The 16th annual candidate forum hosted by the Camas High School Youth Advisory Council will be absent one notable politician this year.
Forum organizers said they were surprised to learn last week that Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler will not be able to attend the Oct. 22 event.
“She attended two years ago, and had given a verbal ‘yes’ to Mayor Scott Higgins months ago, so we thought she planned to come this year,” Erika Cox, a Camas School Board member whose daughter, Emma, a Camas High senior, helps organize the annual event, said of Herrera Beutler.
Cox said the last-minute notification from Herrera Beutler’s campaign “threw a wrench in the plans” for student forum organizers.
The Republican incumbent congresswoman’s opponent, Democrat Carolyn Long still plans to attend the Oct. 22 forum at Camas High, despite the fact that Herrera Beutler can’t make it.
Pam Peiper, a member of Herrera Beutler’s campaign staff, said the congresswoman normally attends the Camas forum — and, in fact, appeared at the 2016 forum even after her challenger, Jim Moeller, withdrew after becoming ill — but had another event already planned on Oct. 22.
“The first time we were contacted about a date for the Camas Youth Advisory Council forum was on Tuesday, Oct. 2, in contrast with previous years when they’d been in contact with us over a month in advance,” Peiper told The Post-Record in an email Tuesday. “Unfortunately, by the time they contacted us last week, Jaime already had something scheduled on their chosen date.”
Peiper said the congresswoman will be attending “a campaign event in someone’s home” that was arranged in September, before Herrera Beutler’s campaign heard from the Camas High forum organizers.
Cox said organizers had reached out to the incumbent 3rd District representative through Herrera Beutler’s website form, but that, when they hadn’t heard back from the congresswoman’s campaign staff by Oct. 2, the school board member reached out via email.
Peiper thanked Cox for her invitation on Oct. 3, and said it was the first time they’d heard of the forum, but she would get back to the Camas High organizers. Later that same day, Peiper emailed Cox and said Herrera Beutler had another event already scheduled for Oct. 22.
“In the past, Jaime has enjoyed participating in this event, but also the (Camas Youth Advisory Council) has coordinated with us on a date much earlier. We wish you a great event,” Peiper stated in her email.
The Camas High candidate forum will be held from 7 to 9 p.m., Monday, Oct. 22, in the Camas High School Theater, 26900 S.E. 15th St., Camas. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.
The forum also will feature candidates running for Washington state’s 17th and 18th Legislative Districts and a Clark County Council seat.
“I hold a great deal of respect and appreciation for our local candidates who are taking the time to answer questions created by the students at Camas High School about issues affecting today’s young people,” Emma Cox, one of the lead student organizers for this year’s forum, said.
Long, a longtime political science professor at Washington State University, Vancouver, said she appreciated the students’ interest in politics.
“I believe every candidate for federal office should do their part to engage young people in our democracy and I’m grateful for the opportunity to speak with the next generation of leaders in Southwest Washington,” Long said. “I was so impressed by how mature and insightful the students at Camas High were during their Lunchbox Talks event, and I’m thrilled they’re taking such an active interest in the political process before they’re even eligible to vote.”
Herrera Beutler has participated in three debates and forums this year — all available online — and will attend a debate in Goldendale next week.
Asked about Herrera Beutler’s recent appearances in Camas or Washougal, Peiper said the congresswoman “regularly includes tens of thousands of Camas and Washougal residents in her telephone town halls … including her most recent in August. She also frequently meets one-on-one with individuals who request to connect with her.”