CAMAS — The third presidential debate wasn’t the only source of political fireworks Monday night.
At a forum sponsored by the Camas Youth Advisory Council, the candidates vying for Washington’s 3rd Congressional District sparred for the first time on the same stage.
First-term Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas, and Democratic challenger Jon Haugen shared the spotlight and highlighted their differences in front of an auditorium full of high school students. The candidates disagreed on a number of topics ranging from how to save Social Security and what to do about skyrocketing college costs to the best way of putting people back to work.
While the two candidates differed on nearly every major issue, their focus rarely strayed from money matters.
Herrera Beutler said she’d been listening to small business owners across the 3rd District. The cornerstone of her campaign was reining in federal spending and loosening unnecessary regulations, she said.
“If we don’t get spending under control,” she said, “we’re not too far from following Greece down its path.”
Asked what his top three priorities would be if elected, Haugen said it would come down to “jobs, jobs, jobs.”
“We need infrastructure projects here in the 3rd District that will employ people,” said Haugen, a commercial airline pilot.
Speaking primarily to a room full of students at the Camas High School auditorium, Haugen vowed to protect Pell Grants and other programs that help students get a college education.
“We cannot allow students to take out loans only to have their loan rates double,” he said.
The topic of education proved to be fertile middle ground for the two candidates. Middle-income families are being priced out of higher education, Herrera Beutler said, because public university tuition and fees have increased by 71 percent since 2001.
Other priorities for Herrera Beutler include safeguarding Medicare, she said.
Throughout the candidates’ presentations, which lasted about 15 minutes, loomed the specter of the Columbia River Crossing project.
Haugen was quick to underscore his opposition to the interstate bridge replacement project as proposed, with its estimated $3.5 billion price tag. He said he particularly disagreed with tolling on the bridge.
Herrera Beutler said she has never fully supported a toll on the bridge. She said how the project continues to unfold will ultimately be left up to the states.
The candidate forum was the 10th annual for the Camas Youth Advisory Council. Students from the program organized the forum and moderated it.
Also appearing at the forum: state Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, and Democratic challenger Ralph Schmidt; 18th District state representative position 1 candidates Brandon Vick and Adrian Cortes, both Republicans; 18th District state representative position 2 candidates Liz Pike, a Republican, and David Shehorn, a Democrat; and Clark County commissioner candidates Marc Boldt and David Madore, both Republicans.