Washington state Rep. Jim Moeller, D-Vancouver, will challenge Republican Congresswomen Jaime Herrera Beutler in the state’s 3rd Congressional District.
“I’ve spent my life representing the families of Clark County,” he said. “As a public servant, my goal is to basically give the representation we deserve. Unfortunately, it is not happening in Washington D.C. I emphatically intend on changing that."
Moeller said he’s a “liberal” and objects to the repeated attempts by congressional Republicans to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Moeller also said Herrera Beutler is a “rubber stamp” for Republican leaders.
“I don’t think Jaime has represented the district very well in the last six years,” Moeller said. “She has been disengaged from serving as our representative. We need principled leadership in Washington and I know that I can provide that.”
Moeller represents the most formidable challenger to enter the 2016 race against Herrera Beutler.
“It means that is a competitive race, where it wasn’t before” said Carolyn Long, a political professor at Washington State University, Vancouver.
Moeller served as a member of the Vancouver City Council before running for state representative. He was elected to the Washington House in 2002 and served as speaker pro tempore until giving up his seat this year to run for lieutenant governor.
Moeller has worked as a drug dependency councilor in Clark County for the last 30 years. While in the Washington Legislature, he authored a bill that became law aimed at curbing opiate addiction.
Long said Moeller will have access to donors and likely party resources because he’s been in Democratic politics for so long. She said those connections will help him run a competitive race.
But Long also noted that when Washington’s 3rd Congressional District was redrawn, it was done so as a relatively safe district that favors Republicans.
“It’s now a conservative congressional district,” Long said. “As a conservative congressional district, any challenge to Herrera Beutler is an uphill battle.”
Long said she sees two things working in Moeller’s favor:
“The uncertainty of how the Trump-Clinton match will affect down ticket races,” she said. “Jim’s high name recognition in the region will help him more than previous challengers who were new comers to politics.”
Herrera Beutler maintains she’s an independent voice and one willing to speak out against her party.
Spokeswoman Amy Pennington said the congresswomen has objected to the way Republican party leaders have approached funding for the Zika virus – essentially repurposing funds meant to target Ebola.
“Jaime knows no party is right 100% of the time and she hasn't been afraid to speak out or vote for the people she represents,” Pennington said in an email.
Long noted that Herrera Beutler is in a difficult spot when it comes to the party’s presumed presidential nominee. Unlike some of her Republican colleagues, the Congresswoman hasn’t declared support for Trump.
“It will be interesting to me whether she supports Trump’s candidacy as many of her colleagues have, or will continue to distance herself from Trump as she has done so far,” Long said. “Either strategy for Herrera Beutler has its risks. She is going to find herself in a difficult position with her own conservative base.”
Pennington said in an email that Herrera Beutler has concerns about Trump, but said there’s plenty of time between now and November’s election for Trump to clarify his stances.
“Jaime wants Donald Trump to clear up questions on important issues like his past enthusiasm for the use of eminent domain to condemn private property and his support for socialized health care, and whether he stands by his comments about Mexicans as ‘rapists’ — something that didn't sit well with Jaime, who comes from Mexican heritage,” Pennington wrote.
Two other challengers have filed their candidacy in Washington’s 3rd Congressional District: Democrat David McDevitt and L.A. Worthington, who is not affiliated with a political party.
Rich Rogers, Chair of the Clark County Democratic Party, said the party will remain neutral through Washington’s August primary. But he said Moeller’s entry into the race gives Democrats a better chance.
“He’s probably one of our strongest candidates we’ve seen in the 3rd Congressional District, not to put anything down for our previous candidates,” Rogers said. “It gives the 3rd Congressional District some visibility and some viability.”