After her controversial “yes” vote on the impeachment of former president Donald Trump, U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, has been censured by the Clark County Republican Party and was the subject of a fiery letter from the Cowlitz County Republican Party, which demanded her resignation.
But on the north end of her congressional district, a recent meeting of the Lewis County Republican Party didn’t end in any biting condemnation of the sixth-term lawmaker. Instead, it ended in a prayer.
“It was essentially just for her wellbeing. Quite frankly, something that bothered me was that she had received threats (over her vote). And that’s so unacceptable,” Lewis County Republicans Chairman Brandon Svenson said. “Unfortunately, some people in our party acted like jackwagons … I’m embarrassed about it. I’m embarrassed that people in our party did that.”
According to Svenson, Lewis County Republicans are split on whether Herrera Beutler was right in her vote to impeach former President Donald Trump. The article of impeachment charged Trump with inciting the mob of insurrectionists who were responsible for the deadly storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Herrera Beutler has since emotionally recounted the attack that forced her and other lawmakers into lockdown as the group breached the building and congressional chambers.
Only two members of his party have asked Svenson to bring forward any sort of resolution similar to Clark or Cowlitz counties. Even those who disagree with the vote, Svenson said, aren’t necessarily ready to go after Herrera Beutler for it.
The party plans to create a committee to draft some sort of resolution, but Svenson wouldn’t be surprised if it didn’t even include Herrera Beutler’s name.
Even so, the issue has been emotional in Lewis County — as evidenced by the flood of letters to the editor in The Chronicle, falling on both sides of the issue. Herrera Beutler’s impeachment vote also inspired a crowd, which included Svenson, to congregate outside her Vancouver office last month — an “anti-Jaime rally,” as organizer Patriot Prayer founder Joey Gibson termed it.
That emotion was also palpable at the Lewis County Republican Party’s most recent meeting Monday evening, which attracted an unusually large crowd, many who came to hear two candidates who recently announced their bids against Herrera Beutler in an election still well over a year away.
As the more than 50 individuals at that meeting introduced themselves, many followed up their name and occupation with a jab at Herrera Beutler.
But a resolution condemning her impeachment vote, Svenson said, would be a “waste of time.”
“It’s not worth dividing the party further … over a letter she may or may not even read,” he said Tuesday.
In response to other counties’ sharp condemnation, including Cowlitz County Republican Party’s promise to “immediately” seek a replacement, Herrera Beutler shot back through a spokesman, who told The Columbian newspaper that her opponents “are running on debunked election conspiracies and anger that she voted to uphold the Constitution and tell the truth.”
Herrera Beutler has defended her impeachment vote to constituents this year, recounting a phone call in which she said Trump knew of the unfolding attack and declined to take action — comments that later launched her to center stage of the Senate impeachment trial. Trump’s action and inaction, she said, was “as impeachable as it gets.”
Ultimately, Svenson said her impeachment vote will be bad for the Republican Party — either by discouraging Republicans from showing out to vote, or by producing a swarm of challengers to split the party.
So far, challengers Joe Kent, Wadi Yakhour and Heidi St. John represent ideologies that may prove more conservative than those traditionally represented by Washington’s 3rd Legislative District, where Democrat Carolyn Long has run two competitive campaigns against Herrera Beutler in recent years and Democrat Brian Baird previously served prior to Herrera Beutler’s election..
The Lewis County Republican Party’s Monday meeting showcased the right-of-Herrera Beutler viewpoints of at least one challenger: army veteran and first-time candidate Joe Kent.
In addition to touching on bread and butter issues such as broadband, and lambasting Herrera Beutler, Kent also painted a picture of a broad, far-left conspiracy to control the American people through COVID-19 lockdowns, racial equity curriculum and a “transvestite agenda” pushed by Planned Parenthood.
That agenda, he said, is about “taking away characteristics that give people aggression and let them fight back.”
“You take out the family unit, you keep people locked down and dependent on the government, you have complete and total control. And that’s what the left is doing right now,” Kent said. “Look no further than Portland. Look no further than Seattle. That crap is coming to here, and it’s coming fast.”
Kent also criticized “the garbage they’re teaching in education,” including The 1619 Project. The 1619 Project is a Pulitzer-winning long-form journalism project by The New York Times that retells American history by centering slavery and Black contributions to the country. It has since inspired public school curriculum.
Candidate Wadi Yakhour, on the other hand, offered up only one specific policy: establishing term limits for representatives. More policies, he said, would come “over the next few months.”
Yakhour highlighted his work in D.C. as an appointed special assistant to the secretary at the U.S. Department of the Interior.
The Lewis County Republican Party is looking to invite a third candidate, Heidi St. John, as well as Herrera Beutler, to a future meeting.