Two days before Election Day, five-term Republican U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler and Democratic challenger Carolyn Long are on the offensive. More than $1 million in outside spending poured into the race in October, manifesting as attack ads and mailers.
Long, a political science professor at Washington State University Vancouver, ran against Herrera Beutler in 2018; she lost by 5 percentage points.
In the interest of divesting from race-horse election coverage, The Columbian presents summaries of where each candidate stands on major issues. Each summary includes recent, on-the-record comments from the candidate outlining her stance and additional context or fact-checking when relevant.
Environment and climate change
Herrera Beutler: President Donald Trump made the right decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord in 2017, she said, adding that the agreement imposed a disproportionate burden on America compared with China.
“I’m not going to support agreements either at home or internationally that are going to be paid for on the backs of working-class citizens,” she said in an Oct. 23 interview with KGW-TV. She said she backs the USE IT Act, which aids in the development of carbon-capture technology. “I won’t support a carbon tax on the American workers,” she said.
Long: “I think it was a mistake for us to yield our position of leadership when we withdrew from the Paris climate accord, and I think it’s something that we should rejoin,” Long said during an Oct. 8 debate. She was also critical of rollbacks to environmental protection laws under Trump’s administration. “I’ll be a steward for our climate by focusing on bipartisan legislation that will actually address the climate crisis,” Long said. “I won’t pit our environment protections against jobs.” She said she did not support Washington’s 2018 carbon tax proposal, and that “we shouldn’t move toward taxes and fees” as a way of stemming climate change. She said she wants to develop more jobs in the clean-energy sector.
The record: Herrera Beutler occasionally crosses party lines to maintain environmental regulations (notably last year, when she voted to ban oil drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and in the eastern Gulf of Mexico). In 2017, she voted to postpone implementing pieces of the Clean Air Act, and voted to repeal a rule requiring oil and gas companies to reduce emissions. Rankings from the League of Conservation Voters, which tracks how often lawmakers cast votes that benefit the environment, gives the congresswoman a 10 percent lifetime rating, and a 24 percent rating last year (the House average is 56 percent). The league endorsed Long in February.
Interstate 5 Bridge replacement
Long: Is critical of Herrera Beutler for failing to get the I-5 Bridge replacement project funded. She points to rising construction costs that make the project much more expensive now than it would have been had the Columbia River Crossing project not disintegrated in 2014. “The more important question is, why hasn’t this been fixed in 10 years?” she told KGW-TV in an Oct. 23 interview. She added that she doesn’t support tolling to pay for the bridge. “I’ve never supported tolling on the I-5 Bridge. My record is very clear on that.” If elected, she said she’d work to attract federal infrastructure dollars.
Herrera Beutler: The Columbia River Crossing was a bad plan, Herrera Beutler said in an interview with KOIN-TV. “They were going to build it too low, and they were also going to put light rail on it, which is something Clark County didn’t want,” she said. In August, Herrera Beutler wrote a public letter to the project’s new administrator and pledged to work toward appropriating federal gas tax funding for a new I-5 bridge. “The project, like the CRC, will fail if one state dictates to the other, or if transportation officials only pay lip service to stakeholders’ concerns while making decisions behind closed doors,” she wrote in the letter.
Also, she strongly opposes a proposal that would collect tolls from motorists using Portland-area freeways, including Clark County commuters, to fund Oregon transportation projects.
Fact check: Was the proposed bridge replacement too low? Initially, yes, but the Coast Guard in 2013 issued a bridge permit after the bridge was redesigned to be 21 feet taller.
Health care and insurance
Herrera Beutler: Since 2011 she has joined House Republicans dozens of times and voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act. She says she wants to maintain health insurance coverage for people with preexisting medical conditions. “A passion of mine is health care,” she said during a meeting with The Columbian’s Editorial Board in August. “My oldest child has a kidney transplant. She will forever be a part of the health care system. She has a preexisting condition. I get my health insurance off the ACA. I would never vote to strip her or any person in my district’s access to health care.” She pointed to a bill she co-sponsored in 2019 that would protect preexisting condition coverage if the ACA is overturned (the bill never advanced to a vote). She denounces Long’s position, claiming the Democrat had previously championed a “Medicare for All” plan.
Long: The top priority of Long’s platform in both 2018 and 2020 has been shoring up the protections offered under the Affordable Care Act and creating a public health insurance option. She told The Columbian’s Editorial Board: “The framework that I use to address health care is, try to get health care coverage for as many people as possible as quickly as possible while maintaining the element of choice, and with an eye toward affordability. That has always been my position,” Long said. “If somebody chooses to do so, they can buy government-provided health insurance … if you don’t want to do it, you don’t have to do it.” She’s critical of Republicans’ sustained efforts to repeal the ACA. “It protects tens of millions of Americans with preexisting conditions,” Long said. “They’ve brought that issue to the courts in the middle of a global pandemic.”
The record: Herrera Beutler voted to repeal or amend the ACA more than 80 times over the last decade. She’s focused on piecemeal maternal and prenatal health legislation, as with her MOMS Act, which encouraged states to extend Medicaid coverage for new mothers up to one year postpartum. In December, she was one of two Republicans to split from her party and vote for a prescription drug pricing bill championed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
Fact check: Ads from Herrera Beutler’s campaign claim that Long supported “Medicare for All” during her first run for Congress. The ads cite a June 2018 interview with The (Longview) Daily News, when Long said she’d vote for a “Medicare for All” bill if Democrats won control of Congress.
“I think the way to address the health care crisis as quickly as possible given the climate that we’re in is to repair the ACA and the damage that’s been done by the Trump administration as a starting point,” Long told The Daily News. “You should look at my (position) within the context of who’s in control of the White House, and the Democrats’ relative control in Congress. It’s viable because it has bipartisan support in Congress.”
Long has since said that the Herrera Beutler campaign took her 2018 quote out of context. She’s reiterated her position on a universal single-payer plan — she doesn’t support it — in multiple public forums over the course of her current campaign.
National politics and Trump
Long: Voted for Joe Biden. The Democratic nominee also endorsed her bid for Congress. Long doesn’t discuss Trump frequently, though she’ll criticize the president on certain points, like when she issued a statement denouncing a controversial statement from Trump in the first presidential debate. “The president called on white supremacist groups to ‘Stand back, and stand by’ rather than take an opportunity handed to him to denounce hatred in these difficult times. This has to stop now,” Long said.
In December, Long also issued a statement on Trump’s impeachment: “The voters expect us to have a basic sense of right and wrong and to always put the interests of our country ahead of petty politics. After taking the time to review the facts, evidence, and articles of impeachment, I can say that if I were in Congress today — having taken an oath to uphold the Constitution — I would vote for the articles of impeachment,” Long said.
Herrera Beutler: Voted for Trump this year. That’s a departure from what she said 2016, when she said “I refuse to accept this is the best we can do” and wrote in then-House Speaker Paul Ryan for president. In June, Herrera Beutler said in a PBS interview that she measures Trump’s comments on a “cringe meter.” “Do I think the way the president presents his ideas or his opinions is appropriate? Not always,” Herrera Beutler said. But she said that the president’s tax policy and hard-line stance against China make him a better leader for the country.
In December 2019, she voted against the two articles of impeachment accusing the president of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, citing lack of evidence. “They had to prove it. They didn’t even come close,” Herrera Beutler said. “To me, it felt like it turned into a political weapon for one party to take out a president they didn’t like.”
Long: Says she’d seek to replace the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. In an Oct. 15 interview with KOIN-TV, she said the bill disproportionately benefited corporations and the wealthy, and added $2 trillion to the national deficit “Our tax reform should instead prioritize tax cuts for small businesses and working families.” She was echoing what she told The Columbian’s Editorial Board in August: “Trickle-down economics has never worked historically,” Long said. “What we saw big corporations do, and the biggest beneficiaries of the tax bill, was buy back stocks and give dividends to their shareholders.”
Herrera Beutler: Is a strong proponent of the 2017 tax bill. She sparred with The Columbian’s Editorial Board over the topic, and claimed that the cuts were already starting to pay for themselves before the coronavirus pandemic sank the economy.
“The reality is we were seeing that come back into the economy,” Herrera Beutler said. “We were bringing in more in tax receipts, hundreds of millions of dollars — it had started.” She points to data from the U.S. Department of the Treasury indicating that the cuts increased average annual household income by an estimated $4,000.
Fact check: According to a report from the Congressional Budget Office, the bill is expected to increase the projected national deficit by $1.9 trillion between 2018 and 2028. The same (pre-pandemic) report also estimated that the tax cuts would add 1.1 million jobs over the decade.
Herrera Beutler: Is focusing her efforts on restoring the Paycheck Protection Program, which offers emergency loans to businesses that can be forgiven if the business maintains its payroll. The PPP expired in August, and she has been trying to force a standalone House vote to extend it. (Congress is currently adjourned.) She called the program “a bridge for almost 9,500 small businesses in Southwest Washington alone,” adding “if we fail to extend it immediately, it will have been a bridge to nowhere because small businesses remain on the brink of survival.” Herrera Beutler also joined her House colleagues in a unanimous March voice vote to pass the CARES Act, which sent direct relief checks of $1,200 to every adult citizen.
Long: Released an overarching pandemic recovery plan in September. The 17-page document focuses on health care (highlighting her aforementioned Affordable Care Act plus public option proposal), infrastructure and emergency unemployment aid. It also takes a broader view on rebuilding the economy, and proposes a graduated $15 federal minimum wage, expansion of the Child Care Development Block Grant program and guaranteed paid sick leave.
“We have people still talking about a CARES Act that was passed five months ago. Congress hasn’t done its job,” Long told The Columbian at the time.