Herrera Beutler, Haugen face off

3rd Dist. congresswoman faces first re-election test against Democrat who opposes CRC

By Stevie Mathieu, Columbian assistant metro editor


Updated: October 15, 2012, 11:22 PM


Jaime Herrera Beutler live chat

Read the transcript of Herrera Beutler's live chat at The Columbian by clicking here.

Jon Haugen live chat

Read the transcript of Haugen's live chat at The Columbian by clicking here.

Jon Haugen

Party: Democratic.

City of residence: Vancouver.

Age: 53.

Occupation: Commercial pilot for Delta Air Lines.

Campaign website: Click here.

Major endorsements: Washington State Democratic Party, county-level Democratic Party groups from every county in the 3rd District, the Association of Western Pulp and Paper Workers of Washington, and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 21.

Money raised in campaign: $9,611.

Jaime Herrera Beutler

Party: Republican.

City of residence: Camas.

Age: 33.

Occupation: U.S. representative.

Campaign website: Click here.

Major endorsements: Herrera Beutler declined to single out any major endorsements, but did say: "I value the support of individuals who believe in my campaign and trust that I'm going to put this region first — and I have an army of them."

Money raised in campaign: $1,561,353.

In her first bid for re-election to Congress, U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas, faces opposition from independently minded Democrat Jon Haugen.

Haugen has struggled to gain momentum against Herrera Beutler, whom many consider a rising star in the national Republican Party. He’s raised just a fraction of the money raised in Herrera Beutler’s campaign, and it took him a while to gain support from the Washington State Democratic Party.

Haugen and Herrera Beutler seem to differ on nearly every major political issue, including the Columbia River Crossing, health care reform and how to increase jobs in Southwest Washington. Ballots for the Nov. 6 election were mailed out to voters Monday.

Herrera Beutler said she supports replacing the Interstate 5 Bridge over the Columbia River, while Haugen is advocating for an alternative bridge that would run alongside the current one. Haugen says the supplemental bridge would be less expensive — $600 million — and therefore not require tolls.

The $3.5 billion CRC project that’s currently in the works would replace the I-5 Bridge, extend light rail to Clark College, and rebuild freeway interchanges on both sides of the Columbia River. The project has been years in the making, and planners were tasked with balancing the needs of many groups, including Oregonians, Washingtonians, and commercial river traffic.

Herrera Beutler has said she would try to derail CRC light-rail plans if voters living in Clark County’s C-Tran district reject this fall’s ballot measure to raise sales taxes for Vancouver light rail and bus rapid transit operations and maintenance. She said this fall’s vote is the only chance her constituents have to weigh in on the matter. If voters reject the measure, she said she plans to fight for redesigning the CRC without light rail on it.

The congresswoman said that any decisions about tolling on the bridge should be left up to leaders at the state level.

Haugen said he supports the idea of extending light rail over the bridge in the future, if that’s what people in Clark County want. Right now, he said, there doesn’t seem to be an appetite for light rail among residents in the county. Haugen said he would vote to reject the C-Tran light-rail measure.

Job growth

Haugen’s idea for bringing jobs to Clark County is to go with his alternative bridge plan, because that would bring good-paying construction jobs to the region faster, he said. Construction for the CRC is expected to start at the tail end of 2014, at the earliest.

Haugen said he also wants to start work on other transportation projects in the 3rd District, including replacing the Hood River Bridge. He also wants to end tax breaks for companies that ship American jobs overseas. Instead, tax breaks should be available for companies that keep jobs in the U.S., he said.

When asked about her plan to grow jobs in the region, Herrera Beutler listed a number of suggestions. She said she advocates for counting hydropower as a renewable energy under Washington’s clean energy laws. That would make power cheaper for businesses, and in turn make it easier for businesses to hire more people, she said.

The congresswoman also wants to make it easier for small businesses to meet federal regulations and permitting demands, and she wants to close unfair loopholes that large corporations take advantage of.

She said she supports ending “this period of corporate welfare. … I think it’s fair to request that the American taxpayer stop subsidizing the operation of companies.”

Health care

Haugen said he supports the 2010 federal health care reform law because it saves Americans money, has cracked down on health insurance fraud, and makes sure people with pre-existing conditions can get coverage.

“Health companies cannot end your health care when you get sick,” Haugen said in a recent news release. “About 3 million young adults can stay on their parents’ health plan until the age of 26.”

Herrera Beutler wants to repeal the 2010 Affordable Care Act, though she said there are some elements of the legislation that should be maintained in other ways. People with pre-existing conditions should be covered by health insurance companies, for example, she said.

When asked what health care reform should look like, Herrera Beutler pointed to what’s done in Washington state with high-risk insurance pools. The pools provide insurance coverage for people who have been denied health insurance because of expensive medical problems. The high-risk pool charges higher premiums, “but you’re not breaking the system for everyone else in the process,” Herrera Beutler said. “That’s paid for by insurance companies in Washington state.”

The 2010 health care reform law did create a temporary federal high-risk pool, which is set to expire Jan. 1, 2014. That program is available to qualifying Washingtonians along with the state’s high-risk program. Herrera Beutler favors high-risk pools at the state level rather than at the federal level, her spokesman, Casey Bowman, said.

Additional issues

Herrera Beutler opposes same-sex marriage. Haugen supports allowing same-sex couples to marry. The issue will be put to voters this fall, when they will get to approve or reject Referendum 74, which allows same-sex couples to marry.

Haugen said the biggest foreign policy problem facing the U.S. is terrorism. Herrera Beutler said America’s biggest foreign policy problem is unrest in the Middle East.

Haugen has promised to, within 90 days of taking office, introduce legislation that would remove all troops from Afghanistan. He said he believes the bill would have a shot at passing because there are a number of lawmakers who support immediate troop withdrawal.

Herrera Beutler has said that she thinks it’s time to bring troops in Afghanistan home, but she ultimately would leave the decision about exactly when to withdraw up to generals on the ground.

When it comes to government spending, Haugen would like to see additional taxes for the wealthiest Americans. He would like to see people who make more than $250,000 a year pay more in taxes, and he would like to eliminate the wage-based cap on Social Security taxes. People who make $110,000 a year or more all pay the same Social Security tax, even if they make millions more than that $110,000 cap.

Herrera Beutler doesn’t support raising taxes of any kind, and says that doing so could endanger the economy. She said she doesn’t believe it’s possible to raise taxes enough to solve the federal government’s financial problems. Instead, she supports cutting wasteful spending within the Department of Defense.

Haugen criticized Herrera Beutler’s stance on taxes for the rich, and he said she is bound by an anti-tax pledge she signed that was put out by Americans ror Tax Reform President Grover Norquist. Herrera Beutler has responded by saying she took that pledge because she does not want to raise taxes on anyone in Southwest Washington. She also said that she’s technically broken that pledge because she has voted to end ethanol subsidies and to close loopholes for oil companies.

Herrera Beutler has a degree in communications from the University of Washington. After college, she worked as a legislative analyst for Washington state Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers. She was appointed to the Washington Legislature in 2007, re-elected to the Legislature in 2008, and elected to Congress in 2010.

Haugen is a commercial pilot for Delta Air Lines. He has made two unsuccessful attempts at becoming a state legislator for the 18th District. In 2008, he ran against then-Sen. Joseph Zarelli, and in 2010, he ran as an independent for an open House seat.

During the Washington State Democratic Convention in June, Haugen did not receive his party’s nomination, despite being the only Democrat in the race. Haugen said the lack of an earlier nomination cut him off from crucial party resources. During a vote in September, Washington Democrats decided to nominate Haugen after all.

Stevie Mathieu: 360-735-4523, stevie.mathieu@columbian.com; http://www.facebook.com/reportermathieu or http://www.twitter.com/col_politics.