Some big names are being floated as possible candidates for governor next year, including former Washington Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler.
She’s perhaps best known nationally for being one of 10 U.S. House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump in 2021. That vote still angers some Republicans but could be an asset in a general election race for governor in heavily Democratic Washington state.
Her impeachment vote is also why some media reports are floating Herrera Beutler’s name as a possible gubernatorial candidate, now that Gov. Jay Inslee has said he won’t run for a fourth term.
KUOW caught up with Herrera Beutler over the weekend in Leavenworth after her speech at the Cascade Conference, an annual event put on by the Mainstream Republicans of Washington State. These are the sort of Republicans who often call themselves “moderate” and reject Trump’s brand of MAGA politics.
Herrera Beutler told KUOW that some Republicans are encouraging her to run for governor. But she hasn’t made that decision yet.
“I just put in my raspberry bushes, and I need to make sure that they go up before I turn my attention to what I’m doing next,” she said.
“I haven’t closed any doors,” she added.
Herrera Beutler delivered her conference speech over lunch inside one of Leavenworth’s many faux Bavarian village-themed hotels. She emphasized her record of working across the aisle with Democrats during her time in Congress.
“How do we build relationships with people who maybe are ‘other,’ or different, or didn’t grow up like we did? It’s as simple as listening and engaging,” she said.
Herrera Beutler also made a veiled reference to her impeachment vote, which enraged so many fellow Republicans that it cost her the 3rd Congressional District last year. But that same vote to impeach could help in a statewide contest in Washington, where a Republican hasn’t won a governor’s race since 1980.
If she does decide to run, her path to victory won’t be easy, although speakers at the Cascade Conference were quick to point out that Republicans came close during the last open seat race in 2012, and even closer in 2004. Herrera Beutler and other Republicans here believe state Democrats are vulnerable on several issues, particularly crime and drug policy.
Herrera Beutler’s biggest problem could be Republicans to her right who are still mad about that impeachment vote.
While Herrera Beutler was the main event for the Mainstream Republicans in Leavenworth, a very different Republican event was taking place over the same weekend out in Kennewick: The Washington State Republican Party Action Conference.
That conference featured former President Trump spokesperson Liz Harrington as its keynote speaker. But for her part, Herrera Beutler insists she’s with her party, despite her differences with Trump.
“I think you don’t have to be in any way apologetic about your beliefs. I certainly wouldn’t be. I’m a Republican and not a Republican lite,” she said.
On the abortion issue, Herrera Beutler earned a perfect “A” rating from a group called Susan B. Anthony Pro Life America in her last term in Congress.
Deanna Martinez, who heads the Mainstream Republicans of Washington, said a Republican candidate who runs as a “moderate” might have a shot at statewide office. And according to Martinez, that might mean admitting they don’t like former President Trump or that they’re “pro-choice.”
“That’s the thing that really gets me. You know, Republicans, small government, you know, we don’t want to be told what to do. But at the same time, we’re trying to tell women what they can or can’t do,” Martinez said.