This week’s We The People (WTP) vetting of Jaime Herrera, Republican Candidate for U.S. Congress (WA-03), saw a few “sparks” fly, as a result of questions posed by a couple of attendees. Although this added a bit to the “entertainment value” of the event, in the end, Herrera’s performance seemed to validate her front-runner status in this race.

Before going on with the details of this vetting session, in case you’re not familiar with Jaime Herrera, let me tell you a bit about her background. She presently serves as State Representative for Washington’s 18th Legislative District. Herrera was first appointed to that position in 2007 and she was elected to the position in 2008. Prior to becoming a Washington State Representative, Jaime Herrera worked in Washington DC, as a Senior Legislative Aide for the U.S. Congressional Representative from Washington State’s 5th District, Cathy McMorris Rodgers.

Outside of Jaime Herrera’s time in Washington DC, her life has been in Washington State. She graduated from Vancouver’s Prairie High School and she earned her Bachelor’s Degree from UW. She and her Husband, Dan, presently make their home in Camas. As a nearly-lifetime-resident of Southwest Washington, Herrera speaks easily to the issues concerning her fellow-residents. Based on her opening remarks at this vetting session, not only is she comfortable in addressing these matters, her views on them seem very well aligned with those of WTP.

The fact that Herrera is a nearly-lifetime-resident of Southwest Washington also seems to be at the heart of this “Candidate’s motives for running”. When she states that “DC is on the wrong track”, she goes on to express her genuine concern for the impact that’s having on the area where she grew up, its current residents and its future residents … including her yet-to-be-born children. One aspect that I find refreshing about Herrera, that seems to be folded in with her attitude about running for this office, is her candor. A good example is that she doesn’t shy away from acknowledging the importance of being a good listener, to a young person who is still in the fairly early stages of gaining experience. Accepting that, along with the fact that she would have limited clout, as a Freshman in Congress, she seems determined to do all that she can to be a catalyst for correcting the course that “DC is on”, for the benefit of those she hopes to represent.

As has been the case with each of the other candidates vetted by WTP, I found the Q&A portion of Jaime Herrera’s vetting session to be most helpful in answering the question, “How well equipped is the candidate to serve?” Generally, Herrera seemed well versed on the subject matter and her responses were well aligned with the views of WTP. She, apparently, was listening closely to comments made by Candidate for U.S. Senate, Dr. Art Coday, whose vetting preceded Herrera’s; because she noted her agreement with his points regarding the Federal Reserve – i.e. More is needed than just auditing the Fed, it was wrong for Congress to give their responsibility over to the Fed and that needs to be reversed. Likewise, her views on “cost-cutting with federal agencies” seemed to be more thoughtful and comprehensive than views expressed by others. Whereas some candidates have pointed to a few specific federal agencies they would target for elimination, Herrera agreed that there are agencies that should be eliminated but she also noted that her experience indicates there is opportunity to get rid of duplication, waste and abuse in most government agencies.

What I’ve said, up to now, about Herrera’s response during the Q&A portion of her vetting session, applies to both the segment where she was asked questions by the WTP Panel, as well as the segment where she was asked questions by attendees, selected by lottery. Since the “sparks” I’ve mentioned resulted from questions by two attendees, I think it’s appropriate for me to offer my observations about each of these.

For some time, I’ve heard questions “floating around” WTP about Herrera accepting a donation from SEIU and about her support of HB 1329, involving unionization for workers in daycare centers. As it turned out, the first attendee selected by lottery asked both of those questions. Frankly, I thought that was an unfortunate coincidence. With that said, I have absolutely no question about the integrity of those in charge of WTP. That is rock-solid. And, the questions needed to be addressed. Herrera acknowledged that herself and said that she was thankful to have the opportunity to speak to these issues. Her responses were: (1) She did receive a $500 donation from SEIU for her 2008 campaign for State Representative. Fundraising is critical to being competitive and regaining the U.S. Congressional seat from the Democrats. So far, her campaign donations are nearing $200,000. Her vote can’t be bought and it certainly doesn’t make sense that it would be bought for $500. (2) She supported HB 1329 because she saw it as being in the best interest of owners of daycare centers in her district and it did not make it mandatory for workers to join the union. Furthermore, it’s her responsibility to represent all her constituents and many of them are union members.

The final “sparks” in this vetting session actually involved an individual who was bent on attacking Representative Herrera’s character, rather than getting a question answered. Ironically, this attack ended up revealing positive aspects of Ms. Herrera’s character. The attendee involved here is an individual I only know as someone who seems to spend their entire life on looking for reasons to denigrate candidates he doesn’t support and if at all possible, to do so in a way that might reflect well upon a candidate he does favor. Initially, he just spouted reasons he didn’t feel that he could trust Herrera. To Herrera’s credit; she listened patiently, she gently acknowledged the individual as one holding beliefs of a non-supporter and she caringly but firmly asked him to pose a question. I was, especially, impressed with Herrera’s mature and level-headed conduct here. Surely she knows that this individual wasn’t really looking for an answer and that, in fact, there is no answer he would find acceptable from her nor are there any circumstances she could offer that would lead him to be a supporter. Finally, he asked her about her vote to use the $229 million in Washington State’s “rainy day” fund, to help balance the State Budget. Herrera’s response was one that makes complete sense to anyone who’s ever been in a leadership position, especially in business. Often, a leader is facing a list of alternatives that contains no “happy answers” but one of them must be chosen. In this case, the list of alternatives was under the control of the Democrat majority in Olympia and Herrera’s alternative to utilizing the “rainy day” fund was to raise taxes. Especially considering the facts that both the State Legislative District she represents, as well as the U.S. Congressional District that she’s running to represent, have both been suffering the ills of a nearly 14% unemployment rate, I’d say it seems like a “rainy day” to me and that she made the right choice. Moreover, Herrera stated that she knew, in making that choice, she would “take a political hit” but that doing what is right for her constituents is her priority.

In closing, Candidate Herrera assured attendees that “no one will work harder” for us in the U.S. Congress, if we elect to send her there and she reiterated her commitment to listen to the will of her constituents. As always, I hope that my observations are helpful to you in deciding whether or not to support this candidate. And, as always, I want to encourage you to continue to examine this candidate on your own and arrive at your own conclusions.