U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler has another Democratic challenger as Rudy Atencio of White Salmon has filed to run against the incumbent in 2020.
Atencio, 42, is a relative newcomer to the political sphere. He told The Reflector during an interview last week that working with White Salmon’s mayor, David Poucher, to come up with a visioning process to address infrastructure needs in the city pushed him to do more.
Born in Houston, Atencio grew up in Venezuela while his father worked as a rancher then seafood producer. He saw firsthand the rise and fall of communism in the county.
Atencio wanted to make a distinction between the Communist policies of Venezuela and a more Democratic Socialist place like Spain, stating he had progressive values more in line with the latter, though he declined giving himself a label.
Atencio said he received a degree from the University of Alaska in natural sciences with an emphasis in allied health, researching ocean acidification. He’s had varied work experiences, saying he had been a paramedic, involved in the tech industry and even had a radio show in Colorado at one point.
Atencio, a member of the LGBT community, doesn’t use Herrera Beutler’s full married name in protest to the incumbent’s stance against marriage equality.
“Why should I acknowledge somebody’s married name if they don’t acknowledge my desire to enter a perfect union?” Atencio remarked.
Atencio’s key policy points were connected to raising the standard of living for Americans, chiefly by raising the minimum wage. He was also a supporter of Medicare for all on a needs-based approach, allowing patients to pay what they could for care.
Atencio’s signature piece was a response to the rhetoric going on in Washington D.C., he said, the “Dream Big America” project. As a reaction to the desire of the Trump administration to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, Atencio said he would instead opt to create a canal along it, connecting the Pacific and Atlantic oceans for trade.
Atencio acknowledged that the project would be a tall order unlike anything ever undertaken before, but he said the ambitious project could be worth it both in the jobs it would generate and in giving the U.S. independence from relying on the Panama Canal.
“This would send the message to the world that we are building bridges, not walls,” Atencio remarked.
Atencio said that most of his campaigning has been up and down State Route 14, adding that he had specifically targeted LGBT bars in Portland to find Southwest Washington residents who frequent those establishments to tell his message.
Atencio’s campaign slogan of sorts, “Woke 2020,” was a reference to the Great Awakening, explaining he was inspired by the idea of increasing people’s potential, something he felt his policy focuses would allow.
“It was something that always stuck with me and resonated with me,” he said.
Atencio is facing off against Herrera Beutler as well as two other Democratic challengers, Carolyn Long and Peter Khalil. Though his campaign may be a longshot, especially given the success Long had against Herrera Beutler in 2018, given the response he has seen to his campaign so far he felt the fresh perspective would be an edge.
“What they are looking for is a party and a candidate who is going to meet the needs of the community and not get out of touch with them, to stay in touch, to keep talking to people, to keep making it to your town halls,” Atencio remarked. “That’s important, that’s what matters.”