Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt posted a puzzling three word message to his Twitter feed Thursday morning: “Leavitt for Congress?”
The tweet, posted just before noon, elicited responses of “whoa?” and “huh?” from some of his nearly 500 followers.
But in an interview Thursday evening, Leavitt said it’s true: He’s in “exploratory mode” of considering a 2012 race against freshman 3rd Congressional District Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas.
“I’ve been approached over the last six weeks by a number of individuals asking me to consider pursuing the 3rd Congressional seat,” Leavitt, 41, said.
Leavitt has never publicly mentioned a desire to run for Congress, and the news took many political insiders by surprise.
Leavitt, who is in the middle of his first term as mayor, said he’ll use the next few months to decide whether he’ll run and make the final call on a Congressional race and also about whether he’ll run for a second term as mayor.
“The big question for me personally is, where can I be most effective for the people in my hometown: Is it as mayor or as a representative?” he said.
Leavitt, who also served seven years on the city council before being elected mayor, has always been in a nonpartisan position. He parlayed that into declining to say yet what party’s nomination he’d be seeking.
The people who have asked him about running have been from all ends of the political spectrum, he said. He labeled himself a moderate not tied to any party, saying he was issues-focused. Sounding like a candidate already, he also jabbed at Herrera Beutler.
“What folks have expressed to me is that they want people who are creative in finding solutions … they don’t want party rhetoric,” Leavitt said. “Certainly, people talking to me, they’re not happy with the way they’re being represented now.”
Leavitt and Herrera Beutler have traded very public letters over the funding for the Columbia River Crossing and the scope of a proposed C-Tran vote on funding for the operations and maintenance of light rail. Herrera Beutler has said she isn’t sure if she can support the project without a vote on light rail; Leavitt has been a staunch supporter of light rail and a new bridge.
He said Thursday that he has “obvious reservations” about how Herrera Beutler’s “actions affect us at home.”
Asked whether he thought he was a popular enough figure to take down an incumbent, he said his position as mayor of the district’s largest city makes him a known quantity.
“In my short time as mayor, I’ve established good working relationships with other elected officials and businesses,” he said. “People already recognize me as somebody they can talk to, somebody who is reasonable.”
Leavitt’s already shown he may have the fundraising chops to be in a big-league competition. His 2009 fight against incumbent Royce Pollard was the most expensive race in Vancouver history — Leavitt raised $141,529, Pollard brought in $179,286.
But he’d still have to earn more than 10 times what he pulled in for the mayor’s race: In her 2010 bid against Democrat Denny Heck, Herrera Beutler raised $1,557,221.
Also rumored to be interested in next year’s Congressional race is Democratic County Commissioner (and political ally of Leavitt’s) Steve Stuart.
Stuart said he is “watching and evaluating.”
The mayor said he and Stuart have talked with each other about their mutual interest in the race.
As for why Leavitt chose Twitter to pose a rather weighty query about his political future?
“It was a simple question and Twitter is a simple media,” he said. “Frankly, all I wanted to do was put a question out there to garner some response.”
Andrea Damewood: 360-735-4542 or email@example.com or www.facebook.com/reporterdamewood or www.twitter.com/col_cityhall.