Monday, January 17, 2022
Jan. 17, 2022

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From the Newsroom: 3rd race called for a plan, and then a 2nd

By , Columbian Editor

Their faces and voices are everywhere: “I’m Jaime Herrera Beutler, and I approved this message.” “I’m Carolyn Long …” You can’t watch more than two minutes of the TV news without seeing at least one of their (in my opinion, annoying) ads.

But you won’t be seeing these candidates live, in person, together in Clark County. Although both candidates live here, in what is by far the most populous county of the 3rd Congressional District, somehow they couldn’t agree on a time, date or place to meet with voters. (For more on that, and who is blaming whom, look for Katy Sword’s front-page Sunday story.)

So that’s how a group of us in the newsroom ended up around the table pondering a trip to Goldendale, one of two places the candidates were actually going to be seen together in public.

At first, I was lukewarm about making such a long road trip. We understood that the candidates would appear at a forum — not really a debate — on Wednesday night at a local grange hall. Was it worth driving 250 miles round-trip to hear what they had to say? Would it be substantially different than their other joint appearance in Woodland last month? What was the likelihood that they would make any actual news?

We could do a whole lot of reporting on other stories during the full day that would have to be dedicated to this one story.

But I was convinced by reporter Katy Sword, who covers the race for us, and editors Mark Bowder, Amy Libby and Amanda Cowan. They noted the public interest: The Woodland crowd had overflowed, and many had to be turned away. Even if the candidates just repeated their talking points, a lot of people are interested.

OK, I was in. In fact, we decided to send photographer Nathan Howard and web editor Libby with Sword. If the cell-tower coverage was good, we’d try to stream the event live on social media so people in Clark County, and the four other counties where they won’t be appearing, could actually see them together.

That plan blew up on Tuesday afternoon when we found out that Long and Herrera Beutler were set to share the event with 17 other candidates, and that everyone would be limited to a three-minute introduction, possibly followed by questions.

Once again, was it worth dedicating our resources? Sword is also covering the Vancouver City Council race, and she’d love to write an in-depth story about contenders Laurie Lebowsky and Sarah Fox, both of whom are outstanding candidates with backgrounds in land-use planning. Vancouver voters would really benefit from knowing where these two agree and disagree, and who has the most vision for our city.

In the end, we made the trip, though we decided against sending Libby for what might have been only two three-minute live streams. Sword and Howard ended up with a good story — the organizers ended up showcasing the race, and put it first on the program, which helped with our print deadline. The cell-tower coverage was good, so they transmitted our photos and the story without having to drive to The Dalles, Ore. After eating dinner at a local cafe with a special “deep fried” menu, they got home about 11 p.m.

We still got that Vancouver City Council story in today’s paper. But it sure is easier to cover a race when both candidates agree to meet voters face-to-face in Clark County, instead of relying on TV ads.