NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, June 26th, 2019

U.S. Representative Jaime Herrera-Beutler returns from multi-week maternity leave

Sharp eyed readers of NPI’s Cascadia Advocate may have noticed that United States Representative Jaime Herrera-Beutler (R-WA-03) has missed a lot of floor votes lately. Until this week, Herrera-Beutler hadn’t cast any votes on the floor of the United States House since before the Memorial Day recess.

That’s because she has been on maternity leave, her office says.

“Jaime’s absence is due to her giving birth a few weeks ago,” her communications director Angeline Riesterer explains. “She is back now voting and resuming her congressional duties with her newborn daughter in tow.”

Today, Representative Herrera-Beutler posted a photo of her walking to the House floor to vote with her newborn daughter Isana in a carrying harness.

“Crossing my fingers Isana can grab a nap,” Herrera-Beutler tweeted.

U.S. Representative Jaime Herrera-Beutler with baby Isana

U.S. Representative Jaime Herrera-Beutler tweeted this image of her enroute to vote with baby Isana

Hopefully she got her wish. Congratulations to the Representative and all of her family on the joyous occasion of her daughter’s birth.

While Herrera-Beutler was on maternity leave, the House was busy. It debated and passed a $982.8 billion appropriations bill, a resolution authorizing its committees to ask federal courts to enforce committee subpoenas, and landmark legislation to protect the rights of Dreamers and new Americans.

Top Republican operatives, meanwhile, decided that Herrera-Beutler is vulnerable in 2020 and revealed plans to prop up her forthcoming reelection campaign.

“Republicans plan to pour extra money and resources into ten congressional districts where Republican incumbents are vulnerable amid demographic changes that could swing the elections toward Democrats,” McClatchy’s Rick Childress and David Lightman reported earlier this month.

“The special Republican effort, called the ‘Patriot Program,’ asks party donors to direct funds to incumbent campaigns. The [incumbents] also get additional staff and support for more extensive advertising campaigns from the National Republican Congressional Committee, the GOP’s House campaign arm.”

The complete list of ten is:

  1. Will Hurd, Texas (TX-23)
  2. John Katko, New York (NY-24)
  3. Brian Fitzpatrick, Pennsylvania (PA-01)
  4. Pete Olson, Texas (TX-22)
  5. John Carter, Texas (TX-31)
  6. Michael McCaul, Texas (TX-10)
  7. Don Bacon, Nebraska (NE-02)
  8. Lee Zeldin, New York (NY-01)
  9. Fred Upton, Michigan (MI-)
  10. Jaime Herrera-Beutler (WA-03)

It is noteworthy that almost half of these endangered incumbents are from Texas. An additional two are from New York, which one each from Michigan and Nebraska. And then there is Herrera-Beutler, the last Republican representative representing a district west of the Cascade mountain range.

Last year, the Washingtonians elected U.S. Representative Kim Schrier to represent the 8th Congressional District, once again turning back a bid by Dino Rossi for higher office. Schrier’s win helped Democrats secure their first majority in the United States House of Representatives since 2009.

Prior to Schrier’s victory, the 8th had always been represented by Republicans, including Jennifer Dunn and Dave Reichert. The 3rd is a different story; it has mostly sent Democrats to Congress since the middle of the twentieth century, including Julia Butler Hansen, Don Bunker, and Jolene Unsoeld.

In 1994, Republicans flipped the 3rd with Linda Smith, but Smith did not stay in Congress long. She opted to challenge Patty Murray for the United States Senate in 1998 and was handily defeated. Democrats took advantage of Smith’s Senate run to recapture the district. It was then represented by Brian Baird until his retirement in the 2010 cycle, when Herrera-Beutler defeated Denny Heck.

The next year, the district’s boundaries changed when Washington gained a new congressional district, the 10th, which is widely considered by political observers to have been drawn for Heck. (Heck has represented the district since 2012.)

It was not until last year that Democrats made challenging Herrera-Beutler a major priority, unifying behind challenger Carolyn Long, who earned a respectable 47.33% of the vote despite being a first time candidate without name recognition.

The party has signaled that capturing WA-03 will again be a top priority in 2020; it is deploying field staff to organize in the district and has emphasized the importance of Southwest Washington in fundraising emails.

“I spent the general election last year on the ground in WA-03 with so many dedicated volunteers who worked so hard to flip the 3rd in 2018 for Carolyn Long, and I know that so many of you were heartbroken when we came up just short of victory,” new communications director Will Casey wrote in a May 28th message.

“But Jaime Herrera Beutler will be running scared this year because the focus of the entire state is now trained on Southwest Washington,” Casey’s message adds. “That’s why I’ve joined the state party to marshal our efforts against Representative Herrera Beutler and her downballot Republican allies.”

In last year’s Top Two election, which pitted Long and several other Democrats against Herrera-Beutler, Herrera-Beutler secured the first place spot, but garnered less than 43% of the vote overall, which amazed many political observers. (Usually, multi-term incumbents don’t perform so poorly.)

A lack of visibility might be part of her problem: Herrera-Beutler has not been in the habit of holding town halls and constituent outreach events. While it’s understandable that she has a family to take care of, her constituents in Southwest Washington do need and deserve effective representative in Congress. They’ll likely have a second opportunity to pick between her and Carolyn Long next year should Long seek a rematch, which she is actively considering.

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