Incumbent Jaime Herrera Beutler did not attend the forum at Clark College put on by the League of Women Voters
CLARK COUNTY — Five of the seven people vying to become the next member of Washington’s 3rd Congressional District squared off in a two hour forum Thursday night at Gaiser Hall on the Clark College campus. Missing were incumbent Jaime Herrera Beutler, who lists her party as Republican, and Martin Hash, who filed as a Democrat.
An aide to Herrera Beutler told ClarkCountyToday.com that the congresswoman’s absence was due to the fact that the forum “was scheduled when Congress was in session and Jaime was in DC voting.”
Thursday’s event was put on by the League of Women Voters of Clark County, and moderated by Clark College speech and debate professor David Kosloski, who posed a series of 12 questions to the candidates, ranging from their thoughts on immigration, to infrastructure funding, student debt, and campaign finance reform.
In attendance were David McDevitt, Carolyn Long, and Dorothy Gasque — who filed as Democrats — as well as Michael Cortney and Earl Bowerman, who both filed as Republican candidates. Below are some highlights of what the candidates had to say on a number of topics. For the full forum, check out the video below.
Question: If elected, what type of communication would you implement with all of the constituents in your district? If you are the incumbent, what changes might you make in your communications with your constituents?
McDevitt: “I think the biggest problem that we have, and that I’ve had with our current incumbent, is not feeling heard. And the first thing I want everyone in our district to feel, is I want them to feel heard. Whether I agree or not, it’s important to listen to arguments and discussion points.”
Cortney: “One of the reasons I’m running is I want to be able to give people in my district a voice. Right now in our elections it all seems to be winner takes all, so half our population feels like the other half doesn’t care about them.”
Long: “We have a very large district in the Third. There are many people in the rural communities who haven’t seen an elected politician for years — that’s not right. We have to be there to listen to them, and also to tell them what we’re doing for them in Congress.”
Bowerman: “As we travel around the 3rd District, this is the number one thing that I hear: ‘I’ve written my congress lady, she doesn’t respond. I call my congress lady, she doesn’t answer the phone.’ And I feel like it’s impossible to be effectively represented if you don’t have a voice with your representative.”
Gasque: “We pay our representatives $174,000 a year. There’s no reason they shouldn’t be working when they’re not in Washington. They should be here, on the ground, in the community, present and accountable, and listening to their constituents.”
Question: What would you propose for comprehensive immigration legislation? How would it address the issue of young people protected under DACA? How would it handle immigrant families (especially those seeking asylum) coming into the US? Please be specific.
Cortney: “This is a dangerous time, and I agree that people coming into this country should be vetted. We should know who’s coming into this country. But then, you know, we’re a nation of immigrants, and we should always be ready to bring people into this country and help them. I mean, if they’re strong enough to get up and come across a country to be here, those are the type of people I think would make, and continue to make, the great generations of this country.”
Long: “We do need comprehensive immigration reform, but I think where there’s bipartisan support, we should start there because that will deal with part of the issue, and then speak about how we can have border security, absent a wall, so that we can make sure we maintain the issue of border crossings, while also respecting the human rights of those who are trying to cross, while also respecting the fact that people should have a pathway to citizenship.”
Bowerman: “I support strong borders. I don’t believe anyone who is here illegally should have a pathway to citizenship, because there’s too many people that do it legally. Why reward the people that are here illegally with citizenship, when we have thousands and thousands of people that are highly qualified from other countries that are waiting to get in, that are following the rules?”
Gasque: “These children being ripped away from their parents at the border? This is just the end to a long history of racist policy around immigration. We do need comprehensive immigration reform, but we also need to look in the mirror and have an understanding of our own history.”
McDevitt: “This conduct is reprehensible … and it’s a stain. It’s a terrible stain. I would advocate comprehensive immigration reform with pathways to citizenship. In terms of DACA kids, I would decrease the time it takes to get them acclimated and made citizens in our country. And I would keep our immigrant families together.”
Question: A free press is a cornerstone of our country. What should be done to ensure a free press?
Bowerman: “I think that anyone should be free to say whatever they believe, whatever they want, in the press, on television, and in radio. And then the rest of us are free to form an opinion.”
Gasque: “A large portion of our media is owned by a small number of big corporations, and that is distorting the news narrative, and hurting independent newspapers across the country. So one of the biggest things we need to do is start enforcing anti-trust laws, and breaking up these giant telecommunication conglomerates that are being bought up by corporations and controlling the narrative.”
McDevitt: “I would return to the laws and requirements that make it so that numbers of ideas can be expressed and discussed, so that people have an opportunity to come as an educated population, in terms of solving our problems in this country with respect to free speech and free press.”
Cortney: “Honesty just doesn’t seem to have any value anymore … We need to start holding our media accountable, especially our news stations, that when you start pushing an agenda that’s not true, and you base it in false claims, we need to be able to stand up and say that we won’t tolerate that anymore.”
Long: “It’s an ongoing effort of this administration to delegitimize our political institutions, so that it gives him (Trump) more power, and we have to recognize that. It’s not just the attacks on the press, it’s the attacks on Congress, on local and national state officials, on our administrative agencies. We have to stop that from happening. So the first thing we have to do is criticize the president for what he’s doing consistently to try to undermine this important chapter in our democracy.”
Question: Income disparities are increasing. What tangible actions have you taken, or would you take if you were elected, to address economic justice issues and/or to create family-wage jobs?
McDevitt: “I would fight to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour, at a minimum, knowing that it would likely have to be something higher than that as we’re moving forward.”
Cortney: “The greatest asset that we have, that creates wealth, is labor, and I believe that labor is entitled to a fair share of what they create, and that’s not what’s happening today. Our power as workers comes from being together, and being united. Our party used to support unions, but we don’t do that anymore. And I think if we want to fix the income inequalities in this country, it starts by being able to gather as people and say ‘we want a fair wage.'”
Long: Would undo GOP tax reform bill, “because that piece of legislation, signed only by Republicans, and a Republican president, actually further created this income disparity that we have in America today … I also think we need to have massive investment in infrastructure projects, because infrastructure projects create those family wage jobs … And then we have to invest heavily in education so that those who want to learn more, so that they can get jobs in this rapidly evolving economy, would also provide other pathways to success.”
Bowerman: “It’s nice to use words such as ‘fair,’ but what’s fair to me might not be fair to you. I think it’s fair to say that fair is content free, because we don’t know what that means … I think that the dignity of work is probably the greatest thing that we can have, and I don’t think we should be looking to the government for subsistence. I think we need to look for the government to get out of our way and let private enterprise create jobs.”
Gasque: “We can do this by raising the minimum wage to a living wage, and I don’t think that’s $15 an hour. I think by the time we implement a livable wage it will be well over $15. In this county alone, it’s over $20 an hour.”
Question: Do you think there should be term limits on representatives? Why or why not?
Gasque: “It’s not a solution to the problem. As long as they’re still allowed to go from being a congressperson to being a lobbyist. As long as we have a revolving door in place we’re not fixing anything. And also, as long as corporate interests can buy politicians, we’re not going to solve the problem. Because they’ll just buy a new one, just like they bought the last one.”
McDevitt: “I think the best way to get rid of a person in Congress, or in the Senate, faster is to vote them out. As a consequence, I would suggest that now Jaime Herrera Beutler has had too many terms, and it’s time to let her go. She’ll make a bunch of money in her next career, and let’s have a change in leadership.”
Cortney: “I believe fresh blood in the system every once in a while is good … I just believe it gives too much power to too few people over a period of time.”
Long: “We have term limits, they’re called elections. Unfortunately not many of us participate in elections, and so we seem to see people getting elected over and over again. But I’m not in favor of them, not because I find them unconstitutional, which they are, but because I don’t think it fixes the problem … If you limit members of congress to a certain number of terms, you are shifting power from that elected member of congress to the lobbyists and staffers who stay behind. And they are unelectable, and unaccountable to the people.”
Bowerman: “I’m strongly in favor of term limits, because there’s a change in Washington that affects our congresspeople. You don’t see it too much for the first term, or the second term. By the third term they become somebody that we don’t even know. By then they’re entrenched with the special interests, they have the funds to run an effective campaign, and basically they are no-shows at meetings like this.”
The candidates also answered questions on whether they felt privatized prisons were good or bad, how they would fund infrastructure improvements, which entitlement programs they would choose to support, and ways to manage the student debt crisis.
ClarkCountyToday.com is working to talk with candidates separately, and will be running much more election coverage leading up to the primary election in August. The League of Women Voters will be holding two more candidate forums this month. Those will cover the 17th Legislative District, Clark County Chair race, as well as other county and city positions. Be sure to check back for full coverage of those events.