Congressional candidate Jon Haugen didn't receive the nomination from his party on Saturday at the Democratic State Convention in Seattle, mainly because of his stance on the Columbia River Crossing project.
Delegates in the 3rd District decided in a narrow vote of 38-37 to endorse Haugen. But later, Haugen's nomination was rejected in a vote by all delegates at the state convention.
Failing to clinch the nomination means Haugen will be cut off from campaign funding the party doles out to the Democratic candidates it favors. Haugen called the campaign against his nomination an "ambush" led by a group of bridge proponents from Clark County, including state Rep. Jim Moeller, D-Vancouver.
"I'm the only Democrat on the ballot; this should be a perfunctory event," Haugen said of the vote. Instead, "it was a fairly horrible experience."
Haugen is running to unseat U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas, in the 3rd District. Norma Jean Stevens, who prefers no party, is also in the race.
The proposed CRC project would replace the Interstate 5 Bridge, extend light rail to Clark College, and rebuild freeway interchanges on both sides of the Columbia River. Haugen advocates for building a third bridge instead of replacing the current one, saying his plan would be less expensive and would avoid tolls. He supports a light rail extension into Clark County only if voters approve it.
"This is a litmus test against me on the bridge," Haugen said. "The Democrats are in a circular firing squad, and Jaime Herrera Beutler will not have an opponent who has the support of the Democratic Party."
Although Haugen will not receive the party's support, Democrats who opposed him at the convention say Saturday's events shouldn't hurt him in the long run.
"Jon will still be on the ballot," Moeller said. "He'll still be in the voters' guide. He just won't have the endorsement of local Democrats or the state party."
Moeller added that he can't support a candidate who is opposed to the CRC project, and he pointed out that Haugen ran once in the past as an independent. Haugen said he ran as an independent candidate in one election because he didn't want to step on the toes of a Democrat who had already entered the race.
The party's chairwoman in the 3rd District, Marsha Manning, said she opposed nominating Haugen: "We don't support candidates who don't support the bridge. It's jobs. It's everything that we need right now."
Manning said Haugen should still have a decent shot in the election because people who vote Democrat along party lines will ultimately choose him.
"Jon is selling himself," Manning said. "I think he can still sway voters."
Mike Heywood, Democratic Party chairman in the 49th Legislative District, said he voted in favor of nominating Haugen. Haugen has put in the work as a Democratic candidate, and he deserves the party's full support, Heywood said.
"He has come out as a Democrat," Heywood said. "He listed himself as a Democrat. He said he'll be part of the Democratic cause in the House if elected."
Heywood said what happened at the state convention makes things easier for Herrera Beutler's campaign for re-election. "Every incumbent deserves a real test, but in this case, it doesn't appear that (she'll) have one," Heywood said. "I'm very sorry it didn't work out better."
Haugen said the opposition to his candidacy was particularly difficult because he was attending the convention with his wife and daughter. Moeller also referenced the uncomfortable nature of the debate.
"It wasn't a pleasant thing to do, because I like Jon personally," Moeller said. "I just don't agree with his politics."