The 3rd Congressional District Republican will be in the minority for her first time in congress
VANCOUVER — “Humbled.”
That’s the word Jaime Herrera Beutler uses most often following her re-election to Washington’s 3rd Congressional District for a fifth term.
Humbled, in part because it was her narrowest win since her first run for the seat. Also humbled because, after eight years representing her district, voters are still willing to give her a chance.
“I am a known quantity to the folks here — good and bad,” says Herrera Beutler. “Everything that people think I’ve done well and things people think I’ve not done well is known. So it feels kind of good to have your good side out and the warts out, and people still are giving you a shot.”
As of Friday night, Herrera Beutler held a lead of just over 17,000 votes over Carolyn Long, the Democratic challenger who outraised the incumbent by more than a million dollars.
“That’s a ton of money,” the Republican says, shaking her head. “That’s a ton of money. And here’s the thing, is that we raised a lot. Most of my money was either in state or in district.”
Of the $3,235,756 that Long reported during her campaign, nearly a quarter came from small individual donations of less than $200, compared to just 16 percent for Herrera Beutler. Long also pulled in over $800,000 more than Herrera Beutler in large individual donations, while Herrera Beutler topped Long by more than $650,000 in contributions from Political Action Committees (PACs). (Data from OpenSecrets.org)
“It’s never fun to be out-raised by that much,” Herrera Beutler said on election night. “That buys a ton of TV time and I think that’s allowed my opponent to really get her name ID up and present a case a lot of my other opponents haven’t raised.”
Long’s campaign has pointed to redistricting after the 2010 U.S. Census that eliminated liberal-leaning Olympia from the 3rd Congressional District, while adding more to the eastern edge of the district. While the 3rd had been held largely by Democrats before that, Herrera Beutler had won every election since then by at least 20 points.
In 2016, Herrera Beutler easily beat Democrat Jim Moeller, a former state representative and perhaps her most recognizable opponent. President Trump also won the 3rd district by eight points, even as the congresswoman herself wrote in Speaker Paul Ryan’s name rather than vote for Trump.
“I don’t know if I can give anybody a breakdown of 2016,” Herrera Beutler says. “I mean I think that one took everybody by surprise, across the board.”
Less surprising is a shift during a president’s midterm election, which is why Herrera Beutler says she’s not surprised that this year was a much tighter race. Democrats across the country set fundraising records as a motivated base turned out in droves. Here in Clark County, final turnout could end up north of 70 percent, which is not far off from the 2016 presidential election year.
While GOP candidates, in large part, carried the day in Southwest Washington, Democrats took over control of the U.S. House of Representatives, while Republicans held on to a majority in the Senate. This will be the first time Herrera Beutler has faced this situation. The GOP took over control of the House in 2011, during her first year in office, and has held a majority until this year.
Despite the change, Herrera Beutler maintains that she will be able to work across the aisle due to her record as a soft-spoken Republican lawmaker who is willing to take ideas from the other side.
“I’ve been firm, but I haven’t been inflammatory,” she says. “I think I can still get things done.”
That doesn’t mean it will be easy though.
“Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to see Maxine Waters as chair of Financial Services. And I don’t want to see Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the house,” Herrera Beutler says. “She’s one of the only Democrats who has voted against my sea lion bill.”
That bill would permit the removal of California sea lions in areas where they are deemed to be a threat to native salmon and steelhead populations. The issue has been a key in the 3rd Congressional District, where increasing sea lion populations have created major problems for the multi-million dollar fishing industry. Herrera Beutler says she’s hoping the bill, which didn’t make it out of the House this past Summer, can find enough support between now and the end of the year.
“Probably first thing we’re going to be working on is getting [Senator] Maria Cantwell, and helping whatever we can with the senate action to get that bill out of committee and signed into law,” she says. “Because into the next Congress, I don’t see them pushing that bill out.”
Herrera Beutler is likely to still maintain key positions on several committees, and remains confident that she can be impactful in passing legislation for her constituents.
“The thing that I have worked really hard at, and I know is going to bear fruit, is you can maintain the strongest positions, but if you’re a decent person and you talk to people with respect, and you maintain those relationships, you can get a whole lot done,” Herrera Beutler says.
As for what lessons she might take away from the close race against Long, Herrera Beutler says that’s something she’ll be thinking about.
“I can always do better,” she says. “I mean, I think every term I feel like I’ve learned new things and new ways to do the job better … I do a planning meeting with my staff at the beginning of each Congress and I think this one will probably yield a lot of new ideas.”