With a little more than seven months to go until Election Day, the Democratic Party has another candidate willing to take on Jaime Herrera Beutler in Washington’s 3rd Congressional District: Marie Perez, a small business owner and DNC member from Skamania County, a part of rural Washington located between Vancouver and Yakima on the northern side of the Columbia River.
“For too long, residents of Southwest Washington have been ignored by politicians in both parties who are more interested in catering to extremes than helping working people,” said Perez in a statement declaring her candidacy.
“I know how hard it is to make ends meet right now and that is exactly why I’m running for Congress — to be a voice for working people again.”
Perez owns an automobile repair shop with her husband Dean and says that access to healthcare and childcare is a big issue for their family. The couple have a newborn son and can’t afford a health insurance policy that would cover all three of them. Childcare and healthcare will be central themes in Perez’s campaign, which will also focus on getting big money out of politics.
Perez supports banning members of Congress from trading stocks.
“In Congress, I will fight for an economy that puts working Washingtonians first, not last, invest in career and technical education and I will fight every day for affordable healthcare and childcare,” Perez said.
Perez is the fifth Democratic candidate to declare her candidacy, following Brent Hennrich, a theater industry veteran from Vancouver, and Christopher Maynard, Davy Ray, and Lucy Lauser. Maynard and Ray have not reported any contributions, while Lauser has reported just one donation. Hennrich has raised $45,366.16.
Incumbent Republican Herrera Beutler, forty-three, is also being challenged from the extreme right by a cadre of Trump loyalists, notably Joe Kent, Heidi St. John, Washington State Representative Vicki Kraft, and Wadi Yakhour.
Kent recently snagged Donald Trump’s highly coveted endorsement and looks like the strongest of Herrera Beutler’s Trump loyalist opponents.
The Trafalgar Group, a Republican-aligned firm, has been polling regularly in WA-03. Last week, the firm found Herrera Beutler coming in third, behind Joe Kent and Democratic challenger Hennrich in a survey of 697 likely voters. Hennrich, the only Democrat named in the survey, got 32.8%, while Kent got 25.5%, Herrera Beutler got 22.1%, St. John got 11.5%, and Vicki Kraft got 4.7%.
Regardless of whether Trafalgar Group’s polling is credible or not, Herrera Beutler is definitely at risk of being squeezed out in the Top Two election.
Only the top two vote getters will advance out of the August Top Two qualifying round, regardless of party affiliation. If the Republican vote is severely split, and if a significant number of Republican voters flee from Herrera Beutler, egged on by Donald Trump and his entourage, that means that either two Democrats could go on to the general election with no Republicans on the ballot, or one of the Democrats could get one of the Top Two spots along with one of Herrera Beutler’s opponents (most likely Joe Kent, given his backing from Trump.)
In 2018, the last midterm cycle, Herrera Beutler did poorly in the Top Two, capturing just 42% of the vote. Her opponents collectively got 58% of the vote. However, Herrera Beutler did well enough that she was able to vanquish her Republican challengers, leaving her with just Democratic opposition in the general election. It looks like it’ll be harder to pull off that feat this time around.
In addition to voting to impeach Donald Trump, Herrera Beutler voted to certify the results of the 2020 election and crosses the aisle to vote with Democrats more often than Dan Newhouse or Cathy McMorris Rodgers do. For instance, Herrera Beutler voted to hold Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress. That has greatly angered the Republican Party’s base in Washington State, which was already not enthusiastic about Herrera Beutler’s representation before the 2020 election.
The new 3rd Congressional District is a Republican-leaning district, much like its predecessor. A narrow majority of the new district voted for Donald Trump in 2020, and 54.5% backed Loren Culp for Governor. The new 3rd also has a composite 2016–2020 voting score of 51.9% Republican and 46.4% Democratic.
(That score utilizes data from the 2016 and 2020 presidential races, U.S. Senate races in 2016 and 2018, and Governor and Attorney General in 2020.)
It won’t be easy for a Democratic candidate to win WA-03 this year, but the district is nevertheless in play. If Herrera Beutler ends up getting ousted in the Top Two, the general election would become a race with open seat dynamics rather than a contest between a longtime incumbent and a first time candidate.
We’ll be keeping an eye on this race throughout the rest of the cycle.