The reading of tea leaves in Washington’s 3rd Congressional District, encompassing Southwest Washington, is getting repetitive.
The 2018 midterm campaign cycle started off for Republican United States Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler with a rating of “safe Republican.”
As Democrat Carolyn Long showed life, the 3rd became “likely Republican.” Then, the rating changed to “leans Republican,” and the former longshot Long was showered in late arriving support from Bloomberg and environmental groups.
With a remarch underway, the Cook Political Report just switched the rating from “likely Republican” back to “leans Republican.” The bucks are flowing in. Herrera Beutler took in more than $764,000 from March to June, while Long raised $628,000 in the past three months. As reported in The Columbian, the incumbent had almost $1.85 million in cash on hand and the challenger $1.58 million.
The Evergreen State once again has a House challenge on its hands.
The 3rd is the lone West Coast district (outside Alaska) bordering the Pacific Ocean that is still represented by a Republican.
Ex-Secretary of State Ralph Munro once divided Washington into two political landscapes. The “Space Needle Washington,” everything visible from the Seattle landmark, votes Democratic. The “Old Snowy Washington,” after a landmark Goat Rocks Wilderness peak, leans Republican. The view from its flat summit stretches out across both Central Washington and Southwest Washington.
The 3rd District has become part of Old Snowy Washington in recent years. It flipped Republican in 2010. Trump carried the district in 2016, even winning in the two Washington counties – Pacific and Grays Harbor – carried by lonesome George McGovern in 1972. Democrats lost a raft of local offices there in 2016.
A fast-talking political science prof from Washington State University — Vancouver, Long sought to reconnect using a series of town meetings in 2018.
The Democrats’ reconnecting challenge is rooted in past neglect.
Take the annual Pacific County Democrats’ Crab Feed, at ninety-plus years (though canceled this year) the state’s oldest continuous political event.
It’s lots of fun. Senator Maria Cantwell passed up the Gridiron Dinner in D.C. one year to spoon out potato salad on the food line.
Attorney General Bob Ferguson, shirtsleeves rolled up, handled the crab nearby.
Governor Jay Inslee never shows up. Of late he hasn’t even bothered to send greetings of late. Grays Harbor and Pacific Counties are Washington’s equivalent of the Rust Belt, dependent on logging and shellfish harvesting. Southwest Washington barely shows up much on the Inslee litany of new energy projects.
The Democratic Party lost the 2016 presidential election in the Great Lakes states (except for Minnesota and Illinois, which backed Hillary Clinton).
Blue collar workers have become a bedrock of the Republican Party and Trump support, from the coast of Maine to Aberdeen-Hoquiam.
Jaime Herrera Beutler is a threatened political species.
The U.S. House currently has more than one hundred women members, but only a dozen of them are Republicans. Herrera Beutler gave a rare recent interview to Politico, as the lone Republican Latina in the “peoples’s house.”
Herrera Beutler, forty-one, votes with the Trump administration more than eighty percent of the time. She did vote against her caucus’ attempt to gut the Patient Protection Act when Republicans controlled the House, complaining of its cruelty to children dependent on Medicaid. She did cast a key vote to maintain the Endangered Species Act, coaxed by then colleague Norm Dicks.
She is passionately pro-life. She is mother of a daughter, Abigail, born with Potter’s Syndrome, and kept alive by medical treatment that in which saline injections allowed the baby to live without kidneys. Abigail would later receive a kidney from her father Daniel Beutler. The couple have three children.
Long has made health care a centerpiece of her challenge. She is a ferocious defender of the Patient Protection Act, wants it expanded to cover those with pre-existing conditions, and favors a public option. She does not support Medicare For All. She talks district issues, from expanded broadband service in rural areas to breaking the impasse over rebuilding the I‑5 bridge over the Columbia River.
She held a total of forty-six town meetings during the 2018 campaign, a forum that the low profile Herrera Beutler has avoided in recent years.
The fall campaign will feature demonizing on all sides. Boilerplate press releases from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee depict Herrera Beutler as a force behind every evil deed of Donald Trump.
Republicans in Southwest Washington, meanwhile, have depicted Democrats as vassals of the noisy demonstrator class of Seattle and Portland.
How goes it? Long will need to expand her margin in Clark County. Herrera-Beutler will harvest a margin of 10,000 votes or so in very conservative Lewis County. The contest may well be decided in Cowlitz County (home to communities like Kelso and Longview), which in recent years has trended Republican.
Appearances can deceive. In the closing days of the 2018 campaign, top House
Democrat Steny Hoyer, once again the Majority Leader, was featured at a big Longview fundraiser in a home looking down on Longview and the Columbia River. A day later, Long drew one hundred and twenty-five people to a town hall at Lower Columbia College, and took at least fifty of them out canvassing with her.
Herrera Beutler was in town that day, drawing only a couple dozen people to a lightly attended event. Days later, the incumbent easily carried Cowlitz County.