Brent Hennrich interview: ‘Jaimie Herera Beutler was 100% correct to impeach Trump – but still wrong for our district’

Democrat Brent Hennrich has surged to the head of the pack of would-be challengers to Republican Jaime Herrera Beutler, one of just 10 GOP members of Congress who voted to impeach Donald Trump.

The fight to oust her took on fresh momentum when Mr Trump said he wished to endorse and support a Republican to replace her.

He is also seeking to get rid the others who voted to impeach him over his role in the the Jan 6 riot, including Liz Cheney of Wyoming.

In Washington’s 3rd Congressional District, where Ms Herrera Beutler was first elected in 2010, Mr Trump has endorsed a former Green Beret Joe Kent, who is a full-throated champion of the former president’s so-called America First nationalism.

However, the splitting of the field ahead of an open primary in August, has helped open the way to Mr Hennrich, who readily admits he has never held public office before, and who says “his lack of baggage” may be his his biggest challenge.

He spoke to The Independent in February. The conversation has been lightly edited.

Brent Hennrich wants to flip a seat held by Republicans since 2010

(Brent Hennrich )

Q:  How did you decide to get into this race?

A:  I started on this journey on October 29 of 2020. When I was giving Carolyn Long a donation, who is the woman that ran in 2018 and 2020. And I was talking with a friend and said, ‘Come on, give her give her 100 bucks’. You’ve got it. We’ve got to take this thing over the goal line’. And if Carolyn can’t do it. We need somebody to get in this race get in early. And that was just banter about amongst friends. And on November 3, Jamie got the most votes and won reelection. Then it turned into a discussion between my friend and I and my wife, that somebody has to get in this race. And it was mid-December that I decided it needed to be me, that I had the passion. And I had the the drive. And I wasn’t seeing it from anyone else. So I decided I needed to get into the race.

Q: I did not hear you – did you say weren’t feeling it from someone else?

A: I’m saying I didn’t see anyone else getting in that early. I felt that I was passionate, and everything else, and that I had to do it. And so that was mid-December 2020. And that’s when I started looking into what steps do I have to take. We were still very much in the throes of the pandemic. And so I was trying to get everything together. And, you know, as far as getting filed with the FTC it requires you to have a bank account in the campaign name. All of those things took extra time, because we were in the middle of a pandemic. It wasn’t until March 4, that I was legally filed.

So, I got into this before the insurrection. I got into this before there was her vote for impeachment. I got into this before the impeachment trial where Jamie was – she wasn’t ever called as a witness – but she provided information that was cited at the at that [hearing].

I was in this before that simply because I disagree with the representation Jamie’s given via her voting record. And I vehemently disagree with the lack of accessibility for constituents.

I’ve tried to reach her before with no luck. I know multiple people that have written letters and or written emails, and they just get a stock response. And that was my original driving force, that all these things that that I view is important, she doesn’t. And she will pick up the phone to allow me to tell her that they’re important to me.

And then the insurrection happened. Then the vote to impeach, then the impeachment trial. And that’s when some of the Republican competition came out of and said ‘Oh, she doesn’t represent Republicans’. And that got me to saying, ‘Well, who does she represent? If the Republicans are saying she doesn’t represent them? And I am a true Democrat and I know she doesn’t represent us. Who does she represent’?

Joe Kent says comparing Jan 6 riot to Pearl Harbour is ‘completely ridiculous’

Q: What do you think of her decision to vote to impeach President Trump?

A: I have tweeted about it and Facebook-posted about. It was absolutely the right choice and the right vote. She voted to uphold her oath of office. That’s the bare minimum that she did. And she was absolutely 100 per cent correct, in my view.

Q: Some might say that given she’s one of just 10 Republicans who voted to do that perhaps you should fight a different race?

A:  I don’t think that one vote – that is the bare minimum to preserve and protect the Constitution of the United States – necessarily makes her any more representative of our area. It’s the lowest hanging fruit of an oath of office that’s to preserve and protect the Constitution of the United States and represent your voters. And she said, ‘Okay, this isn’t okay. And he’s accountable. And so I’m going to vote to impeach him’. That’s the minimum thing you could do.

The fact that the 200 and some other Republicans didn’t vote that way is the bigger issue, because I still don’t feel Jamie represents our area. I don’t believe she’s accessible. Her voting record is nowhere near in line with what I believe the values, morals and ethics of our area are. And so just because she voted for impeachment, doesn’t change much in my view. I understand the political optics change with that. But who she is as a representative, and what she does for the constituents, did not change with that vote.

Q: You have an interesting life by the sounds of it – all over the world, various jobs in cinema and health care. But you’ve not held public office before. Do you see that being a hindrance?

A: I see it as a blessing and a curse. When we look at getting people elected, we want to look, oftentimes, how they’ve voted, or how they’ve reacted to different issues, whether it’s city council, county council, state legislature, and so they have a voting history, that that can be presented to the voters. And that can be, like any statistic, semi-manipulated or twisted and everything else.

I don’t have a public office voting record. So therefore, there’s nothing to say, Oh, well, back in, you know, in 2007, you voted this way on this issue, why are you saying this now? Because I don’t have that. I believe that voters do like a history, so I say my biggest piece of baggage in this run, is that I don’t have any baggage. I can’t lean on, ‘Oh, I have a history of voting in favor of, of expanding healthcare access over a career of this much time’, because I don’t have a history of that in the public eye. My personal votes are my personal and are protected.

At the same time, they can’t come out and say, ‘Oh, you voted this one time on this one bill that had an had an increase of whatever, but also had these other things attached and you voted against it’. And that’s part of legislating, and I’m sure there will be difficult decisions in my future in Congress where, where that happen.

I think of a scene from the TV show The West Wing, where they’re talking to Jimmy Smits character he said ‘Yeah I voted for the bill in committee before I voted against it on the floor. But so much of it changed in between the two places, that it went from being a good bill to a bad bill’. But those are the types of things that then get used against someone in the race.

Q: You said you don’t think JHB is not a good representative. Sum up what makes a good representative for Washington’s 3rd Congressional District?

A: Accessibility and empathy, and the ability to say ‘I don’t know’.

Ask Jamie, any question and she has an answer no matter what the topic is. And I don’t, and I’m happy to admit that and say I need to talk to an expert in that area to get an informed position. She has her talking points, and she can cite them and put them out there. But whether she has talked to somebody that’s informed, or whether that’s just a talking point, no one knows. But it doesn’t matter the topic, she speaks to issues, whether they’re medical, whether they’re economic, foreign policy, to domestic issues, all with a level that, you know, comes across as though she’s hyper-educated in those specific areas.

And I don’t believe that a member of Congress [you can be a] licensed medical doctor, that has a PhD in economics, and knows astrophysics, and on and on and on. I say, I will lead with empathy, and accessibility, I will tell you what I don’t know the answer to. But I will reach out to the best and brightest in those fields, and talk to them to become informed on those subjects.

Trump has vowed to oust Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler, and all the Republicans who voted to impeach him

(Getty Images)

Q: When you speak to potential voters, what do they say are the most pressing issues right now in their lives.?

A: It’s always about jobs and economy. It always goes back to jobs and the economy. And it’s a matter of how we are going to address that, whether people have a good paying job, but don’t see that it grows, or whether it’s somebody that’s working multiple minimum wage jobs in order to make ends meet, it goes back to jobs, and the economy, along with benefits, specifically health care, and then retirement.

And that’s where kind of the stock market sneaks into it, where is  my 401k is going to go and is it going to be enough for me to retire on. I believe that if we address the climate crisis, we will be creating a huge amount of green energy jobs that will allow for those people that are in that green energy sector to prop up so many other sectors, I think the economic cycle will boom under addressing the global car climate crisis.

Q: What is your plan to help people get better jobs and to grow the economy in the area?

A: There are two things. Number one, I’m advising my own children to become electricians, versus trying to become lawyers. And I mean that from the bottom of my heart, that we are going to have to rebuild the electrical infrastructure of the grid of the neighborhoods, of the houses, to handle transitioning from fossil fuels to electric. Taking out a gas heater, and a gas stove and replacing those with electric, it requires upgrading the electrical grid in a home. Then you add a vehicle charging station, and then you take that times 20 houses on a block, that requires an upgraded electrical service to that city block. And you’ve got that by how many factors all across the Washington’s third and across the country. I think that’s going to be the next up and coming thing.

At the same time, those additional electricians that will come into that will still need a house that’s built  by a contractor and a framer, they will still need to buy groceries, they still will need to buy a car. And those things will go out and build the economy around that one central issue

And then you have the big project infrastructure items of building the renewable energy sources, whether they’re wind turbines, or whether they’re, solar farms, stacked on top of that.

Q: What would your role in promoting those things in the district?

A: It would be pushing for those big infrastructure projects of wind energy, solar energy, and battery storage, so that we can get to clean green energy, and allow to get get the to the jobs and the transition to green energy.

Q: If you had to sum up the challenge facing you in flipping the seat, what words might you use?

A: It’s a grind, it’s every day, reaching out, being accessible, being honest, with the voters here in the third. And it’s an uphill battle. From the standpoint of we don’t have name recognition. So we have to build that one person at a time, and implore them to hopefully help us by a factor of three, by getting out to three of their friends, and repeating what I said to them first-hand, to them second-hand, and reach the fourth person and get them to go to person number seven, and then reach person eight. And we keep doing that every single day.

Q: Parts of the 3rd District can sometimes feel pretty conservative, especially when compared to Seattle, which is a liberal bubble. How would you describe its political makeup?

A: I believe the third is purple. If we’re doing colours of blue or red or right or super liberal or super conservative. It’s in that wash-over zone. Every politico is looking at numbers. Realistically, this area is only R-plus four or plus five, as far as voting trend goes. Remember we had [Democrat] Brian Baird for for a decade before he retired. And that is when Jamie came in.

But we have an incumbent bias in this district that many districts don’t share. We have a comfort level with Jamie. And so her her win in 2020 shows that. Trump won by three and a half here. And Jamie, one by 12. And it’s definitely not an R plus 12. District.It’s a matter of there’s a comfort level.

So I feel it’s, you know, directly available to me to reach out to the voters here. Because we are a very middle ground district. It just has recently been going more towards Republican, but we are not a extreme Republican district. And I think that opens a door for a Democrat to say, okay, a Democrat can win here by four points.

Q: If she won by 12 points, doesn’t that suggest people like the job she’s doing now?

A: Yeah, that suggests that, and that was last November, and a lot has happened since last November

Q: What has happened that is going to change on the ground for her?

A: Her her vote for impeachment, her vote in favor of the January 6 commission that didn’t pass and then her vote against the January 6 Select Committee, because she said it had become politicised when she was a part of the group that made it hyper political. A lot has changed since November of 2020.

Q: Do you find that people are receptive to you?

A: Yes. Oftentimes I get oh, yes, I’m gonna vote for you. That’s great. But I have had no one and with anything more negative than I will be considering you.

Q: So how literally are you campaigning? Is it in person, are you going out and about?

A: We hope to be able to go out and about. I am running on a platform that very much has a centre pole of public health. And that, you know, it’s not right now safe to invite a crowd to get together to do things.

Right now it’s Facebook and Twitter and reaching out and continuously telling people if you want to talk to me, please send me a DM. Let’s get it on the calendar. Let’s have a conversation. And from that having those conversations and then otherwise, it’s looking at voter rolls, Twitter spaces.

We have the public support of Carolyn Long who ran in 2018 and 2020. We have the public support of Royce Pollard, the former mayor of Vancouver, Washington. We’ve reached out to other sitting congresspersons, we’ve reached out to other campaigns, and we’ve gotten positive support.

Washington state rules are anyone that’s an elected cannot do any politicking while they’re in session.

Q: So I saw a poll by Trafalgar group had you in second place. What do you think about that?

A: I believe it. I believe that poll. I truly do. I believe that Joe Kent has the largest head of steam in this race right now. And I believe he is in first in a primary top two ballot. And I believe in their polling and methodology. And the big question becomes, once Joe and I knock Jamie out in the primary, what happens in the general between a traditional left leaning Democrat, and an extreme right, MAGA challenger.

Q: What’s was your end year fundraising amount?

A: My end of year was just over $45,000. And we are lagging behind the Republicans by a long way. But we’re building on it every single day. And we’re going forward.

Right now, this is a tier-three race, if not a tier-four race, because no one knows what’s going to happen here until the votes are cast in August.

So we’re not getting a lot of attention to work with. At the same time, this is going to become a top tier race on August 3.

If that polling is correct, and it’s Joe Kent and myself, and Jaime gets knocked out in the primary, this will be a top tier race and discussed everywhere and everything will change.

Q: I assume you were pretty thrilled when you saw that poll poll?

A: Well, I was honestly excited and scared all at the same time. You know, coming from a background that I did and not being involved in a prior run for office, seeing your own name in the top two of the top two primary, is elation and also a dose of reality.

It’s everywhere that I wanted to be. So it was, it was a mix of emotions, but if anything, it cemented my drive to say, we’re in this, we’re in this for the right reasons and resonating, and we we are going to do this. And if that poll would have come out with Joe and I reverse, I would have thought no different emotions.

Q: There’s a lot of responsibility on you now as well?

A: Yeah. I have to perform. I have to keep putting in the work every day. And I do 16 hours a day. Every day.