After a recent endorsement from national political group Emily’s List, Carolyn Long is confident she’s poised to give Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, her strongest Democratic challenge in years.
“We’re feeling great,” said Long’s campaign manager Wyatt Arnall. “We feel confident that we’re going to put up a good primary number.”
As voters mail in their ballots ahead of the Aug. 7 primary deadline, Long, Herrera Beutler, and the other candidates in the 3rd Congressional District are knocking on doors, calling voters and trying to mobilize enough support to be one of the top two vote-getters who will qualify for the general election ballot. “We’re using every single means of communicating with our voters that we can,” said David McDevitt, another Democratic challenger. “I’m swamped. … I’m probably working right now about 16 hours a day, seven days a week.”
Herrera Beutler, who has not faced a serious challenge since her first run for Congress in 2010, remains confident that her reelection efforts are on track.
“We feel excellent about our standing in this election because Jaime has kept her focus on the region’s needs,” Herrera Beutler spokeswoman Angeline Riesterer said in an email statement.
Long, a Washington State University, Vancouver professor, earned the endorsement of national Democratic fundraising group Emily’s List on Monday. The endorsement is a sign to some that political strategists view Long as a competitive challenger. Emily’s List supports pro-choice Democratic women and has raised more than half a billion dollars for its candidates since its founding in 1985.
“They only endorse pro-choice women that they think can win,” Arnall said. “They don’t jump into a race to try to boost your campaign to the point where you can win. They want to join races they think are doing everything right.”
Arnall said Long’s campaign is convinced she will be one of the two qualifiers for the general election.
“We feel quite confident,” he said.
Though Long’s campaign has only released polling showing her competitive in a hypothetical head-to-head with Herrera Beutler, Arnall said its internal numbers show her in good position in the seven-way primary election.
McDevitt thinks it’s more competitive than that.
“It’s going to be very interesting to watch,” he said. “It’s going to be a toss-up, in my mind.”
The Army veteran, businessman and lawyer said Wednesday would mark his 80th town hall in the district, and he’s bolstered his busy schedule with plenty of his own money. McDevitt loaned his campaign $700,000 of the $730,000 he had raised as of the last reporting period on June 30, though he’s spent only $50,000 of that money.
“I’ve got the second greatest amount (of campaign funds to Herrera Beutler),” he said. “I could take her on. Nobody else has near that kind of cash on hand. We’re feeling confident that I’m the only one who could actually take Jaime.”
While McDevitt has more money in the bank, Long has invested more money in the primary, spending $295,000 of the $606,000 she’s raised so far. Long’s campaign touts the fact that she has raised the most of any candidate from individual contributions, though Herrera Beutler has raised more overall when money from political action committees is factored in.
The incumbent still leads the field in fundraising. She started the election cycle with $386,000 in the bank, adding another $1,460,000 to that amount since the 2016 election. After investing more than $843,000 into the race — more than any of her challengers — she still maintains a sizable lead with just more than $1 million in the bank.
Riesterer said campaign metrics are a secondary concern to Herrera Beutler’s work for her constituents.
“As long as she keeps working to serve the citizens of Southwest Washington, the funding, volunteers, endorsements and other campaign-related needs will take care of themselves,” she wrote.
All of the candidates say fundraising is only part of their efforts.
“It’s parade and county fair season,” Arnall said, noting Long is a regular presence at events in the district. “We’re focused on getting out the vote.”
On the Democratic side, Long and McDevitt have highlighted policy differences as well. McDevitt calls Long a “centrist” and says he’s better equipped to draw votes from both liberal and moderate Democrats.
“[Democratic candidate Dorothy Gasque] will not pull votes from the center, and Carolyn will not be able to pull votes from the left,” he said.
Arnall argued that most of the differences are more about approach than policy.
“Carolyn doesn’t talk about compromise so much as she talks about pragmatism,” he said. “If you look at the end goals of Dorothy, David or Carolyn, in the end they want to get to the same place. It’s just, how do you go about it.”
Outside of the well-funded contenders, a number of other candidates hope to make their mark on the race, each expressing varying levels of confidence about their chances.
Gasque is the most progressive of the candidates. A U.S. Army veteran who served in Iraq, she joined the race because she was not excited about the moderate Democrats who have appeared on her ballot in previous campaigns.
“People are eager for change,” she said. “They want someone who understands that the problem with the system is the status quo.”
Though the district went heavily for President Trump in the last election, Gasque noted that it went for Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic primary and President Obama in the 2008 general election.
“This district has gone for populists before,” she said. “The populist message resonates here.” Gasque said she’s focused on economic issues like healthcare and housing, and she’s knocking on doors and attending community events, as well as advertising on the radio and Facebook.
Republican Earl Bowerman joined the race because of Herrera Beutler’s refusal to endorse President Trump, and because she’s not always been supportive of his policies.
“If one says they’re a conservative Republican, I expect them to vote that way after they get elected,” he said. “If Republicans followed her advice, then Hillary Clinton would be president.”
Bowerman served on the faculty of Texas A&M University and California State University, Fresno, before retiring to Southwest Washington in 2009. He said he’s running a “grassroots campaign” and has had good meetings with Republican groups throughout the district.
“I’m very optimistic,” he said.
Michael Cortney, another Republican hopeful, comes from the opposite wing of the GOP.
“I’m not proud of what my party’s become,” he said. “I’m here to give a moderate Republican someone to vote for.”
The retired electrician believes it’s important to have more blue-collar representation in Congress, and he’s spent his donation-free campaign meeting voters on foot. Still, he’s realistic about his odds.
“Chances of victory are slim and none,” Cortney said.
Finally, candidate Martin Hash is running as a Democrat, though he said in a candidate forum that gun control efforts could lead to “civil war” and identified illegal immigration as a major threat to democracy. His Twitter feed has retweeted President Trump calling CNN “#FraudNews” and called Hillary Clinton a “despicable human being.”
In an interview, Hash said he believed he could earn 17 percent of the vote as one of the “old white guys,” enough to qualify for the general election if the “gals” — Long and Gasque — split the remaining Democratic votes.
Hash identifies himself as a “self-made millionaire,” and he says he has doctorates in law, medicine and computer science, as well as qualifications in engineering and accounting.
“I’m the most maximum, competent, capable person to run in this state,” he said. “You can hear me talk, the dominance in my voice, the confidence.”
His focus on opposing toll roads has also set him apart from the field, he said, and he believes that having the best entry on informational voter pamphlets will prove more crucial than campaign websites, media or debates.