Congressional candidate Carolyn Long told Cowlitz County residents in Kelso Tuesday that an earlier start this time around will help her defeat incumbent Republican Rep. Jamie Herrera Beutler in the 2020 election.
"What we did this time that we didn't do last time is we started early," she said. "What we found out throughout the campaign is the more people we met, the more people we talked to, the more support we got in this community."
Long, a Vancouver Democrat and political science professor, unsuccessfully challenged Herrera Beutler in 2018. The incumbent won with 53% of the vote to secure her fifth term representing the 3rd Congressional District, which covers Clark, Lewis, Pacific, Wahkiakum, Cowlitz, Skamania and Klickitat counties and part of Thurston County.
Nonetheless, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), which works to get Democrats elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, is already ramping up its efforts in the 3rd District.
"I don't know what the party's going to do," Long said Tuesday when asked if she expects more support this time. "We're running this race regardless of whether or not the party jumps in. We know it's a competitive seat."
Long, who was on her way back from a meeting in Olympia with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, stopped by Bill Ammons' Kelso barbershop to talk to about a dozen Cowlitz County residents, including two Longview City Council candidates.
In response to one attendee's argument in support of a bridge toll, Long said she would rather work with the Oregon and Washington delegations to secure federal funding to replace the Interstate 5 bridge over the Columbia River. The $1 billion project has been debated for years.
"I'd like to not toll anything," she said. "Tolls are often a regressive tax on people. And because it's a regressive tax, it hurts people, especially working families."
Long also shared the spotlight with two local Democratic-leaning candidates, Hillary Strobel and Christine Schott, who are running for the officially nonpartisan Longview City Council positions. Strobel is challenging incumbent Scott Vydra and Schott is opposing Spencer Boudreau for the council seat Ken Botero is vacating.
Lower Columbia College President Chris Bailey also stopped by with four former exchange students from Tokyo, Japan, who had participated in the 2017 Atomi short program. They returned this summer to visit.
"I thought it would be interesting for them to see a small-town political event," he said.
Kalama resident Dennis Reinkemeyer, a long-time Democrat, said he supported Long in 2018 and will again in the 2020 election because he wants a "fresh face" representing the 3rd District.
"She would listen and have town hall meetings. Jamie Herrera Beutler does hers by phone only. She won't come out in public," he said.
Long added that she held about 46 town halls during the 2018 campaign. She criticized Herrera Beutler for holding a telephone town hall while she was in the district during the August recess.
"We may disagree, but I show a willingness to listen to what people have to say. That's what we should expect from any person running for public office, and that's not what we're getting from our current representative," she said.
In response, a Herrera Beutler spokesperson said she hosted several community events in Southwest Washington throughout the summer, including a jobs fair and a grants seminar. She also hosted the Librarian of Congress for a public event and roundtable and attended a groundbreaking ceremony for a playground in Chehalis.
"(Herrera Beutler) met face-to-face with residents who requested one-on-one meetings, and held a telephone town hall where she spoke to thousands of residents -- all of which serves citizens far more than Jaime's opponent's fake 'town halls,' which are political rallies where people solicit campaign donations and hand out yard signs," she said.
Ammons, who says he has supported both Democrats and Republicans, said he is campaigning for Long this time around because he likes that she goes into communities to meet constituents.
"If there are two people who want to hear her, (Long) will go out and talk to them. She's always willing to listen," Ammons said.
Democrats Peter Khalil, a professional mediator from Vancouver, and Rudy Atencio of White Salmon have also announced their candidacy for the 3rd District.