Less than 24 hours after the primary election, U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, and Democratic challenger Carolyn Long faced off for the first time as they met Wednesday with The Columbian’s Editorial Board.
Updated election results suggest a close race for Herrera Beutler, who is seeking her fifth term in Congress. She was leading with 41.4 percent of the vote Wednesday evening, and Long followed with 36.07 percent. Five other challengers split the rest.
Long leads in Clark County, the district’s most populous, by about 1,600 votes out of 80,709 cast.
After the candidates shook hands, a spirited two-hour meeting ensued. They debated on issues of national impact as well as those with a local focus.
On some topics, the candidates agreed. Both characterized Oregon’s proposal to toll Portland-area interstate freeways as a bad deal for Southwest Washington and criticized how the state to the south has handled the situation.
When it came to such issues as health care or immigration, however, the agreements dwindled.
Here’s what Herrera Beutler and Long had to say on a few of the issues:
Tax reform Herrera Beutler: “We are defying expectations. I don’t think I could have had, in my wildest dreams, had it this good. What we’re seeing right now is we have more taxpayers with bigger (pay)checks … paying down the ($21 trillion deficit). We’re going to more than double pay that back because our economy is moving.”
Long: “Whenever you have legislation that goes with the party line, it’s usually bad legislation. It’s really a shame that the tax cuts (for the working class) are not permanent, yet the tax cuts for corporations are. The greatest travesty of this bill is it really is borrowing off our future generations. It’s also driving this political polarization we have. You have a bill that furthers the gap between the haves and have-nots.”
Health care Long: “I think we need to immediately shore up the (Affordable Care Act.) It was an imperfect bill … but 20 million Americans have benefited. It was demonized; it is apparently being demonized still today.
“To say we’re going to repeal it and not have a replacement and have patchwork efforts, like health savings accounts, which sounds really good if you have a lot of disposable income, (is unhelpful).”
Herrera Beutler: “I think I voted more than 80 times to repeal the ACA. I wish we (Republicans) had put together a better bill. It’s really a bummer to have to oppose your own party at such a critical juncture. I can scream all day about the Trump administration, I really could, but how effective would that be?”
Trump’s demeanor Herrera Beutler: “I have not appreciated his approach in a lot of ways. Having said that, I appreciate his willingness to say no to China, ‘I’m putting American interests first.’ ”
Long: “His approach — I have a very difficult time to say I agree with (it). He’s really focused on dismantling things that President Obama has done rather than fixing it. He’s like a bull in a china shop.”
Impeachment Long: “I would absolutely vote to impeach him (should he fire Robert Mueller or Rod Rosenstein.) My hope is the investigation plays out, but that all the evidence is overwhelming. If it’s not, it’s going to be difficult for the American people.”
Herrera Beutler: “The president has said he’s done nothing wrong. I believe this investigation needs to play all the way out. I think that would be the biggest mistake he could make. I’m not sure I would (vote to impeach).”
Town halls Long: “I think you have to look at your constituents in the eye and talk about why you voted the way you did.”
Herrera Beutler: “I think they’re important and I’ll continue to do them. But they serve one niche. To say there is only one method that counts to get feedback from the people you serve is to score political points.”
Border security Herrera Beutler: “I don’t think it’s radical to say we need to control our borders. I think it’s conflating the issue to say all refugees are asylum-seekers. Many of them are bringing drugs. We need to recognize we are a nation of laws, and we need to have strong borders.”
Long: “I’m in favor of border security, but I’m not in favor of a wall. I do think we have to recognize Donald Trump’s demonizing people from the border is terrible.
“Refugees and immigration, these are separate issues. Let’s not muddy the waters. It’s the visas that are a problem.”