Democratic congressional hopeful Marie Gluesenkamp Perez is running a competitive campaign against ultra MAGA Republican rival Joe Kent in Washington’s 3rd Congressional District and is one of the Democratic Party’s strongest contenders for an upset victory in the 2022 midterms, a new poll conducted this week for the Northwest Progressive Institute by Public Policy Polling suggests.
Only three percentage points separated the candidates in the survey’s final head-to-head matchup, with Kent garnering 47% and Gluesenkamp Perez 44%. 9% are not sure. Those figures are almost identical to responses to the initial head-to-head question, in which Kent got 48% and Gluesenkamp Perez got 44%.
Washington’s 3rd is a solidly Republican district currently represented by Jaime Herrera Beutler, whose reelection campaign for a fifth term ended last month when a majority of Republican voters abandoned her for several MAGA rivals. One of those, Joe Kent, nabbed the second place spot for the general election after late ballots were counted, buoyed by an endorsement from Donald Trump.
Gluesenkamp Perez, meanwhile, finished first among the nine candidates with the united backing of the Democratic Party, ensuring that Democrats would not be without a standard bearer listed on the general election ballot like Republicans were in the 10th Congressional District in 2020, in the Lieutenant Governor’s race that same year, and in this cycle’s special election for Secretary of State.
Herrera Beutler is one of ten House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump after the January 6th insurrection, along with colleague Dan Newhouse from the adjoining 4th. While Newhouse managed to dispatch all of his ultra MAGA opponents in the Top Two election (including the odious Loren Culp), Herrera Beutler was unable to hold off Kent despite a decent Election Night lead.
Now, Kent is the only Republican left standing.
His extreme positions — support for a nationwide abortion ban with no exceptions, admiration for Vladimir Putin’s murderous regime in Moscow, unquestioning loyalty to Donald Trump, solidarity with the January 6th insurrectionists, and enthusiasm for dismantling the FBI — make him a danger to American democracy in the eyes of progressive Democrats and even some Republicans.
Gluesenkamp Perez, on the other hand, supports policy directions that most voters in the 3rd District support. She may not be a Republican, but she has declared that she is building a campaign that is inclusive and welcomes the support of Republicans who want effective, honest, and ethical representation.
For Gluesenkamp Perez’s campaign to succeed, she’ll need to gain the trust of at least some Republican voters, because there aren’t enough Democratic and true independent voters residing in the district to carry her to victory.
In its redrawn form, the 3rd voted narrowly for Donald Trump in 2020 along with Loren Culp for Governor and Republicans for downballot offices like Treasurer, Auditor, and Attorney General (all of whom lost statewide). Herrera Beutler, meanwhile, captured 56.37% of the vote last cycle in the general election.
A solid foundation to build on in the October homestretch
Despite being a late-declaring first time candidate who had practically no name recognition when she decided to run for Congress in February, Gluesenkamp Perez is heading into October in a position to seriously contend. That much is evident just from the initial head-to-head question we asked of our respondents:
QUESTION: If the election for United States Representative were being held today, would you vote for Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Perez or Republican Joe Kent?
- Marie Gluesenkamp Perez: 44%
- Joe Kent: 48%
- Not sure: 9%
After the Top Two election (in which she received 31.01% of the vote), Gluesenkamp Perez’s campaign commissioned an internal poll from Expedition Strategies to ascertain its position and chances of victory in November.
The campaign released some of its findings early this month, reporting that Expedition Strategies found Gluesenkamp Perez narrowly ahead of Kent, 47% to 45%, “before voters are primed with any additional information.”
While our survey did not find a lead for Gluesenkamp Perez like the campaign’s pollster did, we can confirm that this is a competitive race.
Thanks to this project, we now have multiple data points suggesting the candidates are pretty close to each other about a month before ballots drop, with each having more than forty percent support but less than fifty percent.
The Expedition Strategies poll consisted of interviews with 400 likely general election voters surveyed August 25th-30th. It has a margin of error of +/- 4.9%.
Our poll consisted of interviews with 834 likely 2022 voters who were surveyed from September 19th — 20th by Public Policy Polling. 50% participated via landline and 50% participated online via invitation sent through text messaging. The survey has a margin of error of +/- 3.4% at the 95% confidence interval.
Even more evidence: Gluesenkamp Perez is already outperforming the top of the ticket
Since the 3rd is a district with a Republican lean, Gluesenkamp Perez will need at least some Republican voters to cross over and support her, as mentioned.
Anyone who doubts that Gluesenkamp Perez can pull this off and become the first Democrat to win this district in more than a decade should consider that she’s already part of the way there. Revealingly, our survey shows that Gluesenkamp Perez is outperforming Senator Patty Murray, the well known Democratic candidate in this cycle’s marquee top of the ticket statewide contest, while Joe Kent is significantly underperforming Murray’s Republican challenger Tiffany Smiley.
Take a look:
QUESTION: If the general election for United States Senate were being held today, would you vote for Democrat Patty Murray or Republican Tiffany Smiley?
- Patty Murray: 42%
- Tiffany Smiley: 53%
- Not sure: 5%
Just to reiterate: These percentages are for WA-03 only. Democratic Senator Patty Murray has led Republican challenger Tiffany Smiley in every statewide poll we’ve commissioned this election cycle, including our most recent poll in June of 2022. Murray won the Top Two election and finished eighteen points ahead of Smiley.
It’s a significant difference: Smiley has an eleven point lead over Murray in the 3rd, but Gluesenkamp Perez starts out only four points behind Kent, thanks in part to support from Republican-leaning voters who identify as independent.
It’s also worth noting that more WA-03 voters are undecided about who they’ll support in their district’s U.S. House race than the statewide U.S. Senate race.
Reproductive rights: A key issue for Gluesenkamp Perez
Washington State has long had a reputation as a bastion for reproductive rights within the United States, having voted decades ago to legalize abortion care. That’s not only true at the statewide level, it’s true at the district level, too, in most of the state’s ten congressional districts. The 3rd is no exception.
We found support both for the Women’s Health Protection Act:
QUESTION: Do you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would give Americans the legal right to determine whether and when to end a pregnancy, and to protect a health care provider’s ability to provide reproductive health services, including abortion services?
- Support: 57%
- Strongly support: 47%
- Somewhat support: 10%
- Oppose: 36%
- Somewhat oppose: 10%
- Strongly oppose: 26%
- Not sure: 7%
… and for Perez’s stated position on reproductive rights:
QUESTION: Marie Gluesenkamp Perez says that if elected, she will work to protect abortion rights in Congress and will oppose those who seek to criminalize reproductive healthcare. Joe Kent says he supports a national abortion ban with no exceptions, including rape, incest, or the life of the mother. Which candidate’s position do you prefer?
- Prefer Marie Gluesenkamp Perez’s position: 52%
- Prefer Joe Kent’s position: 33%
- Not sure: 14%
We think the above is one of the most important findings from this survey.
Gluesenkamp Perez’s most resonant criticism of Joe Kent’s ultra MAGA candidacy might well be his unabashed, extreme, and dangerous position opposing reproductive rights, which only a third of our respondents said they preferred.
3rd District voters also support the PRO Act, the For the People Act, and the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act
Our survey also found that voters in the 3rd are in agreement with Gluesenkamp Perez and the Democratic Party on a number of other issues.
For example, a majority of respondents back the PRO Act:
QUESTION: Do you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose amending federal labor laws to give more workers currently classified as contractors the right to collectively bargain for higher wages and better working conditions, prevent employers from holding mandatory meetings for the purpose of discouraging their employees from unionizing, and toughen penalties on companies that retaliate against workers who try to form a union?
- Support: 53%
- Strongly support: 35%
- Somewhat support: 18%
- Oppose: 26%
- Somewhat oppose: 14%
- Strongly oppose: 12%
- Not sure: 21%
… and key provisions in the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act:
QUESTION: Do you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose creating a new federal law to hold law enforcement accountable for misconduct in court, require police departments to report inappropriate use of force and racial profiling incidents to a national registry, and reform police training and policies to make civilian-law enforcement interactions safer?
- Support: 61%
- Strongly support: 41%
- Somewhat support: 20%
- Oppose: 25%
- Somewhat oppose: 11%
- Strongly oppose: 14%
- Not sure: 14%
… and key provisions in the For The People Act:
QUESTION: Do you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose changing the United States’ election laws to expand voting rights, change campaign finance rules to lessen the influence of money in politics, ban partisan gerrymandering, and create new ethics rules for federal officeholders?
- Support: 63%
- Strongly support: 49%
- Somewhat support: 14%
- Oppose: 20%
- Somewhat oppose: 8%
- Strongly oppose: 12%
- Not sure: 17%
These findings are a good reminder that even Republican and Republican-leaning voters support progressive ideas on a range of fronts, especially improving public safety and strengthening our democracy.
Final thoughts: Democrats have an opening in WA-03 this year. Will they seize an opportunity to go on offense?
In both 2018 and 2020, Democrats sought to put WA-03 in play and oust Jaime Herrera Beutler with Carolyn Long. While those efforts were unsuccessful, this cycle has demonstrated the truth of the old political adage that there’s always another election. It’s September 2022 and Herrera Beutler is out… a victim of the ultra MAGA purge of Republicans deemed insufficiently loyal to Donald Trump.
The contest in WA-03 is now a race for an open seat. Democrats have a relatable young candidate who owns a small business and is raising a child with her husband in a rural part of the district, while the only Republican left on the ballot is a neofascist with a dark and disturbing agenda for the country.
Has the 3rd ever seen two candidates who are more unlike each other?
Because candidate elections turn on identity and trust, it’s not enough that lots of Gluesenkamp Perez’s issue positions mirror those of majorities of voters in the district. She must withstand an inevitable barrage of Republican attacks against her candidacy, and win the support of voters who don’t usually vote Democratic.
Can she do it?
We won’t know until November, but the numbers from the final head-to-head question suggest she heads into October with a resilient base of support.
Earlier, you saw that Gluesenkamp Perez starts out at 44%, with Kent at 48%. Strikingly, in the final head-to-head question, Gluesenkamp Perez’s support is unchanged, with Kent slipping a single percentage point to 47% and the percentage of undecided voters also unchanged:
QUESTION: Having heard more about the candidates and their positions, let me ask again: If the election for United States Representative were being held today, would you vote for Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Perez or Republican Joe Kent?
- Marie Gluesenkamp Perez: 44%
- Joe Kent: 47%
- Not sure: 9%
The phrase Having heard more about the candidates and their positions refers to a sequence of questions we asked concerning the candidates’ positions on issues (one of which is included above) as well as public statements they’ve made about each other that we tested. We gave a selection of each candidate’s criticisms of their opponent an equal amount of space in our survey.
Notably, Kent’s characterization of Gluesenkamp Perez as “a radical, pro-abortion extremist who would be another reliable vote for the Biden-Pelosi AOC agenda…” (language we took from Kent’s campaign materials) didn’t put so much as a dent in Gluesenkamp Perez’s support, as the last finding in the sequence shows.
The 44% who back Gluesenkamp Perez seem committed to her candidacy. The vast majority of voters who say they’d vote for Kent also seem pretty committed. That leaves the undecided voters. If Gluesenkamp Perez can win over enough of them, she can win this very unusual contest. It won’t be easy… but a Democratic victory in WA-03 this cycle is an achievable objective.
About NPI’s research
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