LONGVIEW — Marie Gluesenkamp Perez made her case for flipping Washington’s 3rd Congressional District blue last weekend in Kelso.
The 34-year-old small-business owner is the most prominent Democrat in the field of eight other challengers — including incumbent U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground — for the House seat representing Southwest Washington in the Aug. 2 primary election.
Perez attended a Democratic candidate town hall Friday night at the Kelso Senior Center organized by Lower Columbia Indivisible. The only other Democrat in the race, Davy Ray of Stevenson, was not at the event.
District 3 has been a swing seat in the past but is now viewed as heavily Republican. The redistricting process maintained a significant Republican lean for the district, according to nonpartisan analysis by the websites FiveThirtyEight and PlanScore.
Perez lives in unincorporated Skamania County and runs an auto repair shop in Stevenson with her husband, Dean. During the forum, she repeatedly returned to the need to protect small businesses and trades to keep manufacturing jobs in the United States.
“We have not maintained our capacity for fixing things in America, and that includes fixing Congress,” Perez said.
Other District 3 Republican candidates Herrera Beutler, Joe Kent and Vicki Kraft say they are in favor of rolling back government regulations that hinder business, according to their campaign websites. Republican Heidi St. John says she would not support legislation that would eliminate state jobs, and Republican Leslie French says he wouldn’t support laws that put U.S. workers at a disadvantage.
Perez told the small crowd Friday she wants to be reachable and engaged with the people she represents. Perez has said she won’t accept any corporate PAC funding for her campaign, which she said led to politicians no longer paying attention to everyday workers and constituents.
“Jaime (Herrera Beutler) is a ghost. She’s smoke. If you’ve tried to get her to show up and talk to you, it’s a real problem,” Perez said.
Herrera Beutler’s campaign spokesperson Craig Wheeler refuted Perez’s allegations in an email to The Daily News.
“The dozens of residents who had one-on-one meetings with her last week, the 5,000 people who joined her town hall a few weeks ago, the hundreds who spoke with her at her 11th annual Jobs Fair in June would all dispute the claim that comes from a rival candidate desperately looking for votes,” he wrote in the email.
Contact information and an online form to request a meeting with Herrera Beutler is at jhb.house.gov/contact/meetingrequest.htm.
On Saturday, the Washington Democrats kicked off their canvassing ahead of the election by knocking on doors in Cowlitz County and across the state.