U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, and challenger Carolyn Long were both on offense during Friday’s virtual debate in the race for Washington’s Third Congressional District. Long, a Democrat, spent much of the event slamming her opponent for accepting donations from big pharmaceutical and insurance companies, while Herrera Beutler attempted to paint Long as a radical leftist in support of broad government takeovers.
Throughout the debate, Herrera Beutler claimed her opponent, a political science professor at WSU Vancouver, supports Medicare for all, defunding the police and imposing a carbon tax — all of which Long said are not part of her platform.
“Remember when I told you my opponent was going to lie directly to you?” Long repeated throughout the debate. “She’s doing it again.”
Both candidates have made clear that healthcare is a top issue — and one they starkly disagree on. While Herrera Beutler supports ending the Affordable Care Act — and has been criticized for not denouncing the president’s attempt to invalidate it through the courts during a pandemic — Long supports expanding the Obama-era policy and adding a public option for those who wish to get insurance through the government.
Despite Long’s current policy proposal, Herrera Beutler latched on to Long’s statements from years prior in which she expressed support for Medicare-for-all, a system that would cover all Americans with government-provided health insurance. Herrera Beutler claimed her opponent would still support the “really radical … $32 trillion takeover of healthcare by the government.”
The accusation is not a new one for Long, who characterized it as a cherry-picking of outdated interviews.
“I’m not in favor of Medicare-for-all, I don’t know how many times I have to say it,” she said, pivoting to focus on Herrera Beutler’s campaign donations. “My opponent has taken hundreds of thousands of dollars from the health insurance industry and big pharma … check the record, follow the money, and what you see is a candidate who is beholden to special interests.”
Herrera Beutler, a five-time incumbent who touts her reputation as someone who crosses party lines, brought up her 7-year-old’s kidney transplant, saying even after repealing the ACA, she would protect pre-existing conditions like her child’s.
“I’m not in their pocket, I’m not afraid to stand up to anybody,” she said.
On the topic of racial justice and police violence, the candidates had similar takes, denouncing incidents of violence seen in recent protests. Beutler cited her tweet condemning the president’s call for the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.”
“In all forms, racism has to be rejected, whether it’s Proud Boys, whether it’s the Ku Klux Klan, the old ones or the new ones,” Herrera Beutler said.
To address police violence, she said she supports banning chokeholds, increasing body camera use, and ensuring that abusive officers can be efficiently removed. She called police officers “honorable,” and the idea of defunding departments “dangerous.” She suggested that Long supports defunding police departments, and demanded that she denounce an endorsement by “Indivisible,” a progressive group that has supported reallocating police funding to communities of color.
Long said she has not voiced support for defunding the police. Instead of denouncing the endorsement, Long again called attention to the many corporations who have donated to her opponent’s campaign.
She also argued that Herrera Beutler has not done enough to hold President Donald Trump accountable for stoking “the fires of racial injustice,” saying that representatives need to stand up to Trump “not by sending a tweet or a strongly worded letter, (but) by calling his actions to account, and doing so repeatedly.”
“Instead what we see from the Republican party, and my opponent, is someone who’s enabled this administration to say these types of things, has enabled white supremacy in our communities,” she said.
The candidates, who faced off in a tight race in 2018, also sparred on the more local issue of broadband internet. While Herrera Beutler trumpeted her work to secure federal funding for rural Southwest Washington, Long called the approach “piecemeal,” instead arguing for government intervention.
“The best way to do this is to handle broadband like we handled the federal highways: Have broadband for all, have the federal government be much more aggressive in laying down the fiber and getting connectivity to people,” she said.
Herrera Beutler criticized the idea as a government takeover.
“That’s one of the biggest threats, is overspending and is a government takeover,” Herrera Beutler said. “She said she would have the federal government lay out broadband. Well what that means is she wants to federalize internet.”
When the topic shifted to climate change, Long said voiced support for ratifying the Paris Climate Accord — a 2016 treaty targeting greenhouse gases ratified by nearly 200 nations, which Trump plans to officially withdraw from. She also said she would prioritize bringing clean energy jobs to the state.
Herrera Beutler, on the other hand, said the treaty would be bad for working Washingtonians. She also repeatedly claimed Long would support a carbon tax — something Long denied. Long has said previously that she does not support the Green New Deal or a carbon tax.
Returning to a favorite dig at Herrera Beutler, Long critiqued the representative for not holding regular in-person events in the district — a jab Long has kept alive on Twitter through the hashtag #Where’sJaime.
“I think it’s the least you can expect from your elected representative. It’s easy to do. I’m doing it all the time,” she said. “So when I’m told I have these positions that I don’t have, my response is, ‘all of my stuff is on the web. Take a look at it.’”
In closing remarks, Long framed Herrera Beutler as “somebody who lies, somebody who lies to you, somebody who lies about her record.”
Herrera Beutler highlighted her favorable reputation in bipartisan efforts, and criticized Long for denouncing the president so aggressively, pointing out that the district voted for Trump in 2016.
“My opponent ignores the fact that she could end up with a majority that’s Republican,” she said. “And she’s demonstrated an inability to cross party lines.”