Campaigning during a pandemic poses a number of logistical challenges, but Democratic Congressional hopeful Carolyn Long is taking it in stride. Her team’s latest outreach innovation, the drive-in town hall, landed in Bingen on Friday evening, Oct. 2, to connect with Klickitat County voters.
The candidate, a tenured professor of Politics, Philosophy and Public Affairs at WSU in Vancouver, stood in the back of a red pickup truck to address the gathering of about 50. Staged like a drive-in movie, attendees filed into the parking lot at Custom Interface (which made it clear making its parking lot available did not constitute an endorsement), spacing vehicles to maintain a safe distance. Most watched, in masks, from inside their cars; others brought coolers and snacks, giving the event a bit of a tailgate vibe. Throughout the hour-long conversation, paragliders drifted overhead, in descent from surrounding cliffs toward their landing destination along Bingen Harbor. It was a uniquely Gorge, uniquely 2020 scene.
The conversation likewise spoke to the time and place: most questions to the candidate were submitted via text message in real time, highlighting voter concerns like affordable healthcare, infrastructure improvements, and economic recovery, all in the context of the ongoing pandemic.
“There isn’t a one size fits all solution to what we’re going through,” Long said, pointing voters to her platform’s Pandemic Recovery Plan. She noted shortfalls of the CARES Act and promised leadership that would ensure sufficient resources for small businesses, struggling families, and rural schools for safe reopening.
“If we sit back and ask ourselves, ‘Why isn’t Congress meeting the needs of people in our districts?’ you need only look so far as who is funding those congressional campaigns,” Long explained, in reference to her platform’s Anti-Corruption Plan. She sees corporate and big money interests having undue influence on the voting record, and lack of constituent accountability, across parties and positions in federal government—including that of her opponent, Republican incumbent Jaime Herrera Buetler. “We have to model that you can run successful elections being funded from grassroots campaigns,” Long says. “It is quite clear, when you take PAC money, you are signaling to people not to have faith in our democratic institutions.”
Long also spoke to intentions around bridge-building, both literal and metaphorical, as critical to a functional future. “When you invest in infrastructure, you’re not only improving your communities, you’re investing federal dollars in the way that comes back to the community,” she said, siting specific project plans to support broadband internet access and Hood River Bridge improvements. “It returns money to the community through good paying jobs, and it’s a non-partisan way to invest in us, to create those jobs, and to help our economy,” the candidate explained. Appealing to a spirit of bipartisanship across topics, she shared that for her, the work of reaching across the aisle began at home. “I’m married to a Republican,” she quipped, “I’ve learned a lot!”
The most popular points of the night spoke to preserving and expanding the Affordable Care Act, reigning in congressional oversight, and taking aggressive action on climate change—all garnering cheers and applause, and even a few honks.
“We supported her last term,” said Bill Hoffer, in attendance with Ruth Olin. They live in White Salmon and are excited for the candidate’s second run. “She didn’t quite make it, but it was very close.” Herrera Beutler has held the District 3 seat handily since 2010; however, Long closed the margin within the five-point range during her first run in 2018, earning 47.3 percent of the vote to the incumbent’s 52.7.
The two candidates will participate in a virtual debate this Friday, Oct. 9, at 2 p.m., hosted by the League of Women Voters of Skamania and Klickitat Counties, co-hosted by The Goldendale Sentinel. Information and Zoom link are available at www.lwvwa.org.