Voters in the 3rd Congressional District may be disappointed if they opt to attend the last forum before Election Day between Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, and Democrat Carolyn Long.
The forum is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in Goldendale, but some may be surprised to learn that the forum is not limited to Herrera Beutler and Long.
In fact, 19 candidates will be given time to introduce themselves and maybe answer a question or two. The candidates include hopefuls for Klickitat county assessor, sheriff, the 14th Legislative District and U.S. Congress — and seven candidates who are running unopposed. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and her Republican opponent, Susan Hutchison, are also listed, though they are not expected to attend.
Voters in Clark County — the population center of the 3rd Congressional District — went without a public candidate forum or debate this election cycle. Hundreds traveled north to Woodland for a forum last month that overwhelmed the venue, but with several cancellations by the incumbent, the only other opportunity to see Herrera Beutler and Long in person together is in Goldendale.
The exposure promises to be limited. The forum will give each candidate an opportunity to speak for three minutes and spend two minutes answering questions, if candidates are asked any by the audience.
The Goldendale Grange Hall will be limited to 100 people, and the fire marshal will reportedly be in attendance to ensure the crowd size doesn’t exceed the building’s maximum occupancy, according to a Long campaign staffer who spoke with the event’s organizer, Lucille Bevis. Bevis did not return requests for more information by The Columbian in advance of the forum.
Based on advertising for the forum, candidates were added in the week before the event. Earlier this month, the invitation included 10 races and 16 candidates. The current billing shows 13 races and 19 candidates being represented.
Herrera Beutler’s campaign spokesperson Angeline Riesterer said they had heard there may be other races featured but were unaware of the scale.
“We weren’t aware of how many candidates would attend when she accepted, but Jaime still plans to participate Wednesday,” Riesterer said. “Jaime accepted all of the forums and debates that worked in her schedule.”
This is the first time Herrera Beutler will participate in this specific forum held in Goldendale, Riesterer said.
Long was also unaware that the event would feature candidates other than herself and Herrera Beutler.
With 19 candidates expected on stage, plus campaign staffers and members of the organizing group attending, room inside the venue for voters is limited. Half the room’s capacity could be filled by staff alone. Overflow options for the venue are unknown.
The organizer reportedly is upset that people from outside Klickitat County are expected to attend.
The Klickitat County Republican Party took it a step further and sent out an email Tuesday warning its membership that “buses from Portland are rolling in for candidate night.” The email obtained by The Columbian states that the party intends to make sure law enforcement is present because “we can’t allow ourselves to be out-organized by outsiders.”
The email also encourages local Republicans to show up early and fill the room, preventing voters from the rest of the 3rd Congressional District from attending due to the size constraints of the building.
“Let me be clear: my campaign is not organizing buses of people from Portland to come to this event, and I’m disappointed to see the local Republican Party spreading false rumors,” Long said. “I’m going to Goldendale Wednesday night to do what I’ve done at every single one of my 41 town halls — meet with my future constituents and answer their questions, regardless of what party they belong to.”