United States Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler’s reelection bid may soon be at an end. Today, her ultra MAGA, Trump-endorsed Republican challenger Joe Kent surged into second place after another favorable ballot drop, taking a lead of 813 votes following the tabulation of a fifth round of ballots by Clark County Elections and the other counties in the 3rd Congressional District.
In first place is Democratic challenger Marie Perez, who got the backing of most of the district’s Democratic voters. Perez looks secure in that first place spot, and will be going on to the general election. But Herrera Beutler’s grip on second place has been steadily shrinking as the ballot counting has gone on.
On Election Night, there was a significant gap between Herrera Beutler and Kent, which left many pundits and observers wondering if Herrera Beutler had escaped the clutches of Trump and his increasingly rabid, militant, extreme base in the Republican Party. But unfortunately for Herrera Beutler, her lead for second place has disappeared. Worse, Kent’s momentum has carried him to a lead he probably isn’t going to be relinquishing. That means it’s curtains for Herrera Beutler.
On Election Night, Herrera Beutler had 24.48% of the vote, while Kent had 20.11%. Other Republican challengers, like Heidi St. John and Vicki Kraft, were further back, and remain so. Today, Herrera Beutler has 22.35% of the vote, while Kent has 22.74%. Perez is, as mentioned, ahead of both at 30.99%.
The last few counts indicate that a lot of the Trump faithful simply waited until Election Day to return their ballots. Washington is a vote-at-home state, with no polling places (just accessible voting centers for those who need them), but the state has long allowed voters to vote on Election Day, even through the mail.
The rules are simple: as long as your ballot is in a drop box by 8 PM or postmarked no later than Election Day, it will be counted.
(America’s other vote at home pioneer, our great Pacific Northwest state of Oregon, used to require that ballots actually be received by 8 PM on Election Day, but Oregon has now adopted the system long used in Washington State.)
On Friday evening, Clark County (the population center of the district) reported it had 30,000 ballots remaining to be processed. After today’s count, that number is down to 10,000. Thurston County also has 10,000 ballots awaiting processing, but most of those are likely from outside of the 3rd. Lewis has 90 ballots awaiting processing, Cowlitz 480, Wahkiakum 20, Pacific 75, and Skamania 14. The smaller counties are not planning any more counts until Certification Day next week.
Herrera Beutler would need to arrest and reverse Kent’s momentum in the late ballots in order to regain second place. That seems improbable at this point, given the trend. While Herrera Beutler’s colleague Dan Newhouse looks set to go on to the general election in the neighboring 4th District, she is now facing defeat and the end of her service in the United States House of Representatives.
Democrats could respond by giving the 3rd the DCCC’s “Red to Blue” designation, to help Perez, who is a small business owner, raise the funds needed to mount the most vigorous campaign possible in the general election against Kent.
The Democratic Party has been focused on picking up Oregon’s new 6th Congressional District and defending the seats now held by Kurt Schrader (who lost renomination to Jamie McLeod-Skinner) and Kim Schrier (who is on her way to the general election with Republican Matt Larkin as her likely opponent), but Herrera Beutler’s pending ouster makes this a contest for an open seat.
Those dynamics will alter how the race is perceived and scored in the Other Washington and around the country. Aside from perhaps Russ Fulcher of Idaho, there is no one in the Pacific Northwest’s congressional delegation who is as extreme as Joe Kent is and would be in Congress. However you want to define “ultra MAGA,” Joe Kent probably fits the definition. Kent wants to become our region’s version of Lauren Boebert or Marjorie Taylor Greene.
Perez is standing in his way, but she’ll need all the support she can get to defeat him and ensure that Washington’s 3rd doesn’t become a district represented by somebody who is an enemy of the Constitution of the United States.