The Democrats are up for a challenge. After suffering a significant loss in the 2016 election, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is targeting local districts that can make a difference. Washington’s 3rd District, held by Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, is one of 59 seats it has targeted as a first-wave priority. The 8th District seat, held by David Reichert, R-Auburn, is also listed. But Reichert announced last month he will not seek re-election for an eighth term. Southwest Washington’s representative on the other hand is running as an incumbent, in a race where no strong challenger has emerged.
Three Democratic challengers have announced their intent to run so far: Dorothy Gasque, Peter Harrison and David McDevitt.
“They’re good people but it’s going to take a lot to unseat Jaime,” said Rich Rogers, Clark County Democratic Central Committee Chair.
Not only is running a congressional campaign a full-time job, Rogers said, but it takes significant funding.
“That’s a big challenge in finding local candidates,” he said.
Looking toward 2018, the Democratic Party as a whole needs to reconnect with voters, something Rogers said they learned the hard way with Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
“We need to reestablish that truth and that faith,” he said. “I think Jaime Herrera Beutler is terrible, there’s people in her own party that hate her. And the antics of (President Donald) Trump right now, I suspect it’s going to help us a lot.”
Rogers suspects the 2018 election will be a referendum on Trump. The election could also set the party up for success in 2020 when the census and redistricting occurs. A Democratic incumbent is a necessary piece to that puzzle.
“I would suspect we’re going to see a shrinking of our congressional district … which would benefit the Democrats,” he said.
But there’s another hurdle local Democrats face. With three names already tossed in the ring for District 3 — and at least four others contemplating a run, according to Rogers — voters could find themselves fatigued when the primary rolls around.
“With our top two style of election, we could have two Republicans on the ballot,” Rogers said if voters are too overwhelmed with choices and no Democratic candidate receives enough votes. Although he suspects if a strong frontrunner appeared, others would drop out to give the party its best chance.
Rogers said there’s one potential filer who would make a strong candidate but was mum on their name.
Jim Moeller, for example, is the type of candidate that could be successful. Moeller ran against Herrera Beutler in 2016, and served as a representative for the 49th district from 2003 to 2016. He has name recognition, and his website merely states “Stay tuned for the next chapter … ” but Moeller’s campaign manager Janet James said he won’t run against Herrera Beutler again.
“We’ve talked about it and that’s not anything that I think he has a desire to do again, at least in the very near future,” James said. “It’s a tough race to run against that much money.”
James said with enough campaign funding, it’s possible a Democrat could unseat Herrera Beutler, “but you’re going to have to be a person that’s going to have a good base to raise money. Sadly that’s where it is.”
Rogers thinks Herrera Beutler’s lack of regular town hall meetings gives Democrats an advantage.
“Make no mistake she’s well-funded, (has) a lot of money, but I think the voters are ready for change,” he said. “They want true representation. They feel Jaime doesn’t represent us, she represents a small sliver of her constituency.”
Herrera Beutler said she’s focused on getting results and protecting opportunity for her constituents.
“The people of Southwest Washington can and should review my track record when they mark their ballots next November — the every-two-years performance review comes with the job,” Herrera Beutler said. “I look forward to a good campaign.”