With the August primary for the 2022 elections fewer than two months away, eight challengers are seeking to unseat U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler who is running for a seventh term representing Washington’s Third Congressional District.
Though most of the momentum working against Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, comes from her own Republican party through Joe Kent, Heidi St. John, Vicki Kraft and Leslie French, the congresswoman also faces two Democratic challengers, an independent and a third-party candidate.
Ray wants a better nation for his grandkids
While Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Perez has received the most support from her party, Davy Ray, of Stevenson, is taking another shot at Congress under the party banner.
In 2020, he picked up about 1.5% of the August primary vote, which he characterized as a “dry run” for this year.
“I literally jumped into the race 10 minutes before the deadline to get on the ballot,” Ray said. “I had no illusions that I was going to unseat anybody. I just wanted to get my name out there.”
Ray moved to the Pacific Northwest in 2000 and taught music at the University of Oregon for about 10 years before moving into the district in 2011. He worked in the music industry in Nashville for more than a decade, primarily in music publishing, then switched gears to work at companies that manufacture airplane parts.
Currently, Ray said he is “pandemic retired” and will likely rejoin the workforce if the Congressional run does not pan out in his favor.
Ray said with local Democrats backing Gluesenkamp Perez he had to make a “gut-wrenching decision” to continue in the race. Acknowledging it might seem cliche, Ray said he decided to run while thinking about the future of his grandchildren.
“I just cannot in good conscience leave this world to them in the shape that it’s in,” Ray said.
Issues spurring his continuation in the race include the potential reconsideration of Roe v. Wade, the invasion of Ukraine by Russia and recent mass shootings across the country. As a gun owner himself, Ray said work on gun control is necessary given the shootings, more so than the “weak tea” legislation currently put forward in the shootings’ wake.
Ray has been on the Stevenson Planning Commission since 2020, and holds a master’s degree in public policy planning and management from the University of Oregon. He said through his degree program he was involved with soliciting government funds for disaster mitigation in the Columbia River Gorge, an experience he said would help him in Washington, D.C.
“My political resume is kind of thin, but my resolve is not,” Ray said.
Infrastructure is Ray’s chief policy focus. Regarding the most prominent infrastructure project in Clark County, the replacement of the Interstate 5 bridge over the Columbia River, Ray said he is in favor of the bridge replacement project’s current concept which would extend Portland’s MAX light rail system across the bridge into Vancouver. The current plan has the MAX line running to Evergreen Boulevard, allowing for connectivity through Clark County’s C-Tran bus service through the rest of the county.
Like most of the other lesser-known candidates for the congressional seat, Ray said political division has been a blight on Congress’ ability to put forth good policy.
“I think we have more in common than we actually think we do,” Ray said. “We all want good stuff for our kids. We all want good economic opportunities.”
Byrd seeks improvement of political division
The current political division is the chief focus of challenger Chris Byrd, who is a social studies and history teacher at Toutle Lake Junior-Senior High School. As a Toutle resident, Byrd said his teaching subjects have spurred an interest in politics for some time.
“I thought about it in the past,” Byrd said. “The timing was right for me to give my best shot at it.”
The trend toward negative politics helped spur him to take the plunge and finally file for the congressional race.
“It seems we are so divided … with partisan polarization, and it doesn’t seem like things are getting done for the people,” Byrd said.
Byrd is running as the only independent candidate in the race. Fitting with his lack of a political party, he said he tries not to see issues in black-and-white terms.
He gave an example of law enforcement and said his opinion is based on more than being strictly pro or anti-cop.
“We need to be able to try to provide resources for law enforcement to do their job, but also at the same time provide resources to help people that might not have that most positive view about what’s going on to get (them) on board,” Byrd said.
Byrd also wants to reform how much money influences political decisions in Congress.
“There’s so much money involved and there are so many influences out there that I think what’s doing best for the people gets lost,” Byrd said.
Byrd said continued political division would end up hurting any progress to solving the nation’s problems.
“Our future looks bleak if we can’t right this trend of digging deeper and deeper trenches against one side of the political aisle and the other,” Byrd said. “The two-party system in general, it’s kind of set up that way, but it doesn’t mean we can’t try to do things better.”
Black pushes profile for third party
Oliver Black is explicitly trying to buck the two-party dominance, running as an anti-abortion, pro-labor candidate.
Black, a history teacher at Three Rivers Christian School in Longview, is part of the state committee of the American Solidarity Party. He described the party as supportive of “consistent life ethic” which opposes abortion, euthanasia and capital punishment.
Black said he felt disenfranchised with what the major parties were doing after 2016, leading him to seek out another option.
“I didn’t really see a future for America by continuing to support two parties that just continued to divide the country and weren’t really passing legislation that most Americans agreed on,” Black said.
He said his goal in running is to give “people an option that’s not the same thing that we’ve had forever and seems to be working less and less.”
The party also espouses support for labor movements. Black said he wants to incentivize companies to become employee-owned.
“If we just keep raising minimum wage, all that does is it gets passed on … to consumers to maintain their large profit margins,” Black said.
Alongside a push for businesses run by those doing the labor, he also supports unionization efforts at large corporations.
Black supports efforts toward a clean and sustainable environment, and reforms in criminal justice. He wants to increase job training for incarcerated individuals and make sure imprisonment prepares convicts for life after prison rather than being just punitive.
Black is also in favor of election reform.
“Running as a third party, I know just how much of a challenge it is to win, and I think there’s a way that’s fairer to represent more people than what we have now,” Black said.
He is in favor of STAR voting where voters assign values to candidates based on their preferences which are used to determine the winner. Though he doesn’t believe ranked choice voting, another process gaining momentum locally and elsewhere, is the best system, he feels it would be better than the current first-past-the-post system in place.
Black said the infighting among Republicans in the Third Congressional District race is indicative of why the two-party system doesn’t work.
“I think lots of primaries are just races to the extreme,” Black said.
He reasoned that phenomenon leads to more radical candidates eventually making their way into office.
“When they get to Washington, they don’t really get stuff done. They just make grand gestures that accomplish nothing,” Black said.
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