The politically active homeschooling movement is celebrating the election to Congress of one of its own, Republican Jaime Herrera, who will represent Southwest Washington state in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The daughter of a printing business worker who moved his family from California north to Ridgefield, Wash., Herrera was homeschooled through the ninth grade.
“My parents taught me God first, family second and service to community a close third,” she wrote in a letter to precinct committee officers when she was seeking appointment to a vacant seat in the Washington state Legislature.
“Those were the values of our region, too: personal responsibility, a strong work ethic,” Herrera said in an interview with The Columbian daily of Vancouver, Wash.
Her parents, Armando and Candice Herrera, adopted the three children of Armando’s brother to rescue them from the influence of drugs and gangs in Southern California, the paper said. In 2006, through their church, the children became involved in gang prevention.
Herrera celebrated her 32nd birthday last week along with her Nov. 2 victory over Democrat Danny Heck, 53 percent to 47 percent.
Her campaign office said she is out of the country at the moment and unavailable for comment.
Homeschoolers were active nationwide in the mid-term elections, with a division of the Homeschool Legal Defense Association called Generation Joshua deploying 900 students in 21 races.
The Student Action Teams, or SATs, of about 45 or 50 were sent out five days before the election. In previous elections, they have worked for candidates such as Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, Gov. Bob McDonnel of Virginia and Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn.
Daniel Webster, a homeschooling father, who was infamously smeared by opponent Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., as “Taliban Dan,” was a beneficiary of Generation Joshua’s Florida efforts last week. Webster defeated Grayson by 18 points.
Herrera, meanwhile, was vying for an open seat in Washington state’s 3rd District currently held by Democratic Rep. Brian Baird. Herrera’s strong challenge prompted the White House to dispatch Vice President Joe Biden to the district.
Clarity of vision
Asked in an interview with Time magazine, to name her political hero or inspiration, she said she had two, Abigail Adams and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
“I am encouraged and challenged by Thatcher’s clarity of vision and her unwavering dedication to what was best for her country,” Herrera said. “She stood firm in the face of tough opposition and was a strong leader.”
After homeschooling through the ninth grade, Herrera went to Prairie High School, where she played on the girls’ basketball team. She graduated from the University of Washington in 2004 with a degree in communications.
She told The Columbian she was a Republican after leaving home and reflecting on the values she had learned from her family.
“I do believe in smaller government, less government at every possible turn,” she said.
She said she is pro-life and opposes extending legal partnerships to same-sex couples.
She worked briefly as a White House intern then joined the Capitol Hill staff of Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., in 2006 and 2007 before returning home to Clark County to run for the Legislature.
“It’s sinking in,” Herrera said Wednesday after her election victory. “I’m excited. I have this amazing, tremendous responsibility and it is not something everyone gets a chance to do. It’s going to be some of the most challenging times to govern that this nation has seen.”
She told Time magazine she ran for office “to stop-the out-of-control spending taking place in D.C.”
“Our current Congress is spending money in an attempt to get us out of this economic crisis, not realizing that overspending is the crisis,” she said. “The disconnect between current politicos and the rest of us who are in reality is hard to believe.
“I say it’s time to trust the American people again – not those who think they know best how to live our lives and spend our money,” she said.
Hispanic and Republican
As a conservative Hispanic woman, Herrera shouldn’t exist, according to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, points out Townhall columnist Guy Benson.
In August, Reid told a Latino audience he didn’t know “how anyone of Hispanic heritage could be a Republican.”
Herrera told Benson that when she first heard the remarks, she was momentarily dumbfounded.
“It was a sense of disbelief at first,” she said. “But then I realized that this man, who is the face of the Democratic Party, does not understand the American people.”
Herrera’s entrance to the 2010 congressional race began during the health-care debate of August 2009 when the current representative, Baird, compared protesters of the plan to Nazis.
“What we’re seeing right now is close to Brown Shirt tactics. I mean that very seriously,” Baird said.
Herrera immediately was flooded with requests to run.
“Some of our friends were asking me to run at our wedding reception,” she said, who is married to Dan Beutler. “I’d been married for about two hours at that point.”