Sept. 19 Daily News editorial
While members of the U.S. House of Representatives are required to seek re-election every two years, it's our experience that it takes longer than two years to fairly evaluate their performance in Congress.
It's not a job that's easily learned, let alone mastered.
Washington's 3rd District, of course, was faced with a choice between two first-time candidates in 2010 and chose State Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, a Republican, over Democrat Denny Heck.
Rep. Herrera Beutler's chances of re-election were then greatly enhanced by redistricting, which moved some traditionally Democratic areas out of the 3rd District and made it generally more favorable to a Republican. Anything but a comfortable victory for Herrera Beutler in November would now constitute a major surprise.
Even if that were not the case, however, it's likely we'd be endorsing her re-election — as we do today.
Some of our reasoning:
• One of the primary criticisms of Herrera Buetler's first two years in office is that she's allegedly been "slow" to take positions on a few of the more complex local issues. We can certainly understand a level of caution on her part, particularly since she's in a new arena. We additionally contend it's far too early to downgrade her for being overly cautious. When she's arrived at an opinion, we haven't found her reluctant to state it.
• We're still learning, in some ways, how "Republican" she is. While it's easy to lump her with the rest of the GOP's large "Class of 2010" in the House, her voting record doesn't indicate that she's a lockstep "yes" vote for everything proposed by Republican leadership and backs up her contention that what's best for her district, rather than the national GOP, remains her top priority.
"I don't pay attention to labels or ratings," she said. "I've never called myself a moderate or a Tea Party person. Call me whatever you like, but you should know my focus is always on my district."
• She's improving in terms of relating her views to the public and the press. This was not a strength in her first campaign. Her next step in this area would be to hold more of the open meetings district residents came to expect from former Rep. Brian Baird. We don't regard Herrera Beutler's position that such meetings draw too many hecklers to be productive as tenable over a long term. Experienced, confident politicians don't act out of fear of hecklers.
• We'd call her a realist rather than a conservative ideologue. "You spend your first term in Congress finding out who you want to be with in a foxhole," she told us. "My list includes Democrats as well as Republicans.
"Nationally, political extremes have gotten very extreme. Our 3rd District has an independent identity and national trends don't always bear out here. This is the environment I prefer."
• Herrera Beutler's opponent, Jon Haugen, is a military veteran and an airline pilot from Clark County who struck us as someone who's attempted to become as well-grounded as possible on many of the issues. That having been said, he does not have the endorsement of the Washington state Democratic Party and did not strike us as particularly well-prepared to serve in the high office that he's seeking.
We don't agree with all the positions Herrera Beutler has taken and did not expect to. We do find her sincere in her desire to serve all of her constituents and those in our readership who've sought her assistance have expressed (to us) general satisfaction with the process, if not always the final outcome.
We did not endorse Rep. Herrera Beutler in 2010, but are pleased to do so in 2012.