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News / Clark County News

Herrera claims 3rd Congressional District win

Down by 5 percentage points, Democrat Denny Heck concedes defeat

By Kathie Durbin
Published: November 3, 2010, 12:00am

Riding a coast-to-coast Republican wave, state Rep. Jaime Herrera won victory -Tuesday over Democrat Denny Heck in Washington’s hard-fought 3rd Congressional District race to replace U.S. Rep. Brian Baird, D-Vancouver.

Heck conceded the race at about 9:30 p.m. after results from the entire district showed Herrera leading Heck 52.92 percent to 47.08 percent.

Herrera will join a large freshman class of Republicans in a party poised to take control of the U.S. House in January. Asked how she felt about being part of a historic Republican sweep, she said, “Amazing!”

She took the stage at the Red Lion -Hotel Vancouver at the Quay at about 9 p.m., surrounded by her family, and declared, “We’re going to win this thing!”

“The most powerful words in a democracy are, ‘The people have spoken,'” Herrera said. At that point, the vote from Cowlitz County was not yet available, and she stopped short of claiming victory. But she said she was confident that “when all the votes are counted” she would win the right to represent the 3rd Congressional District.

“Only in America can a 31-year-old from a modest background have the opportunity to serve in Congress,” she said.

Herrera said she ran for Congress to serve all the families of Southwest Washington, regardless of their political affiliation, and pledged to keep her campaign promise to help control spending in Congress.

“I expect to be judged on how well I keep this promise,” she said.

She thanked her family and campaign volunteers and also thanked Heck, whom she called “a worthy opponent.”

Heck, clearly emotional, stepped to the microphone at the Democratic election party at the Hilton Vancouver Washington shortly before 10 p.m. He quoted from Ecclesiastes: “The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all. “

Then he said, simply, “It was not my time,” and congratulated Herrera on her victory.

Polls had shown Herrera leading by varying margins since the August primary, but Cook Political Reports still ranked Washington’s 3rd District race as a toss-up until recently, when it changed its ranking to “leaning Republican.”

A poll last week showed that Heck appeared to be closing the gap going into the campaign’s final days.

The race has broken all spending records for a 3rd District contest, with more than $5.5 million spent by the campaigns, political parties, political action committees and outside “independent” groups that are not required to disclose their donors.

Heck and Herrera finished in the top two in the August primary and have been battling via TV ads, political mailers and in a handful of joint appearances across Southwest Washington ever since.

Both agreed that the number one issue facing the 3rd District was the need to create middle-class jobs, but they clashed over the proper role of the federal government in lifting hard-hit families out of the lingering recession.

Heck supported federal tax breaks for small businesses, tax incentives to get credit flowing again, and strategic investments in manufacturing and green energy.

Herrera, hewing closely to the national party’s message, maintained that the answer to the nation’s economic woes are sharp reductions in federal spending and federal regulations.

The Herrera campaign dug up Heck’s legislative votes on taxes and spending from the early 1980s to paint him as a tax-and-spend liberal who would do House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s bidding. Heck’s campaign demanded to know where precisely Herrera would cut the federal budget.

Herrera attended Prairie High School and the University of Washington and worked as a White House intern and for U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, then returned to Clark County in the fall of 2007 to seek appointment to an open seat in the 18th District. She was elected to a two-year term in 2008.

Heck served in the Legislature from 1976 to 1985 and became House majority leader. He served as chief of staff to Democratic Gov. Booth Gardner and co-founded TVW, the public affairs television channel based in Olympia, his home for the past 25 years. Over the past decade, He has founded and invested in several successful businesses.

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Heck put $350,000 of his own money into the race. He said from the beginning that he knew it was going to be a tough race.

In an interview Monday, Herrera said she looked forward to serving in the majority party in the House.

With President Barack Obama, a Democrat, in the White House, “There’s going to be balance, and that’s a good thing,” she said.