Carolyn Long, a Democrat who in 2018 lost the most competitive race in Washington’s 3rd Congressional District in nearly a decade, is looking once more to unseat the incumbent.
Long is announcing her campaign to run for U.S. Congress today in a series of three kickoff events across the district.
In an interview with The Columbian on Sunday ahead of her campaign announcement, she said the focus of Long 2.0 is largely the same as the last time around. She wants to talk about kitchen table issues, including the cost of prescription drugs and replacing the Interstate 5 Bridge.
She also wants to talk about the accessibility of politicians, or lack thereof — in 2018, she pointedly made town halls a cornerstone of her campaign in an attempt to draw contrast with the incumbent, who rarely appears in town hall meetings.
“We’re going to run this race like we did last time, which is how we want to run it,” Long said. “To have as much voter outreach as possible, to not get mired in what the loudest Democrat in the room might be talking about, but talking about the needs and issues that people in Southwest Washington care about.”
That means health care, infrastructure and education, she said. In that order.
“The first priority has to be health care. It’s the No. 1 issue that I hear about, either from families who are struggling because they can’t pay for prescription drugs, or it’s those who are struggling because of the high cost of health insurance,” Long said.
She said she supports expanding coverage under the Affordable Care Act to protect people with pre-existing conditions.
“After that, we ought to pursue a low-deductible public option, allowing people to buy health insurance directly from their government,” Long said. She said she doesn’t support single-payer health care programs that would eliminate private insurance companies.
She’s also running on expanding broadband access in rural areas, calling it the next crucial step in expanding infrastructure.
“We need to invest in broadband like we invested in our public highways in the ’50s, because broadband provides education access to many people who aren’t leaving the rural areas. It opens up markets to small businesses who then will be able to get their goods out,” Long said. “I think we ought to treat it as such.”
Her platform includes expanding university alternatives, such as internship and apprenticeship programs, as well as eliminating interest on student loans for college students.
She also touched on the environment, criticizing the federal administration’s push to roll back regulations safeguarding public land and water.
“We need to overall decrease our reliance on fossil fuels,” Long said. “How we do it and how quickly we do it is open for debate.”
Long also revived her 2018 pledge not to accept campaign donations from corporate Political Action Committees. Peter Khalil, a Democrat and mediator also running for the seat, has made the same promise.
A Long shot?
In 2018, Long posed the first real challenge to the incumbent, Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, since the congresswoman was first elected in 2010. Herrera Beutler had never won less than 60 percent of the vote in a general election.
That year, Long, a Washington State University Vancouver professor and political newcomer, came away with 47.3 percent to Herrera Beutler’s 52.7 percent. Long jokes that the campaign’s margin was a surprise to everyone but her.
“We were able to take an incumbent who has won by 20 to 23 points and cut it down to just a couple of points, and I see that as a success in and of itself,” Long said.
Of course, 2020 isn’t 2018. This time around, Long wields name recognition — voters have seen her on a ballot before. She’s also starting her campaign much earlier. Last time, Long didn’t announce her bid for Congress until the December before the election.
And the confidence that buoyed her through the last election cycle appears very much intact.
“There is an impression that it is a red district, but I think it is a competitive district,” Long said.
The National Republican Congressional Committee and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee apparently agree. Both groups have highlighted Washington’s 3rd District as one to watch in 2020. In April, the NRCC listed Herrera Beutler’s seat as one of the eight most vulnerable in the country. Earlier this year, the DCCC put the district on it’s list of 33 potential Republican-held “targets.”
In the interview, Long seemed to take the inevitable spotlight in stride — “there will be national eyes on this race. There are on a lot of races,” she said, dismissing the idea that the area is too solidly conservative to actually elect a Democrat.
Prior to Herrera Beutler’s election in 2010, Long said, the district had flipped between Democrat and Republican representatives a few times. A redrawing of districts in 2010 pulled some blue areas of Thurston County out of the 3rd District and formed a more solidly Republican district. But she said she believes the region’s voters are more practical than political.
“When I am out in the community as I am so much, talking to voters, I talk about how I’m a problem solver, and that I’m interested in working with Republicans, and that many issues that face people in Southwest Washington — like infrastructure and lowering the cost of prescription drugs — shouldn’t be partisan issues,” Long said.
“I’d say we are fiercely independent.”