Republicans coming to Ocean Shores to look for answers


Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler says she hopes to lead regional Republicans out of their funk and show by example that they need to do a better job of attracting more women, more Hispanics and more younger people to the party.

She says Republicans need to figure out how to compromise more and stop being stuck in old ways.

“I don’t purport to have all the answers and my goal isn’t to toot my horn, but I do believe that people can disagree with each other, because people are not going to agree with each other on everything,” she said.

The congresswoman from Camas is a keynote speaker as hundreds of Republicans gather from all over the state for the annual Roanoke Conference at the Ocean Shores Convention Center this weekend. The three-day conference, which starts Friday, is expected to draw the top brass of the Republican Party and serve as a way to connect leadership with their supporters.

Herrera Beutler, winning a second term in the newly re-drawn 3rd Congressional District that tilts a bit more conservative as it stretches across to Eastern Washington now, is one of the state Republicans’ few bright spots from the November elections, which saw presidential candidate Mitt Romney and gubernatorial hopeful Rob McKenna both get trounced. In fact, Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman is reportedly the only Republican statewide office holder on the West Coast.

McKenna, just a couple weeks out from the end of his term as Attorney General, is one of the featured speakers this weekend, along with U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton and others.

“Rob McKenna fit our state in a lot of ways and I would have thought people wanted more of a change in direction so the election results were surprising to me,” she said.

“I think this is a good opportunity to talk about vision and to build and rally around to talk about our values and principles and, what do we believe?” Herrera Beutler added. “I believe in the American people. I grew up in my district and I want to see families and individuals prosper. And I think this is a good opportunity to share some vision with like-minded folks. … I think the values behind the Republican core drew me and I’m not just Hispanic, I’m also a young person and I’m a woman so there’s a misnomer sometimes in some of the media that there are no more Republicans out there like me.”

She says that Democrats have just done a better job selling their message in recent years and part of the reason has been some of her colleagues in Congress who have refused to compromise on taxes and spending bills.

In the closing days of the last congressional session, Herrera Beutler actually voted in favor of the fiscal cliff agreement, a compromise bill that raised taxes on individuals making more than $400,000 or couples making more than $450,000. The agreement “does protect 99.5% of folks in our region from devastating tax hikes,” she noted in a press release at the time.

“It was the right thing to do,” she said. “I do believe in governing and I wanted the opportunity to say to the president that I met you halfway. You had asked for tax increases. I compromised and met you. And now I have some opportunities to say, OK, let’s talk about the other side of the equation, which is how do we get our fiscal problems in order? And yet a lot of my colleagues were reluctant to meet halfway or come to the table on that. And I fundamentally think that’s the wrong way to go. …

“Did I like that vote?” she said. “No. Would I have written the bill differently? Absolutely. But I don’t think it’s compromising my values to say that we’re going to get the ball as far down the field as we can on this down. We need to do as much as we can, and do it in an agreeable way and then come back to work on our issues.”

A couple years ago, the Roanoke Conference named Herrera Beutler as a “Rising Star,” a way to shine a spotlight on the congresswoman to show she has a bright career ahead of her with the Republicans.

“I’m very happy where I am and honestly I won’t do this forever,” she said. “People ask me, ‘Do you like this?’ And it’s not about liking it. It’s rewarding. And I think it’s a consequential time for our nation so it’s an honor to be here but there are a lot of times when I’m not interested in the title and not interested in people calling me congresswoman. I could leave this place for what it is and come back to southwest Washington and be happy, but I think there’s work to be done and for as long as I feel like I’m able to make a difference and add some perspective, I’m going to do it.”

One of the original organizers of the conference, Jim Keough of Seattle, noted the event pumps about $200,000 each year into the Ocean Shores economy. The convention center and location, he added, also provides a fitting venue for the more casual format of the event.

“We have developed some of our favorite places we like to go for our post-conference activities in the evening,” said Keough, a former staff member of Gorton’s when he was a U.S. Senator.

“It’s a great facility for us and it’s a great chance for us to get away, especially for the people who are in Olympia,” he said. “We have people from the entire state coming to it.”

With the Democrats winning both the presidency and the governor’s seat, Keough said organizers of the conference were concerned that attendance might be down this year. Last year, there were 418 registered participants and “we’re going to exceed that number,” Keough said.

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For more information, visit the Roanoke website at: http://www.roanokeconference.org/

Daily World writer Angelo Bruscas contributed to this story.