Blom is on the primary election ballot as an independent candidate. He’s facing a challenger to the left, as well as one to the right — Karen Bowerman, who’s been formally endorsed by the Clark County Republican Party. Her husband, Earl Bowerman, also serves as chair of the county GOP.
Blom and Clark County Republican Party officials have clashed for years. The party voted to oppose Blom’s 2016 election bid. Last year, he criticized party leadership’s decision to elect a man with a criminal record — Dan Clark, convicted of sneaking into a 15-year-old girl’s bedroom and giving her alcohol — to a committee chair position. And in February, Blom accused the county GOP of narrowing its appeal when it invited Rep. Matt Shea, a controversial far-right lawmaker from Spokane, to emcee an event.
“I think the local party leadership tends to lean further right than a lot of people who consider themselves Republicans, who consistently vote Republican,” Blom said.
“I don’t think that’s unique to the Republican Party,” he added. “We see very extreme ideas being proposed on both sides, and I think that’s pulled people away from good governance.”
Earl Bowerman did not respond to The Columbian’s request for comment.
Room on the right
The Clark County Republican Party also snubbed Sen. Ann Rivers, a four-term incumbent in Washington’s 18th Legislative District.
The organization is instead backing her primary challenger, John Ley, a candidate who swings further to the right on some issues. It’s the only local race in which the county’s formal Republican Party is actively rooting against an incumbent Republican state lawmaker.
Rivers said in an email that the county GOP’s decision wasn’t a surprise, given her support of Blom. There’s room in the Republican Party for more than one faction, she wrote, and the views represented by the party’s organized leadership don’t necessarily represent average GOP voters.
“I think the rank-and-file precinct committee officers do try their best to be attentive to the needs of the communities they represent. Their work to try and help elect conservative-minded people is important,” Rivers wrote.
She also does not believe in mandates that require people to wear face masks. That decision, Kraft said, should be left up to the individual.
“We need to remember, the number of positive cases does not equal the number of deaths, not even close,” Kraft said. “We need to be making decisions based on truth, not fear.”
Kraft’s positions drew approval from the county party, which formally endorsed her campaign on July 21.
The elephant in the room
U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, the five-term, moderate Republican from Battle Ground, has always walked a political tightrope when it comes to Trump.
Herrera Beutler keeps her distance from the polarizing president. She conspicuously did not vote for him in 2016, instead writing in the then-speaker of the house, moderate Republican Rep. Paul Ryan.
On the whole, Herrera Beutler’s district was friendlier to Trump, and he won Washington’s 3rd by 7.4 percentage points. But in Clark County, the district’s most populous county, Trump narrowly lost; Hillary Clinton beat him by 316 votes.
In a written statement to The Columbian last week, Herrera Beutler did not answer a question about whom she’ll vote for in the upcoming presidential race.
She said she doesn’t think Joe Biden, a former vice president and the presumptive Democratic nominee, would make a good president. She praised Trump for his hard-line stance against China, and credited his administration with an economy that pre-pandemic “was doing better than at any point the last 10 years.” But she stopped short of saying she’ll vote for Trump.
“This district did vote for Trump in 2016, so I think it’s important to acknowledge the desires of folks in this region,” Herrera Beutler said. “All that said, I wish he would stop tweeting. It’s not helping.”
Over the past four years, Herrera Beutler has repeated in interviews that she works to find common ground with Trump where she can and criticizes him when it’s deserved, just as she did when Democrat Barack Obama was president.
In a recent interview on a PBS talk show, “Firing Line with Margaret Hoover,” Herrera Beutler said she’s grown accustomed to gauging Trump’s comments on a “cringemeter.”
“Do I think the way the president presents his ideas or his opinions is appropriate? Not always,” Herrera Beutler told Hoover.
Rivers, like Herrera Beutler, declined to answer the question.
“Even as an elected official, I still get to vote in the privacy of my own home, just like everyone else,” Rivers said.