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Jaime Herrera
State Rep. Jaime Herrera.

State Rep. Jaime Herrera, who represents southern Cowlitz County in the Legislature, announced Tuesday that she will run to replace Congressman Brian Baird in Washington's 3rd District.

Democratic state Sen. Craig Pridemore of Vancouver announced on Tuesday that he, too, will run.

Herrera and Pridemore join a crowded field of candidates that now officially totals seven and which is expected to grow.

"America's future is at risk. Washington, D.C., has been overspending America's credit card for too long. Both parties are responsible," Herrera, R-Camas, said in a statement announcing her candidacy. "Our future is being sold to China and Saudi Arabia in the form of government debt. Our jobs, our small businesses and the opportunity for families to have the freedom to work and prosper are at stake. I'm running because we badly need new leaders in Washington, D.C., who will stop digging us deeper into the hole of credit card debt."

Herrera, 31, was appointed to the Legislature in 2007 to replace Richard Curtis, whose political career imploded amid a sex scandal involving a gay porn model. She won the 2008 general election to retain the seat with 60 percent of the vote.

Last week, Washington State Republican Party Chairman Luke Esser called Herrera "a bright, rising young star in the party."

On Tuesday, state Democratic Party Chairman Dwight Pelz dismissed Herrera as "long on style, short of substance." In a reference to former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Pelz called Herrera "Palinesque" and said, "We would challenge her understanding of government. She's very new to it."

In an interview Tuesday, Herrera cast herself as a "younger, newer voice on the scene" who is not "your typical career politician."

"He's right in once sense," Herrera said of Pelz. "I am not an entrenched politician. I am not more of the same. I am not your tax-and-spend leader who thinks when we get in a tough time, we'll just raise taxes on families. We'll just raise taxes on businesses."

So far, other Republican candidates running for Baird's seat include Jon Russell, a Washougal city councilman; David Castillo, a former chief of staff for the Washington House Republican Caucus; and David Hedrick, a former Marine.

Also running are Democrats Cheryl Crist of Thurston County, who ran against Baird last year, and state Rep. Deb Wallace of Vancouver.

Pridemor has been in the Legislature since 2005 and was a Clark County commissioner for the six previous years.

Pelz said Tuesday that he knows of five other Democrats considering a run, including Mark Doumit, the former state senator from Wahkiakum County, state Sen. Brian Hatfield, also of Pacific County, and Denny Heck , the former state legislator who founded TVW, the Olympia-based public affairs television station.

Cowlitz County Commissioner Axel Swanson has said he, too, is considering running for the seat.

In vying for Baird's seat, Herrera will have to walk away from her state legislative post, where she would also have faced an election campaign next year. Dennis Kampe, director of a vocational training school in Vancouver, announced Tuesday that he would seek Herrera's seat in his first bid for public office.

"It's a huge risk," Herrera said of entering the 3rd District race. "The bigger risk is not stepping in. The bigger risk is to watch our history pass us by."

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