Southwest Washington congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler, a GOP incumbent, this year has faced a competitive challenger for her Third Congressional District House seat. And her Democratic opponent, Carolyn Long, just got a small Republican ally.
Michael Cortney, a moderate Republican candidate who didn't make it through the primary, endorsed Long over Herrera Beutler last week in a close race that could come down to voter turnout.
Cortney only received 3.4 percent of votes in the primary. Yet just that small edge could make a difference this year if primary voters continue to cast their ballots along party lines; Republican votes just narrowly led Democratic votes—about a 2 percentage point difference—in August. That included votes that went to Cortney.
Long's chances look promising if she can keep the Democratic vote while winning over moderates who in the primary voted for a third option. He criticized Herrera Beutler for aligning herself "with extremist Republican leaders like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell."
Cortney considers himself a "progressive conservative." He said president Donald Trump doesn't represent Republican values and wanted to "save" the party by helping to rebrand it, rather than leave it. He also believes in climate change, which prompted his endorsement for Long; Herrera Beutler seems more concerned about saving coal jobs, he said.
"I support Long because she believes in climate change, and because she is concerned about our children's future," Cortney told PubliCola. "That's not a Democrat or Republican issue.... Fossil fuel is a dying industry, and I believe that capitalism dictate should die."
Herrera Beutler is a fourth-term incumbent, and in the past received well over 50 percent of the votes in her district. In 2016, riding the wave of Trump and against a noncompetitive Democratic challenger, Herrera Beutler won the general election with 61.8 percent of votes.
This year's primary was a stark contrast: Herrera Beutler received only 42.1 percent of votes compared to Long's 35.3 percent.
“I had the pleasure of getting to know Michael over the past nine months on the campaign trail, and I’m deeply grateful to have the support of someone so genuinely concerned about the well-being of our community,” Long said in a statement. “I look forward to having Michael as an ally in our work to restore civil debate and mutual respect to our political discourse.”
Whether Cortney's voters will follow his endorsement is another question—but if Long earned even just a majority of his voters, that small difference could theoretically be enough to win.
"We'd never heard of him until he appeared on the ballot," Herrera Beutler's spokeswoman, Angeline Riesterer, wrote to PubliCola. "Since he advocates for a host of liberal positions and a 90 percent income tax rate, this isn't a shock."
Four other candidates, three Democrats and one Republican, appeared on the primary ballot in the race. No other candidates have so far endorsed either Herrera Beutler or Long.