State Rep. Kraft announces bid for Congress

Lawmaker enters lively race to unseat Herrera Beutler

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U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler has another Republican challenger for her seat as Washington State Rep. Vicki Kraft announced her bid for Washington’s Third Congressional District.

On Nov. 30, Kraft, R-Vancouver, announced her candidacy to officials of the Clark County Republican Party, stated a release announcing her decision to run the following day. She currently serves as the state representative for the 17th Legislative District which includes parts of Vancouver and central Clark County east of Interstate 205.

Kraft’s campaign announcement touted her recent introduction of bills to the Legislature that would limit the governor’s emergency powers, allow refusal of the COVID-19 vaccine or other health-related mandates, and provide for scholarships for private and homeschooled students.

“Whether it’s fighting for parents’ rights, and against controversial mandates in schools such as comprehensive sex education or COVID-19 masks; or fighting for individuals’ rights, and against the COVID-19 vaccine mandates, I will continue fighting for the people and will make sure their voice is heard in Washington, D.C.,” Kraft stated in the release. 

The announcement also stated she scored as the most conservative based on her voting record by the American Conservative Union Foundation, which hosts the Conservative Political Action Conference.

Kraft has been thinking about running for Congress for some time even before the pandemic, she said. She feels Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, has not been vocal enough about standing up for her constituents’ rights.

Kraft said Herrera Beutler’s response following the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol Building, including a vote to impeach then-president Donald Trump, was “extremely unfortunate.”

“To me that vote was against America and that vote was against the direction that our country was moving,” said Kraft, who spoke positively of the Trump administration’s work.

“I think a lot of people are very concerned with the direction of our country,” Kraft told The Reflector days after her announcement. 

She said Southwest Washington constituents deserve a candidate with a track record of standing up for their personal freedoms.

“The ability to live the way they choose to live, that is what America’s about, and right now that is being challenged at a greater level than I think any of us have ever seen in our lifetimes,” Kraft said.

Before her election in 2016, Kraft worked for the Freedom Foundation as its Southwest Washington Development Director, the release stated. She has also served as an account executive for companies like Dell, Pillsbury and Frigidaire as well as small businesses.

If elected, Kraft would not be a stranger to D.C. as she previously worked for a nonprofit that worked with government agencies in the city. She said she isn’t naive about the machinations of politics, which she said she would push against, if elected.  

“I have proven clearly that I have not caved into any special interest or any political pressure in Olympia, and I will not cave in to any special interest or political pressure in Washington, D.C.,” Kraft said. “People do not have to wonder who they’re getting in a candidate today or two years from now.”

Apart from Herrera Beutler, Kraft enters a race with challengers on both sides of the aisle. Republicans Joe Kent and Heidi St. John were early to announce they sought to unseat the incumbent of their own party, while Democrat Brent Hennrich has staked his claim to flip the district.

Kraft indicated she isn’t focused on her challengers so much as what she would bring to the office based on her own experience.

“I’m going to run on who I am and I’m going to be who I am as a public servant,” Kraft said.

Though she didn’t reveal too much of her strategy as she aims to win the seat, Kraft pointed to her past races in the Legislature where she was able to be competitive in well-funded elections. In 2020, she was outspent three-to-one by her Democratic challenger Tanisha Harris, eking out a victory by less than two percentage points.

Kraft acknowledged she still has a year in the Legislature, which she said would be an immediate focus as state lawmakers take part in a “short” session in 2022.

“I’m a sitting legislator, so I’m going to take care of the people’s business,” Kraft said.

If she wasn’t making a congressional bid, Kraft would likely not be able to continue in the Legislature in her current district seat. Maps approved by the state’s redistricting commission and supported by the Washington State Supreme Court would move the 17th Legislative District east, placing her in the 18th District instead.

The redistricting reality partly played into Kraft’s decision to take the step toward a Congressional seat.

“At that point … I feel my voice and my ability to fight for the people is going to best serve the people in Washington, D.C.,” Kraft said.

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