In what could be their only formal debate this election, U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler and Democratic challenger Carolyn Long spent an hour Friday trying to expose each other’s policy weaknesses on everything from health care to law enforcement to climate change.
Across the issues, the candidates for Washington’s 3rd Congressional District also accused each other of lying and misrepresenting each other’s platforms. Long painted Herrera Beutler as too closely aligned with corporations and President Donald Trump, while Herrera Beutler did the same with Long and policy proposals like cutting funding to police departments.
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Herrera Beutler, who is seeking a sixth term, trumpeted her platform as the most beneficial for the region’s economy. She pointed to her votes passing $2.2 trillion in federal stimulus that included the Paycheck Protection Program. She acknowledged climate change, but drew the line at supporting policies that would increase taxes.
Long, a political science professor at Washington State University, championed more health care access, re-entering the Paris Climate Agreement and expanding unemployment benefits in the wake of COVID-19. And, on several occasions, she repeated a line that Herrera Beutler was distorting her platform.
“Remember when I said my opponent would mislead you and try to divert attention from records?” Long said several times.
The debate was a high-profile moment in a high-profile rematch for the district, which touches eight counties between the Columbia River Gorge and the Pacific Ocean. It is the only Republican-held district on the Western Seaboard and has been closely watched nationally.
Herrera Beutler, elected in 2010, is only the second Republican to represent the district in 60 years. Until Long, she regularly defeated opponents by double digits at the polls. Long emerged in 2018′s “blue wave” midterm elections and lost by just five points.
In Friday’s debate, the two clashed on the climate in a year that has seen devastating wildfires along the West Coast. Herrera Beutler accused Long of supporting expensive environmental policies, touting her own as better for the region’s industries that rely on natural resources. She said she supported forest thinning to mitigate wildfires and pointed to legislation she backed that allows sea lions, that poach salmon runs, to be killed.
“I’ll continue to fight for the working families of Southwest Washington and protect our environment at the same time — they’re not mutually exclusive goals,” Herrera Beulter said.
Long countered that Herrera Beutler doesn’t do enough to reverse the existential threats of climate change, like ocean acidification. She said Herrera Beutler has supported the Trump administration rolling back environmental regulations. She tied the congresswoman’s votes to the oil and gas industry.
“We have to look at the fact that my opponent does allow this executive branch to…