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Herrera Beutler makes first public appearance in Clark County since impeachment vote

U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, right, talks with County Public Health Officer Dr. Alan Melnick during an April 5, 2021, visit to Clark County. The visit was one of her first public appearances since voting to impeach former President Donald Trump.

Troy Brynelson / OPB

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler said Monday she’s not actively campaigning, and doesn’t plan to any time soon, even as Republicans stump early and often to take her Congressional seat.

“We just had an election, right? We’re five months out from that election,” said Herrera Beutler, who in November won her sixth term as Southwest Washington’s representative.

“I know the people who elected me to do this job expect me to do it and not spend all my time campaigning,” the Republican from Battle Ground, Washington, added.

Herrera Beutler’s job lately, she described, is advocating for more COVID-19 vaccinations. On Monday, she visited a drive-thru site at Tower Mall in Vancouver, talking with public health officials and observing drivers and passengers pull up to get a shot in the arm.

Her visit came as two separate issues arising in her district, one political and the other medical, remain prominent.

Since her vote to impeach President Donald Trump in the wake of the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, local Republican groups have beat a steady drum to replace Herrera Beutler for the 2022 election. At least three Republican candidates, all supporters of the former president, have announced their candidacies.

The challengers – Wadi Yakhour, a former staffer at the U.S. Selective Service; Joe Kent, a former CIA employee and an Army Special Forces veteran; and Christian author and speaker Heidi St. John – say ousting Herrera Beutler is their main goal.

“We can talk about elections next year when we get into election season,” Herrera Beutler said when asked if she has any responses to the candidates.

The visit was one of her first public appearances since the vote. A staffer said Herrera Beutler was at a high school in Onalaska, Washington, talking to students and teachers about a hatchery for steelhead and salmon.

Most of the congresswoman’s comments Monday revolved around the other issue: vaccines and how many are making their way into her district.

In February, public health officials in Clark County data showing it received far fewer doses per capita than similar-sized counties. Other counties in Washington’s 3rd Congressional District – which touches seven counties near the Oregon-Washington border – also struggled to get doses, she said.

“We were getting shortchanged. And, really, we weren’t given a good answer as to why,” she said near the end of the visit. Herrera Beutler said she didn’t think the short stemmed from any malicious reasons by state officials, but that the counties were for some reason overlooked.

“We never got a good answer as to why. We were given a lot of reasons,” she said. “The reality is there’s a lot of moving parts. And that’s part of our job: to advocate for the folks who live here to make sure we’re getting our piece of that puzzle.”

The vaccine clinic at Tower Mall, where the congresswoman visited, delivers doses allocated by the federal government, as opposed to the state. The site is jointly run by Clark County Public Health, the city of Vancouver and the grocery chain Safeway/Albertsons.

However, everyone on the tour spoke of feeling a lot more optimistic about their share of vaccines. The Tower Mall clinic delivers more than 1,000 vaccines per day, according to Clark County Health Officer Dr. Alan Melnick.

Melnick said the plan is keep vaccinating at the drive-thru sites and start delivering vaccines to communities that are harder to reach, such as undocumented immigrants.

“One thing we need to do is make the vaccination process as simple as possible, in terms of not asking any more questions than are absolutely necessary, including documentation,” he said. “The other piece we need to work on is actually bringing vaccines out to people rather than just having people come in for the vaccine.”

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