Elections

Trump-endorsed Joe Kent overtakes Jaime Herrera Beutler for second place in WA-03

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.

Kent has already vio­lat­ed fed­er­al law dur­ing the course of his cam­paign.

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.

Andrew Villeneuve

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