Former U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler confirmed on Tuesday that she will seek election as Washington’s next state lands commissioner.
The political bid, first reported by The Seattle Times, will likely complicate an already crowded race for lands commissioner, even as it clarifies the Republican’s intentions toward her former role as Southwest Washington’s congresswoman.
“I spent a dozen years in Congress fighting for more resources to responsibly manage our forests,” Herrera Beutler said in a statement announcing her run. “I’ll do the same as Lands Commissioner.”
Current Lands Commissioner Hillary Franz has held the position since 2016 but is leaving the office to pursue a 2024 bid to be Washington’s next governor.
Herrera Beutler has remained out of political office since she lost reelection to a seventh congressional term in 2022. That loss came after she voted to impeach former President Donald Trump for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection, and far-right challenger Joe Kent was able to court Southwest Washington’s Republicans.
Kent’s firebrand politics ultimately cost Republicans’ hold on Washington’s 3rd Congressional District, and Democratic Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez secured one of the most surprising upsets of the 2022 election.
Gluesenkamp Perez has faced scrutiny from some on the left since taking office, and the influential Cook Political Report has WA-03 listed as a tossup district in 2024, albeit one with a slight Democratic lean. With Herrera Beutler now officially no longer a congressional contender, voters may end up seeing a rematch between Gluesenkamp Perez and Kent, who announced his intent to run for the seat again earlier this year.
In her announcement on Tuesday, Herrera Beutler said she’d like to take a cooperative approach to managing forests in “America’s most beautiful state,” noting she’d work with “Tribes, scientists, landowners, sportsmen, the forest industry and conservation groups.”
The former congresswoman said she’d like to see forest management practices that would thin diseased trees and brush, contributing factors in the catastrophic wildfires that have burned across the Northwest in recent decades. Herrera Beutler supported various bills in Congress intended to address wildfire, though in 2017 she did vote against a spending bill that would have sent $100 million toward fire mitigation because she said the bill would have raised the national debt.