One week after the last general election, David McDevitt decided to make another run for Congress.
Following a 2016 campaign in which he failed to advance in the top-two primary as a democratic candidate for the state’s 3rd Congressional District, McDevitt is taking the lessons he learned and adding half a million dollars of his own money — a sign, he says, of his commitment to a competitive race.
“I felt strongly enough, and I have the means to be able to do it,” he said.
McDevitt is one of four candidates — three Democrats and a Republican — looking to unseat Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, from her long-held office.
Democratic candidates Carolyn Long and Dorothy Gasque and Republican Earl Bowerman have also announced their intentions to challenge the incumbent.
McDevitt bills himself as the most progressive candidate in a race that features two other Democratic hopefuls. He says healthcare is a right and wants to see a “Medicare for All” plan similar to the one touted by Sen. Bernie Sanders. He supports gradually raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.
“I consider myself a progressive in the sense that my campaign slogan is ‘Putting people first,’” McDevitt said. “We need to do the bold thing, the right thing.”
He contrasted that with Long, a Washington State University, Vancouver professor who is seen as the establishment favorite to take on Herrera Beutler in the general election this November.
“She's come out and affiliated and talked about things from a much more centrist point of view,” he said. “Her approach is much more incremental, and as a result will exacerbate some of the problems we're having with income and healthcare.”
McDevitt said that unlike Long, he doesn’t believe the Affordable Care Act can be fixed. Long has touted her ability to work across the aisle, but McDevitt said his progressive views won’t prevent him from working with Republicans.
An Army veteran with a background in finance, McDevitt became a lawyer in 2012, the year after he moved to Vancouver. Since he passed the bar in California, his practice is mostly limited to doing research and writing briefs. Still, he said his legal background will be an asset when it comes to dealing with legislation in Congress.
McDevitt sports a sizable lead among the Democrats in campaign cash, with $406,000 on hand at the end of the latest FEC reporting period. Long had $167,000. Herrera Beutler, the GOP incumbent, had $767,000 in her campaign chest. However, the vast majority of Long’s cash was raised from campaign contributions, whereas McDevitt’s is largely self-loaned.
Long brought in $273,000 in donations compared to McDevitt’s $25,000. McDevitt loaned himself $400,000, while Long self-contributed $5,500. The goal, McDevitt said, is to stockpile funds for the general election.
“It's going to be absolutely necessary to have a significant war chest in order to be successful in the general,” he said.
Still, he’ll have to be one of the finalists in the top-two primary to be able to put that money to use in November.
McDevitt lists four key issues that define his campaign: healthcare, wages, climate change and the environment and transportation and infrastructure. In addition to Medicare for all and an increased minimum wage, he wants to see investments in renewable energy and broadband internet and create a federal framework for resolving transportation issues between Oregon and Washington.
He pointed to his ancestor, abolitionist John Brown, as an inspiration to fight what he sees as the key issue of today.
“There's a kind of form of slavery that's occurring that's on the basis of economics,” he said. “It's not getting better, and we need to do something about it.”
Workers, he said, are stuck in job situations because they need the healthcare coverage. In many cases, they’re not making enough to meet the cost of living.
So far, McDevitt has conducted 51 town halls, with a pledge to hold 80 by the end of July. His next town hall will be on Saturday, a 1:30 p.m. event at the Centralia Timberland Library. He said he’s focused on meeting voters instead of paying for advertising, saying it’s still too early to spend much of his campaign cash.
If he’s elected, McDevitt said he will not vote to keep House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi atop the Democratic caucus.
“I have a great deal of respect for her,” he said. “I think her time is up. We need new leadership.”