This year, the incumbent in the 3rd Congressional District race didn’t throw herself an election night party. But Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, took her usual position as the front-runner after Tuesday’s election results were released.
Meanwhile, several hundred people packed into the Luepke Center hoping Democratic challenger Carolyn Long would be successful in her upset bid. The energy was palpable as Long supporters awaited the first round of election results.
With 221,270 votes counted districtwide, Herrera Beutler ended Tuesday with 52.25 percent of the vote, to Long’s 47.75 percent, a lead of 10,000 votes.
When the results first trickled in, Long was in the lead, if only for a moment. The challenger won Clark County — as expected — with 51.79 percent of the vote. But she lost Cowlitz, Klickitat, Lewis, Pacific, Skamania, Thurston and Wahkiakum counties. Clark County makes up about two-thirds of the district’s population.
This race was one of three in Washington poised to flip and part of the House shift nationally.
In Washington’s 5th District, Democrat Lisa Brown trails Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, by nearly 12 percent. The 8th District tells a different story, where Democrat Kim Schrier leads Republican Dino Rossi by 6 percent.
Back at Long’s party, the mood noticeably dampened as it was clear Herrera Beutler would end Tuesday night in the lead. As she addressed the crowd, Long attempted to re-energize her supporters and remind everyone it’s still anyone’s game.
The Washington Secretary of State estimates another 84,167 ballots are left to count in the 3rd Congressional District.
“We’re down by about 10,000 votes. But we’re fighting hard to the finish,” Long said. “We probably won’t know until Thursday, so we have a hard couple of days ahead of us.”
Herrera Beutler didn’t host or attend a party this year, but instead opted for a post-results appearance at the Clark County Public Service Center to speak with the media and on local government channel CVTV.
She said she wasn’t surprised by the initial results and acknowledged the race isn’t yet over.
“I did feel like this first blush was going to be indicative of where people are trending, and so for it to be where it is right now, I’m pretty humble,” Herrera Beutler said.
Regardless of the final outcome, the 2018 3rd District congressional race stood out. As Herrera Beutler worked to defeat her challenger — something she’s done easily since taking office in 2011 — the nation took notice.
For the first time, Southwest Washington’s representative had a well-funded challenger in Long.
In the primary, Herrera Beutler led Long by nearly 7 percentage points. But the pool was seven candidates deep, and the party-line split was less than 2 percent favoring Republicans. To further complicate any predictions, Long won Clark County in the primary. The only thing that was clear heading into Election Day was that the vote would be close.
By and large, this race came down to communication and a perceived lack thereof. Herrera Beutler is continuously criticized for not showing up in public in the district she represents and being available to her constituents.
That criticism became the bedrock for Long’s campaign. By Election Day, Long had held 45 town halls across the district.
“I’ve heard your concerns about your hopes for the future,” Long said to her supporters after reviewing initial returns. “You want us to solve problems. You want us to put people over politics.”
When asked what stood out for her in this campaign, Herrera Beutler cited Long’s fundraising. Long out-earned Herrera Beutler by $1.2 million.
“That’s a ton of money,” Herrera Beutler said. “I think that’s what allowed my opponent to really get her name ID up.”
If she successfully retains her seat, Herrera Beutler said, she plans to follow the tradition she’s upheld each term: meet with her team and strategize how to better serve the district.
“I think this one will probably yield a lot of new ideas,” she said. Nothing specific, however, came to mind in the moment, she said. Herrera Beutler does plan to continue work on local issues, she said, including opposing freeway tolls in Oregon, fighting against single-payer health care and boosting the economy.
Long said that regardless of the outcome she too plans a postmortem to see what her campaign did well and what could be improved.
“I think that it was a hard-fought race, and I’m proud of the way we ran it,” Long said. “Even in these troubled times, I can look in the mirror and know that I ran the type of campaign that I should.”
But Long promised former Democratic Rep. Brian Baird that she would take back his seat, and she said it’s a promise she intends to keep.
“I would not have put in this much effort if I was going to stop after tonight,” Long said.