Then again, the League of Conservation Voters gave her a lifetime score of 14 percent on environmental issues. That will be easy for opponents to pick apart, and it will weigh heavily in Washington. The importance of public lands, after all, is self-evident here — we are one of five states with an elected natural resources commissioner.
Another reason is that in running for a relatively low-profile position, Herrera Beutler has a head start in name recognition and political organization.
And yet another is that public lands commissioner transcends some of the tribalism that shadows other statewide elected positions. Herrera Beutler’s vote in favor of Donald Trump’s second impeachment might lead some Democrats to give her a chance, and disagreements about tax policy, abortion rights and the Affordable Care Act will be nonfactors.
So, Herrera Beutler has that going for her. What she has going against her is the R next to her name and the almost nonexistent history of statewide candidates from outside the Seattle area.
Republicans hold no statewide elected offices in Washington (or Oregon or California, for that matter), and the party’s influence has diminished in the past decade. But you probably knew that.
The bigger issue, it seems, might be a historical dearth of statewide candidates from these parts. As far as we can tell, George Barton Simpson was the last person from Clark County to endear themselves to voters across Washington. And that was almost 80 years ago.
According to the Clark History section of Columbian.com, Simpson was a Superior Court judge before being appointed to the state Supreme Court in 1937. He then won elections in 1938 and 1944.
Others have tried. Congresswoman Linda Smith ran for the U.S. Senate in 1998 and reached the general election before losing to Patty Murray by 16 points. And Don Bonker twice reached the general election for secretary of state. But in looking for political powerhouses from Clark County, we might need to go back to Eugene Semple, who was appointed governor of the Washington Territory by President Grover Cleveland in 1887.
The reasons for this go beyond simple math. As one local political observer explained in an email: “I do believe the population issue is the primary reason, but another could be that the traditional reasons statewide candidates do well (name recognition, money or access to funds, strong grassroots, etc.) are a heavy lift for someone from our region. There is also the possibility that Democratic candidates are not liberal enough and Republican candidates are not conservative enough.”
All of which will play a role in Herrera Beutler’s quest. Redrawing a map, after all, can be a chore.