Representatives should not hide from their constituents in the ivory towers of Washington, D.C.
Author and podcaster Heidi St. John, R-Battle Ground, said she was spurred to run for Washington’s 3rd Congressional District based on this notion. She says the incumbent, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, has become disconnected from voters in the region.
St. John, who announced her candidacy in February 2021, said the correct solutions for Southwest Washington residents are found in local town halls — not from across the country. St. John’s campaign priorities span from addressing what she calls “indoctrination” in public schools to expressing oneself without censorship.
The candidate made headway with these talking points; she raised more than $800,000 — placing her in third in campaign funding. St. John is behind only Joe Kent, R-Yacolt, who raised $1.8 million and the incumbent, who sits on $2.8 million, according to the Federal Elections Commission.
St. John, a self-described conservative Christian, faced blowback for not fulfilling her pledge to drop out of the congressional race when one of the Republican candidates received an endorsement from Donald Trump. Although Kent gained the former president’s backing in September, St. John remained resolute in her campaigning.
“I discovered that Joe Kent is not a conservative, so I stayed in the race,” she said.
Her declaration noted Kent’s previous registration as a Democrat in Multnomah County, Ore., where he voted for Bernie Sanders in the 2020 primary. Kent previously told The Columbian this was a tactic to sway who the Democratic candidate would be in the general election and did not represent his political beliefs.
St. John said she did not find credibility in Kent’s explanation and, even if it was true, her challenger’s “Operation Chaos” scheme was disingenuous.
“If you’re running as a conservative, you should have a record of conservativism, especially when you’re talking about Congress,” she said.
Questioning government involvement
Curbing federal government overreach is foundational in St. John’s campaign.
St. John said she supports steering classroom instruction away from topics surrounding gender identity and orientation, as well as racism in America — commonly referred to as “critical race theory.” The subject matter is unpopular for highlighting systemic racism and white privilege. Its opponents, including St. John, insist the teachings are “socially engineering” students.
She said the Department of Education, an agency that determines education policy and federal assistance, has too much authority in schools. St. John, who home-schooled her seven children, said parents should have an influence on their child’s curriculum.
“I don’t see the focus on education,” St. John said. “I see the focus is on social issues, which isn’t the job of the school. The job of the school is to teach the kids how to think, not what to think.”
Washington school districts maintain that critical race theory is not taught in its classrooms. Challengers, on the other hand, connect falsely purported mandates to the state’s approved Senate Bill 5044, which requires school staff to participate in diversity, equity and inclusion training. St. John also opposes these training measures.
Similarly, she said the government has too much control in medical matters. St. John fervently points to COVID-19 mask and vaccine mandates as a violation of individual rights. The sentiment makes an appearance in a variety of the candidate’s videos, social media posts and campaign gear — one of which features the slogan, “I tested positive for freedom” and is embellished with an American flag.
St. John previously wrote that she would support efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, as well as other policies concerning the restriction of reproductive health care.
Security, energy independence
As encampments continue to appear along streets and rights of way, St. John said that way of living endangers both those experiencing houselessness and other residents. The candidate said supporting programs that address mental health and substance abuse are integral for reducing homelessness; even so, she added, the onus is on the individual to help themselves.
“I believe that when we call it homelessness, by and large, these are people who are choosing to live this way,” St. John continued. “Not everyone, but a lot of them are choosing to live this way.”
The candidate said residents and businesses are at risk of property damage and other consequences because of the absence of political will to strengthen law enforcement. “Taking the teeth” from police only results in rising crime rates, St. John said, where homelessness is a prevailing component.
There needs to be a reduction in federal spending and an emphasis on addressing the country’s debt, she said.
St. John added that environmental stewardship has led to regressive results for logging communities that rely on timber exports. The country must focus on becoming energy independent and strengthening the economy by investing in extracting resources, such as timber, and drilling domestically, she said.
Altogether, the candidate wants to find solutions to make people to want to stay in the region, whether it’s challenging education policies or environmental measures.
“My fourth grandchild is going to be due on the Fourth of July,” St. John said. “I want them to want to live here, to stay here and raise a family here.”