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For the first time in eight years, voters in Southwest Washington have a closely contested race for who will represent them in Congress. For many voters, it will be a difficult choice. It was for us.

Incumbent Republican Jaime Herrera Beutler and Democratic challenger Carolyn Long both are articulate, smart and level-headed. They both are exceptional people. We’d be served well with either of them representing the 3rd District, even though they have fundamental differences of opinion on spending, economic policy, health care and other issues that align with their parties’ general overall philosophical leanings.

Ultimately, though, the question voters may be faced with is this: Has Long given them a strong enough reason to oust Herrera Beutler, a member of a party that she says has failed to check the excesses of President Donald Trump?

Our editorial board initially was divided on our choice, but ultimately we have decided to endorse Jaime Herrera Beutler for a fifth two-year term.

Though the incumbent often votes along party lines, she has bucked the party and the administration, most notably on her vote against the Republican health care plan because she objected to how it handled Medicaid (although, notably, she has voted repeatedly to kill Obamacare). She has shown a bipartisan streak, especially on issues of particular interest to this region, such as her effort to address sea lion predation on endangered salmon stocks.

Importantly, the Lugar Center and Georgetown University McCourt School of Public Policy’s Bipartisan Index ranked Herrera Beutler as the 15th most bipartisan member among the 438 members of the U.S. House of Representatives. She has separated herself from the party in order to react to the needs of the constituents she represents, and she has avoided the highly partisan rhetoric that has contributed to deep divides in this nation.

Through dozens of town hall campaign appearances, Long has made remarkable efforts and shown tremendous energy to get to know the 3rd District, especially Cowlitz County, which she considers critical to the outcome of the race. Even though she is a new resident to the district, she has taught political science at Washington State University Vancouver for 23 years, focusing her own academic interests on a study of Congress.

But Herrera Beutler grew up here and knows the district well, and her deep ties and commitment to the area were demonstrated recently when she attended the dedication of a new warming shelter at the Marble Mountain Sno-Park, even though it got little press attention. (We would, though, like to see her resume traditional town halls instead of the telephone town halls she has used as a substitute. Nothing like face-to-face contact with voters to clear your head of Beltway thinking.)

Overall, though, Herrera Beutler has reacted to the district’s needs, is accumulating seniority and is a member of the House Appropriations Committee, which is pivotal to handing out federal money. She is well-positioned to address this district’s needs. As strong a candidate as she is, Long would enter Congress as a freshman.

Many voters will cast ballots based on their support or opposition to President Trump and the GOP. But that alone is not enough reason to upset the apple cart. Jaime Herrera Beutler has experience, energy and district knowledge to benefit Cowlitz County.

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