(Associated Press files)
With U.S. House Speaker John Boehner as her guest speaker, U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler kicked off her campaign for re-election Friday, drawing more than 300 attendees and attention from an estimated 70 MoveOn.org and Occupy Vancouver demonstrators.
Those participating in Herrera Beutler’s campaign kickoff could attend a photo reception with Boehner for $1,000 each, and they could pay $50 to attend a luncheon. The Columbian was barred from reporting from inside the event because Boehner, R-Ohio, has a policy that fundraising events be closed to the press.
The lunch, which took place inside the ballroom of the Red Lion Hotel Vancouver at the Quay, included pasta, cheesecake and coffee, attendee Kathy Seabrook of Vancouver reported by phone afterward. Seabrook doesn’t consider herself a supporter of Herrera Beutler’s, but she said she was curious about what the event would be like. She attended with a Republican friend.
“I looked at it as an interesting networking opportunity,” said Seabrook. She spends time advocating for an extended environmental impact statement on coal export trains traveling through Clark County.
Seabrook said Boehner spoke about environmental regulations and entitlement programs that he called job-killers. She also noted that Herrera Beutler’s husband, Daniel Beutler, helped introduce the congresswoman.
“He’s very dedicated to his wife, and I thought that was really cool,” Seabrook said.
The amount of money raised through the campaign kickoff was not available on Friday, said Herrera Beutler’s spokesman, Casey Bowman.
Herrera Beutler said her speech at the event touched on protecting citizens’ liberties and making sure future generations have opportunities for success.
“It went really well and it met our expectations,” Herrera Beutler said by phone after the event. “It was a totally packed room.”
Last September, Boehner also appeared at one of Herrera Beutler’s fundraisers, held at the home of auto dealer Dick Hannah. At that event, participants could pay $2,500 to have a roundtable discussion with Boehner. A breakfast that same day carried a $500 price tag.
GOP policies protested
Several of the protesters outside of fundraiser said they wanted to draw attention to recent Republican policies seen in the U.S. House, which is under Boehner’s leadership. They lined Columbia Street and held signs, some of which demanded jobs, criticized spending cuts and called for the preservation of Medicare.
Protest organizer Tom Scharf, of the Vancouver Council of MoveOn.org, said he was demonstrating against Republican job policies that aren’t working. He said that private-sector jobs are stable under President Barack Obama’s policies, but jobs in the public sector are suffering because of Republicans.
“John Boehner has to remember that his job is a government job,” Sharf said. “They have to figure something else out.”
Scharf also said he was frustrated that government money wasn’t put aside during good economic times. That money the Bush Administration could have saved would have come in handy during the recession, he said.
“Instead of paying down the deficit, they gave it all away in tax cuts,” Scharf said.
Other demonstrators said they were speaking out against Republican policies on health care, workers’ unions and women’s reproductive health, including abortion. Some also expressed frustration with the nation’s political system for mixing money with politics.
“I’m here because money and politics has completely eroded and corroded our republic,” Vancouver resident Occo DeJongh said during the protest. “Our republic is based on democratic principles. Where’s our democracy?”
DeJongh noted that Democrats and Republicans alike engage in a political system where money talks. He also noted the cars heading into the hotel parking lot.
“It’s a joke,” he said. “Cadillacs, Lexuses — see what’s driving in here?”
Six Vancouver police officers stood in the parking lot to make sure the event went smoothly. Two more off-duty Vancouver police officers were hired by event coordinators to monitor the fundraiser from inside the hotel. No problems were reported.
Seabrook, who attended the lunch, said many of the attendees seemed dismissive of the protesters.
“I heard a lot of people making comments about how ‘tacky’ they were,” Seabrook said.
Regarding the demonstrators, Herrera Beutler didn’t seem fazed.
“Jobs and growing our economy in Southwest Washington is my priority, and anybody who wants to (help) make that happen, we welcome,” Herrera Beutler said. “This is about making sure that the same opportunities we have are there for the next generation.”