Year after year, the League of Women Voters of Clark County has tried to organize a 3rd Congressional District candidate debate. The group’s attempts have once again failed.
The league announced Monday that it was canceling a scheduled October debate between Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, and Democratic challenger Carolyn Long because Herrera Beutler never responded to their inquiries.
“The Columbian informed us about her decision not to participate,” the League said in a press release announcing the cancellation.
The Columbian reported earlier this month that Herrera Beutler said she would not attend the Oct. 16 debate. Long had already agreed to attend and asked for the League to provide a debate format with a professional moderator, to which the League had agreed.
“We believe that it is important for voters to see both candidates together,” said Judy Hudson and Susan Fleming, Voter Service co-chairs for LWVCC in an email to both campaigns prior to cancelation. “It demonstrates how prepared candidates are, what experiences and goals they have and how they think on their feet.”
Hudson said they have tried to build a relationship with Herrera Beutler and her campaign “and bent (over) backwards to present to her that our forums are safe and support voter education. She did not react.”
She characterized the limited communications with staff as polite but evasive.
Given there were six challengers seeking Herrera Beutler’s seat this year, Hudson said the League opted to move forward with a primary forum and continued to encourage the representative to participate. Hudson said she sent emails from January to May inviting Herrera Beutler to pick a date and state any concerns.
“With no communication, one does not know why the person does not want to participate,” Hudson said.
She received her “one and only communication with Jaime” just before the July forum stating Herrera Beutler would not attend.
“My experience has been that most congressional politicians want to be available to their constituents and know how to handle different situations,” Hudson said. “I am stymied by her reluctance.”
Responding to the news that the debate is canceled, Herrera Beutler’s spokeswoman Angeline Riesterer said, “Unfortunately, that date didn’t work for Jaime, but we are looking forward to our second and third debates scheduled this week and another in October.”
Herrera Beutler and Long will participate in the first of three scheduled forums at noon Tuesday at the Oak Tree Restaurant in Woodland. The second will be recorded by CVTV on Tuesday and available to stream online. The third is in Goldendale on Oct. 17, the day after the League’s proposed debate.
“I’m disappointed my opponent continues to dodge a real, meaningful debate with an opportunity for us to discuss the issues concerning families of Southwest Washington,” Long said in a press release. “Our campaign will move forward with an event at the same date and time so that the voters of our district have the opportunity to hear how at least one of the candidates for Congress plans to solve the challenges they’re facing.”
Long’s campaign plans to host its own town hall style debate for Long and Herrera Beutler to replace the League’s event. Details of the proposed event are not yet available, but Long’s campaign seeks an opportunity for both candidates to “take questions from voters and have the opportunity to rebut one another after their responses.”