to Herrera Beutler’s Vancouver and Chehalis offices.
“The 2018 elections showed that the voters of Southwest Washington are yearning for fresh representation that actually does the job of representing the concerns of Washington families in Congress. That is exactly why Democrats have placed WA-03 as a top priority to flip the district blue since January of this year and will continue to stay focused on delivering for the voters of Washington’s 3rd District,” DCCC spokesperson Andy Orellana said Thursday in a prepared statement.
Herrera Beutler’s spokesperson, Angeline Riesterer, responded that she expects the race to be flooded with “special interest money from pro-socialist groups and Seattle- and California-based environmental interests.”
“But this isn’t the first time we’ve seen liberal, special interest groups and D.C.-based campaign committees try and buy this seat in Congress, and we know that doesn’t work,” Riesterer continued in a prepared statement. “People here don’t want to lose any more jobs to environmental extremist policies, and they don’t want to lose their private insurance plans or Medicare coverage in exchange for a $32 trillion government takeover of health care. And they certainly don’t want a political newcomer who supports these terrible policies and who doesn’t understand region-specific issues.”
Herrera Beutler, a fifth-term congresswoman, last year faced her toughest re-election challenge from Democrat and political science professor Carolyn Long.
Long, a political newcomer, entered the race relatively late in November 2017 but carved out moderate positions and campaigned heavily throughout the 3rd Congressional District, which includes Clark, Lewis, Pacific, Wahkiakum, Cowlitz, Skamania and Klickitat counties, and also part of Thurston County.
Herrera Beutler and Long together raised an unprecedented $6.6 million during the 2018 election.
Much of the debate between the two centered around healthcare and the economy. Herrera Beutler has said she wants to repeal and replace Obamacare. She frequently accused Long of supporting a single-payer healthcare system, which Long has denied. Long has championed a public option system, in which participants buy into a government-run insurance program.
The race appeared close, but Herrera Beutler won with 53% of the vote. In Cowlitz County, Herrera Beutler won 56% of the vote.
Nonetheless, when Long announced her second bid for Herrera Beutler’s seat earlier this summer, she insisted, “I’m going to fight to the bitter end to take this seat from Jaime Herrera Beutler.”
Democrats Peter Khalil, a professional mediator from Vancouver, and Rudy Atencio of White Salmon have also announced their candidacy.
The events planned for August don’t specifically endorse one of the three Democrats. Instead, they target Herrera Beutler for her positions on family separation policies at the southern border, repealing the Affordable Care Act and women’s rights.
Herrera Beutler won’t counter the events with her own, Riesterer said, but every August she holds community events throughout the region. She will also hold her annual jobs fair for residents to search for employment, work on interviewing skills and learn techniques for pursuing federal grants.
Democrats have frequently criticized Herrera Beutler for not holding in-person town halls, opting instead for dial-in phone town halls. A Longview rally, planned for early September, centers on this criticism and asks “what would you ask (Herrera Beutler) if she showed up?”
Riesterer countered Thursday that Herrera Beutler used to hold in-person town halls but stopped when she heard from multiple constituents that “they were sick of being shouted down and intimidated at her town halls by angry partisans.”
“Jaime shifted her energy to find different approaches to foster productive dialogue, including everything from telephone town halls to more frequent one-on-one meetings to community coffees,” Riesterer said.
“The most fundamental job of a Congresswoman is to be accessible and represent the people of her district — Jaime Herrera Beutler has a long history of failing the voters of WA-03 on this front,” Orellana said. “Events organized in August and throughout the election will continue to hold Herrera Beutler accountable for (her) absence in the district and her inability to deliver on the priorities the voters of Washington’s 3rd District are calling for.”
Democrats will have to win over a district that has become increasingly red in recent years due to redistricting, shrinking union presence, economic decline and an aging population. But Orellana said they are focusing on the 3rd Congressional District early and will be engaging often with voters to overcome the challenge.