National money pouring into Washington as Democrats make push for once-overlooked seat

Democrat Carolyn Long, left, and Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler are vying for Washington’s Third Congressional District.
Democrat Carolyn Long, left, and Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler are vying for Washington’s Third Congressional District. Associated Press / Jaime Herrera Beutler

Republicans are playing defense as national groups flood southwestern Washington with campaign money and advertising, part of a late push by Democrats hoping to oust GOP Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler from her House seat.

The National Republican Campaign Committee spent $782,000 this week on ads supporting their embattled candidate, which began airing Friday in the nearby Portland, Oregon, media market.

The Congressional Leadership Fund, aligned with Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan, is now spending $200,000 on advertisements, according to a source with knowledge of the ad buy.

Recent polling suggests a single-digit race. A New York Times poll conducted in mid-October had Herrera Beutler ahead 48 percent to 41 percent. A poll released by Democratic challenger Carolyn Long’s campaign, also in mid-October, had Long up 45 percent to 43 percent.

The GOP leadership fund took aim at Long in a new campaign ad, tying her to Nancy Pelosi of California, the House’s top Democrat and a favorite Republican target.

“Liberal Long is part of the resistance, joining Pelosi to oppose your tax cut, and supporting government-run health care,” the ad says.

The Republican blitz aims to counter Long’s campaign in the Third Congressional District, which has been buoyed by advertising buys from political action committees that have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars this month, including $406,000 from Women Vote!, an EMILY’s List committee, according to Open Secrets, a nonpartisan campaign finance research group, and the Federal Election Commission.

MoveOn’s recent $47,000 Facebook ad buy features older voters contrasting Long’s positions with Herrera Beutler’s.

“(Long) believes in sensible and reasonable gun legislation to protect gun owners’ rights, but also protect society,” one ad says. “Her opponent does not.”

Meanwhile, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Independence USA PAC just spent $10 million to help Democrats take control of Congress, with most of the money going to a television ad running in Portland and other national markets.

Republicans are acknowledging a close race, but remain confident in Herrera Beutler’s chances as long as one party doesn’t drastically outspend the other.

Alex Hays, a Washington state GOP strategist, thinks Republican spending is a safeguard against an upset by Long, especially given her recent strong fundraising numbers.

“The (Herrera Beutler) campaign probably did a poll and came back (saying) ‘OK, you’re in the lead, but let’s keep it that way,” said Hays, who is not associated with the race.

Still, that Republicans have to devote time and money to a House race originally considered to be safe for the GOP is a small victory for Democrats in itself, Hays said.

“(Long’s campaign is) a longshot, but even if you lose, you have served the greater good (of the party),” he said.

Amanda Sherman, a spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said Republicans being forced to play defense is a bad sign for Herrera Beutler.

“I think it’s a testament to the strong campaign that Carolyn Long has been running,” she said.

Angeline Riesterer, Herrera Beutler’s spokeswoman, would not address the recent Republican ad buys. “There is outside spending on both sides,” she said. “We have no control over who is spending what amount.”

Kellen Browning, 202-383-6102, @kellen_browning
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