In the heat of a tough midterm election campaign, few Republicans can boast of receiving kind words from a member of the Kennedy family. But Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, who is locked in a tight reelection battle with Democrat Carolyn Long, made sure voters in Washington’s Third District saw who praised her this week, retweeting the following message from Rep. Joe Kennedy III:
My colleague @HerreraBeutler intro’d legislation that would support states in researching maternal deaths & identifying solutions for #MaternalJustice. Has 180+ bipartisan cosponsors in the House which is fantastic news. Needs more GOP support to cross finish line. https://t.co/ZD1nnAz9IP
— Rep. Joe Kennedy III (@RepJoeKennedy) October 30, 2018
Herrera Beutler, who is seeking reelection to her fifth term in a district along the Oregon border, used Kennedy’s tweet to emphasize her political independence amid criticism from her Democratic rival that she has voted uniformly with President Trump.
“I’ll keep working with my Republican and Democrat colleagues to reverse the troubling trend of maternal mortality and save moms,” Herrera Beutler wrote on Twitter in response to Kennedy’s tweet.
But later in the day, Kennedy clarified to Yahoo News that he was endorsing Long over Herrera Beutler.
“I’m proud to work with Republican colleagues on legislation to address maternal mortality and other health care issues confronting patients. Congresswoman Herrera Beutler’s support on this one bill, however, does not excuse her consistent votes to repeal the ACA or her party’s promise to take health care away from millions of Americans if they retain majorities in both chambers,” Kennedy said Inexcusably, still today, President Trump’s budget seeks to gut Medicaid by $1 trillion, the very program that pays for nearly half of all births in our country. That’s why I’m proudly supporting Carolyn Long who understands that health care is deeply personal and would never vote to jeopardize protections for preexisting conditions.”
Long, who is a political science professor at Washington State University in Vancouver, has worked to portray Herrera Beutler as a rubber stamp for Trump, noting that the website FiveThirtyEight has found the congresswoman has voted with the president 91.3 percent of the time over the past two years.
“Jaime has had no shortage of opportunities to exercise oversight over the Trump administration’s sabotage of the individual marketplace where countless single moms working minimum wage jobs with no benefits purchase health insurance for their families,” Long’s campaign said of Herrera Beutler in an email to Yahoo News. “In fact, she’s done just the opposite more than 40 times when she voted to repeal the ACA.”
Named the Preventing Maternal Deaths Act, Herrera Beutler’s bill has attracted widespread support from members of both parties, drawing 180 co-sponsors.
“This is just not a partisan issue,” Angeline Riesterer, campaign spokeswoman for Herrera Beutler, told Yahoo News in an email. “You either are a mom or you have a mom, and when Jaime talks about how more and more moms are dying in the U.S. every year, her colleagues on both sides of the aisle have come together to support her bill.”
Since she first won her seat in the Tea Party wave of 2010, Herrera Beutler has coasted to reelection, winning with more than 60 percent of the vote in each of the contests since. While she told Yahoo News in mid-September that she “wouldn’t say” she was “worried” about beating Long, a New York Times poll of the race taken this week showed Long trailing her by just seven points, with 12 percent of voters still undecided, and an internal poll commissioned by her campaign found Long leading in the race by two points.
So the tweet from Kennedy, who is the grandson of former senator and Attorney General Robert Kennedy, came at a propitious time for Herrera Beutler and an inconvenient one for Long. Congress is out of session, and if the bill comes to a vote, it won’t be until after the election.
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