The 112th Congress that began on January 5, 2011, includes a huge class of freshman. Few of the incoming freshmen know Capitol Hill better than Jaime Herrera (R-WA). Jaime was one of the female Republican candidates who rose to prominence in 2010, and she was highlighted by Time Magazine as one of the 40 leaders under 40 who are “rising stars of American politics.” Jaime will also be the first homeschooled member of the United States Congress in recent history.
Jaime was born on November 3, 1978, in Glendale, California. She grew up in Southwest Washington where she participated in activities like 4-H, fishing at Battle Ground Lake, swimming in the Lewis River, climbing Mt. St. Helens, and helping with local political campaigns. Jaime was homeschooled through ninth grade. She graduated from Prairie High School where she played on the girls’ basketball team. Before starting college she performed 2,000 hours of community service at ground zero in New York after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack. Jaime received an associate’s degree from Bellevue Community College in 2003, and earned a B.A. degree in communications and political science from the University of Washington in 2004.
Jaime launched her political career in the same year she graduated from UW. She won a White House internship with the Bush administration, arriving at the tail end of the presidential campaign. As a college student, she had the opportunity to intern in both the Washington State Senate and in Washington, D.C. at the White House Office of Political Affairs. From 2005-2007, Jaime worked in Washington, D.C. as Senior Legislative Aide for Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Spokane). She was the Congresswoman’s lead advisor on health care policy, education, veterans’ and women’s issues. She also helped draft proposals, including a health information technology bill and an education-based competitiveness bill. Both measures passed the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly.
In 2007, Herrera was appointed to fill a vacancy in Washington State’s 18th Legislative District. After serving in the 2008 legislative session she ran for election and 60% of the voters in her district cast their vote for Herrera to continue her post as State Representative. During her time in the Legislature, Jaime served on the Health Care and Wellness Committee, the Human Services Committee, and the Transportation Committee. Representative Herrera’s first bill, a bipartisan proposal to give tax relief to business owners serving in the military, was signed into law on March 27, 2008.
Herrera’s congressional campaign was one of the high-profile races that national observers were watching in hopes of tipping the balance of the House. Jaime is a fiscal conservative who ran on a small-government platform. “I do believe in smaller government, less government at every possible turn,” she said. She is a supporter of the U.S. Constitution and works to uphold our freedoms and liberties. She aims to bring a fresh voice to Congress and restore commonsense leadership in order to get the economy back on track. “My parents taught me God first, family second, and service to community a close third,” Jaime said. “Those were the values of our region, too: personal responsibility, [and] a strong work ethic,” she added.
Jaime has class, character, and decent social and moral values. One of Jaime’s political heroes is Abigail Adams, who was one of our country’s most influential “founding mothers,” as well as the homeschooling mom of John Quincy. Jaime said that she decided she was a Republican after leaving home and reflecting on the values she’d learned from her own family. In 2006, through their church, they became involved in gang prevention. Jaime’s parents, Armando and Candice Herrera, adopted his brother’s three children to rescue them from the influence of drugs and gangs in Southern California.
Jaime says, “I am not opposed to safety nets. They are a part of our communities and our society. I’m the first to say when it comes to our most vulnerable citizens – children, seniors, folks fighting disability – we have a safety net for a reason. I think protecting our most vulnerable is actually a conservative principle.” However, Jaime believes that the government is becoming disconnected from the people it represents. “I think government has gotten a little too big for its britches… It is taking more and more ability from individuals and families to decide how they’re going to spend their money… I think we are at a point as a country when we are going to have to decide: Are we going to be in charge of our democratic republic, or is it the other way around?”
As a Congresswoman, Jaime says she will support an amendment that would require a balanced federal budget, emphasizing that the government needs to cut its spending to resolve the federal deficit. She thinks that Congress should “live within its means just like families, businesses and individuals do.” Jaime feels that the stimulus plan was misguided and that the stimulus money would have been more effective circulating in the economy. “We just need to get government out of the way and let small business do what they do best, which is create jobs,” she explains. The federal government should likewise eliminate regulations that stifle competition, she argues.
In a similar manner, Jaime said the federal health care bill should be repealed. She proposed small businesses be allowed to band together, even across state lines, in providing health care to their employees at lower cost. Jaime opposes abortion rights and opposes extending legal partnerships to same-sex couples. Jaime believes the federal government should take a smaller role in education and cede to local control of schools. On the issue of illegal immigration, the Hispanic young lady says, “We need to prove to the American people that the government can secure the border. I don’t support amnesty. People do need to learn English.”
Jaime revels in the excitement of belonging to the biggest group of House newbies in decades, and she is eager to get started because there is a lot of work to do. As she sees it, voters elected her to slim and streamline the government – and have given her two years to get the job done. “The fact that they chose me to be their voice here is an honor,” Herrera said. “You want to live up to that promise.” Jaime states her purpose very clearly: “I will be a member of Congress more concerned with saving your money than spending your money.”
Herrera admits to being ambitious but also conflicted. “I do believe that the American dream, which is to pass on a better life to our children, is in danger.” Eventually, she and her husband Dan (who she married in August 2008) want a family, but they will have to “put our lives on hold,” she admits a bit wistfully. Nevertheless, Jaime declared, “Every step I have taken since high school has been preparing me for this. There is not a job in the world I would rather have…. I have this amazing, tremendous responsibility and it is not something everyone gets a chance to do.”