Friday, March 31, 2023
March 31, 2023

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Jayne: What’s next for Temple Lentz?

By , Columbian Opinion Page Editor

Is Temple Lentz running for Congress?

The question is direct. So is the answer.

“In 2022? Anyone getting into that race less than a year before the election is not a serious candidate,” Lentz writes in an email.

But there is more.

“I know that answer may inspire a follow-up, so to head that off: In 2024? That’s a long way off,” she adds.

Lentz, who has served one term on the Clark County Council, is not seeking reelection to that, um, er, esteemed body. As the only Democrat on the five-member council, it is understandable if she is weary of fighting uphill battles.

“It has been a rare opportunity and a great honor to represent the people of Clark County’s District 1, as well as to meet and talk with community members and business leaders from outside the district who saw me as someone on the council who was interested in representing their concerns,” she wrote on Facebook, announcing the decision.

The guess is that District 1 will remain in Democratic hands. It is the council’s urban district, and Lentz won her seat with 60 percent of the vote. It’s also likely that the rest of the council will remain Republican, whether or not that council is successful in gerrymandering a new map.

All of which is interesting — yet relatively unimportant. Because Lentz’s departure from the council adds a larger question to the intrigue surrounding the race for Washington’s 3rd Congressional District. So forgive us for a moment while we wildly speculate.

Republican Jaime Herrera Beutler, of course, is the incumbent. She was first elected in 2010, and she has proven to be a formidable candidate because she is a thoughtful and hardworking representative. But she also has been willing to ruffle the feathers of her own party, or at least its radical wing.

You know, by doing things such as voting to impeach a president for trying to overthrow the government. That seems like a reasonable position to take, but for some people it means Herrera Beutler is not Republican enough.

According to Ballotpedia, five Republicans have announced that they will challenge Herrera Beutler. The list includes state Rep. Vicki Kraft, Heidi St. John and Joe Kent — all of whom have claimed the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump. Common sense, apparently, is not a prerequisite for a congressional run.

Kent, in particular, has done an impressive job of generating attention. He frequently appears on national TV and local radio shows, spouting right-wing doctrine and conspiracy theories. And there are plenty of lawn signs in the area that reflect the traction he is gaining.

Meanwhile, five Democrats have announced they intend to challenge Herrera Beutler. None of them have much name recognition, and none of them have made a dent yet in the public conscience. They still might, but in reality a congressional campaign is a two-year endeavor. While we like to believe that the House of Representatives is The People’s House, a grassroots rise to power is a once-in-a-lifetime event — and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has already appeared in our lifetimes.

In Washington’s top-two primary, that leaves open the possibility of Herrera Beutler facing Kent or Kraft or some other Republican in the general election. And that leaves open the possibility that plenty of Democratic voters will sit that one out. And that leaves open the possibility of Herrera Beutler gently encouraging Democrats to vote in November while pretending that’s not what she is doing.

Seeing a Republican incumbent running to the left of her opponent in a general election would be intriguing. But it would not be as intriguing as watching Herrera Beutler face the quick-witted, quick-on-her-feet Lentz in a series of debates.

Of course, one of the announced Democrats might prove to be a rising political star. But viable congressional candidates typically have a long list of public service and proven electability on their resumes. Lentz has that.

All of which returns us to the question of the day: Is Temple Lentz running for Congress?