Jon T. Haugen, a former Navy pilot who ran for state Senate in 2008, will challenge U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas, in her 2012 campaign for a second term in Congress.
Haugen, 52, said he is running to protect and strengthen Medicare and Social Security, to bring his foreign affairs background to the 3rd Congressional District, and to support construction of a new Interstate 5 bridge across the Columbia River without tolling or light rail.
He claims his favored option, building a new $640 million, six-lane, no-lift bridge without tolls, and continuing to operate the two existing spans, would save $3 billion and create thousands of good middle-class jobs.
Haugen accused Herrera Beutler of being "agnostic about the bridge."
“She hasn’t expressed an opinion. She is waiting for some phantom vote that may or may not occur,” he said. “She needs to either say, ‘Yes, I support spending $3.6 billion and have citizens pay through tolling,’ or come out and say, ‘We need a different idea.’”
Haugen, a 52-year-old commercial pilot for Delta Air Lines, grew up in Ashland, Ore., and graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1981. He said his 24 years of service in the Navy and the Naval Reserve, during which he served in posts around the globe, give him the background in foreign policy that Herrera Beutler, by her own admission, lacks.
He cited an op-ed piece by the congresswoman in The Columbian in which she wrote “I was not elected to Congress because of my foreign policy experience.”
Haugen challenged Sen. Joe Zarelli, R-Ridgefield, in 2008 as a Democrat. He ran to fill Herrera Beutler’s former 18th District legislative seat last year without listing a political party preference. In his race for Congress, he is again identifying himself as a Democrat.
“I am in this race to provide a new voice and vision” for Washington’s 3rd District, he said
in a statement. He said he supports President Barack Obama’s health care reform law and disagrees with Herrera Beutler’s vote to transform Medicare into a voucher program.
Haugen has been a consistent critic of the freshman congresswoman. “I was concerned when Herrera Beutler was elected that she was too young and inexperienced to represent the 3rd District,” he said in a letter to the editor in The Columbian. “Unfortunately, she has proved to be a ‘rubber stamp’ for expanding the debt and following the crowd.”
Haugen is the first candidate to announce plans to challenge Herrera Beutler for a second term. Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt is said to be considering a run as a Democrat.
“I do believe she is vulnerable,” he said in an interview. “I do think there will be other Democrats who enter the race.”
If elected, he said, he would take a leave of absence from his job with Delta.