State Democrats endorse Haugen — finally

Candidate had gotten cold shoulder over CRC stance

By Stevie Mathieu, Columbian assistant metro editor

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Democratic U.S. House candidate Jon Haugen was endorsed over the weekend by Washington State Democrats after campaigning for months with little support from party leadership.

On June 2, delegates meeting at the Washington State Democratic Convention voted against nominating Haugen, even though he was the only Democrat in the race. Haugen's lack of support for the Columbia River Crossing project prompted many delegates at the convention to vote against nominating him.

On Saturday, Washington Democrats' central committee met in Yakima, where members voted to endorse Haugen.

Haugen, of Vancouver, is running in the 3rd Congressional District to unseat freshman U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas.

Democrats didn't say exactly what made them decide to now endorse Haugen, but Washington State Democrats' Chairman Dwight Pelz on Monday called Haugen a "strong candidate." Pelz also said Democrats "will spend the next six weeks working (to) elect Democrats and ensure this election keeps our state moving forward."

The decision against nominating Haugen in June had cut him off from campaign funding from the party at the state and federal levels. There are just a few weeks left in the campaign. Ballots in the vote-by-mail general election are scheduled to be sent to voters on Oct. 15, and voters have until Nov. 6 to return their ballots.

"Earlier would have been better," Haugen said of Saturday's endorsement. "Not having the endorsement in the summertime when it should have come has impacted my ability to raise funds."

Now that Haugen has the party's endorsement, he said he hopes to receive some campaign help from state Democrats, particularly in the form of a campaign mailer.

Haugen does not support the CRC, in part because of its $3.5 billion price tag. 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. Rather than replacing the Interstate 5 Bridge, Haugen has said he would like to see an additional bridge built across the river that is less expensive.

Despite the initial setback, Haugen said his campaign is going well. He's hosted a series of town hall meetings, and he's been endorsed by Clark County Democrats, Cowlitz County Democrats, and other Democratic groups within the 3rd District. He's also working on a political commercial that he expects will air on Portland's KGW-TV.

"My message is getting out there," Haugen said.

Haugen did not disclose how much money he has raised so far, but he did say that he's at least raised the $5,000 minimum that requires him to file a campaign fundraising report with the Federal Election Commission. The next FEC campaign fundraising reports are due Oct. 15.

On Sunday, Haugen also challenged Herrera Beutler to a series of 10 debates throughout the 3rd District.

Herrera Beutler's campaign spokesman, Casey Bowman, said the congresswoman does plan to participate in some debates between now and the election.

"Her campaign is still collecting and assessing forum and debate invitations to see which ones work with her congressional schedule," Bowman said.

In the Aug. 7 primary election, Herrera Beutler earned 56.5 percent of the vote while Haugen, who is a commercial airline pilot, earned 37.6 percent.

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