Carolyn Long

Carolyn Long is campaigning as a self-styled pragmatist on health care reform.

Pragmatism. Incrementalism.

These are not themes typically associated with Democratic primary campaigns in today’s supercharged partisan atmosphere. But they encapsulate the message 3rd Congressional District candidate Carolyn Long delivered to supporters Saturday morning at her second campaign kickoff event in Longview.

“Sometimes it’s not a rallying cry, but it certainly is my approach to governing,” the Washington State University Vancouver professor told a group of about 100 party faithful.

The crowd gathered at The Eagles Nest on 12th Avenue to hear Long speak a day after an estimated 350 to 400 people attended her initial campaign kickoff event in Vancouver.

While the event had a generally moderate tone, speakers also delivered stern rebukes to the Trump administration as Democrats seek to win back control of the House of Representatives. The party needs to flip at least 24 GOP-controlled seats in the November midterms, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and left-leaning groups have identified the 3rd District as a potential pickup opportunity.

Long is one of three Democrats running to unseat eight-year incumbent U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground. She joined competitors David McDevitt, a Vancouver businessman and licensed attorney, and Dorothy Gasque, an Iraq war veteran, later in the afternoon on Saturday at the Pacific County Democrats’ 91st annual crab feed in South Bend.

Long, who has taught political science at WSUV for the past 22 years, said she views Cowlitz as a must-win county.

“I believe the election will be won in Cowlitz County,” she told The Daily News. “It’s also a county that has a lot of needs, and I want to pay as much as attention to it as possible.”

Long’s assessment was echoed by Xavier Reynolds, the campaign’s finance director.

“For a Democrat to win this seat, they need to win Clark County and they need to win Cowlitz,” she said. “Cowlitz is vital to us winning, so we’re going to be here a lot.”

Within the 3rd District, Cowlitz is second only to Clark County with nearly 63,000 registered voters. Although President Donald Trump won Cowlitz with 53 percent of the vote in 2016, the county has a long history of electing Democrats to Congress.

McDevitt has also made frequent appearances in Cowlitz, while Gasque has focused her early efforts on Clark County’s urban core.

Long said it was also important to hold a kickoff event in Longview to honor Pat Kubin, a dedicated local Democrat who was engaged in many local and regional election campaigns. He died tragically in a freak skiing accident on Mount Hood last month.

Kubin, an early Long supporter, was mentioned frequently by attendees.

“He told me he thought she would make a great representative and asked if I would be willing to support her,” said Bill Kasch, 82, of Longview.

Kasch said Kubin’s support and recent endorsements by former Southwest Washington Congressmen Don Bonker and Brian Baird were enough to bring him off the fence.

Bonker traveled from his home on Bainbridge Island to give an endorsement speech for Long on Saturday.

“That, to me, is all I need to know,” Kasch said.

Bonker’s endorsement was also good enough for Dwight Herron, 65, a retired project coordinator from Longview.

Herron said be was one of the first teenagers in Cowlitz to register when the legal voting age was lowered to 18 in 1971.

“Don Bonker was the first person I ever voted for, so his endorsement is a huge deal,” he said.

Bonker’s endorsement could prove especially valuable in the 3rd District, where more than one-quarter of all registered voters are 65 or older, according to the Washington Secretary of State’s Office.

Bonker and Baird were both scheduled to appear with Long on Saturday, but Baird cancelled due to a last-minute illness.

“She’s special,” Bonker told said in an interview when asked why he endorsed Long shortly after meeting her. Bonker represented the 3rd District in Congress from 1975 to 1989.

“We’re early in this campaign and she’s never held political office, and I’ve rarely seen someone mobilize support at the level she has,” he said.

Bonker — who was elected in 1974, the same year former President Richard Nixon resigned over the Watergate scandal — also blasted the scandal-plagued Trump administration.

“That was Watergate in ‘74 and this is Trumpgate in 2018,” he said. “And the situation is far worse than what we witnessed back in 1974 with Richard Nixon.”

Long also received praise from state Sen. Dean Takko, another moderate local Democrat.

“She’s says it isn’t about what we really want, but what can we really get,” he said. “That’s what we need more of back in Washington, D.C. You’ve got to be practical and realistic, and try to get things done.”

Long’s brief stump speech focused on making systematic changes to improve the nation’s health care delivery system and investing in rural infrastructure.

“We need to fix the Affordable Care Act and stop playing politics with people’s health care,” she said.

Long also said she would work to secure more funding for high-speed broadband in neglected rural communities.

However, Long also peppered her pragmatic message with a few fighting words of her own.

She called the recent federal tax law signed by President Donald Trump a “corporate giveaway,” and said the package of tax cuts is a “ruse” that will worsen budget deficits and ultimately cause cuts to popular programs such as Social Security and Medicare.

And in a jab at Herrera Beutler, Long noted that she’s already held 12 in-person town hall events throughout Southwest Washington since formally declaring her candidacy on Nov. 30.

Herrera Beutler has held regular “live telephone halls” since winning re-election to a fourth term, but she has not held an in-person town hall with constituents since January 2017.

“When elected, I will continue to hold town halls because that’s what a true representative of the people does,” Long said.

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