Marie Gluesenkamp Perez at her election night party
Marie Gluesenkamp Perez at her election night party (Photo: Glen Johnson II)

From the 7,880-foot sum­mit of Old Snowy, in the Goat Rocks Wilder­ness, you can gaze out over the expanse of South­west Wash­ing­ton, once a reli­ably Demo­c­ra­t­ic region but late­ly a “red” cor­ner of an increas­ing­ly “blue” state.

Marie Glue­senkamp Perez has put a dif­fer­ent hue on the 3rd Dis­trict, scor­ing the most sur­pris­ing Demo­c­ra­t­ic upset of any U.S. House race in the coun­try.

She did it with min­i­mal help from the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Con­gres­sion­al Cam­paign Com­mit­tee, as the FiveThir­tyEight mod­el was giv­ing ultra MAGA Repub­li­can Joe Kent a nine­ty-sev­en per­cent chance of winning.

The only inde­pen­dent, pub­licly-released poll show­ing promise was a North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute sur­vey con­duct­ed by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling.

It put Kent ahead by a three-point per­cent mar­gin but showed a sub­stan­tial num­ber of 3rd Dis­trict vot­ers had devel­oped a neg­a­tive opin­ion of him.

It can hap­pen when you speak to a Wash­ing­ton, D.C., ral­ly in sup­port of defen­dants on tri­al for the Jan­u­ary 6th, 2021 insurrection.

Marie Perez with her family
Marie Perez with her fam­i­ly (Cam­paign photo)

Glue­senkamp Perez, an auto shop co-own­er from Ska­ma­nia Coun­ty, won it in the precincts while Kent was tak­ing to the air on the Tuck­er Carl­son Show and Steve Bannon’s pod­cast. Glue­senkamp Perez stressed that she would attend to the needs of a needy district.

She talked about local issues rather than cul­tur­al wars, won big in the pop­u­la­tion cen­ter of Clark Coun­ty, refused to give up rur­al areas, and gained back­ing from long­time sup­port­ers of six-term Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Jamie Her­rera Beut­ler, oust­ed by Kent in the primary.

She ran far ahead of oth­er Democ­rats on the bal­lot. Glue­senkamp Perez took 45% of the vote in Cowlitz Coun­ty, com­pared with 39.77% for Sen­a­tor Pat­ty Murray.

She topped 55% in Clark Coun­ty while Mur­ray squeezed out a 51.13% major­i­ty. She car­ried Pacif­ic Coun­ty, where Mur­ray nar­row­ly lost.

The Democ­rats are com­ing up short in the 17th and 18th Leg­isla­tive Dis­tricts, despite field­ing promis­ing can­di­dates and invest­ing resources.

Was Glue­senkamp Perez’s vic­to­ry a reac­tion to Kemp’s extrem­ism? In part, yes. Vot­ers in the 3rd Dis­trict couldn’t stom­ach a can­di­date who want­ed to charge Dr. Antho­ny Fau­ci with mur­der. Or who par­rot­ed a pro-Putin line on the war in Ukraine. Or import­ed show horse Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Matt Gaetz as a surrogate.

Don­ald Trump nar­row­ly car­ried the 3rd Dis­trict in 2020 but has not car­ried him­self well, obsessed with car­ry­ing on a purge of any Repub­li­can law­mak­er who showed an iota of inde­pen­dence. Her­rera Beut­ler was one of ten House Repub­li­can votes to impeach the 45th pres­i­dent after the Jan­u­ary 6th attack on the Capitol.

She also “out­ed” a mid-insur­rec­tion con­ver­sa­tion in which Trump dressed down supine House Minor­i­ty Leader Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Kevin McCarthy.

The 3rd Dis­trict used to have a tra­di­tion of Demo­c­ra­t­ic House mem­bers who deliv­ered. “Julia will get it for you,” became then mantra when Julia But­ler Hansen, the “lit­tle old lady in logger’s boots” from Cath­lamet, rep­re­sent­ed the dis­trict. She was a House Appro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee power.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Don Bonker became a trade expert and shep­herd­ed fed­er­al resources into the dis­trict after erup­tion of Mt. St. Helens.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Bri­an Baird host­ed mul­ti­ple town meet­ings hear­ing the needs of con­ser­v­a­tive rur­al cor­ners of the district.

The state’s resource econ­o­my has, how­ev­er, fall­en on hard times.

The result is high unem­ploy­ment, human hurt due to the opi­oid cri­sis, and vot­ers vent­ing anger. They have elect­ed loud, anti-gov­ern­ment politi­cians (e.g. Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Jim Walsh of Aberdeen) who rarely embrace means where gov­ern­ment can bol­ster local eco­nom­ic development.

The state’s Demo­c­ra­t­ic nabobs haven’t helped.

Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee first embraced, but then – dur­ing a brief run for pres­i­dent – opposed a $2 bil­lion gas-to-methanol plant planned for Kalama.

The Depart­ment of Ecol­o­gy denied per­mits to a coal export ter­mi­nal pro­posed at the site of an old alu­minum smelter in Longview.

The Democ­rats used to cham­pi­on resource development.

The old Longview smelter dis­played a pic­ture of Pres­i­dent Franklin D. Roo­sevelt grin­ning and wav­ing as he was dri­ven through the plant.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Bonker was a stead­fast oppo­nent of log exports, argu­ing that the cut from Wash­ing­ton forests should go through the mill rather than onto ships.

The gov­er­nor has rarely put boots on the ground to offer alter­na­tives to the big tick­et projects he has vetoed. He goes else­where to tout the state’s green ener­gy econ­o­my. As with Mur­ray this year, Inslee has tak­en less than forty per­cent of the Cowlitz Coun­ty vote in his last two reelec­tion runs.

Marie Gluesenkamp Perez at a podium on Election Night
Marie Glue­senkamp Perez at a podi­um on Elec­tion Night (Cam­paign photo)

Marie Glue­senkamp Perez shows promise of restor­ing the hands-on tra­di­tion of her Demo­c­ra­t­ic predecessors.

She has also roused con­stituen­cies, from youth­ful vol­un­teers to Port­land-area res­i­dents who’ve relo­cat­ed across the Colum­bia Riv­er. She’s done it with­out the par­ty resources which backed the unsuc­cess­ful 2018 and 2020 cam­paigns in which WSU-Van­cou­ver pro­fes­sor Car­olyn Long chal­lenged Her­rera Beutler.

Using Glue­senkamp Perez’s upset win, it’s time for the Democ­rats to recon­nect. After all, they held the 3rd Dis­trict from 1960 to 1994, and the 19th Leg­isla­tive Dis­trict for decades until it swung to the Repub­li­cans in 2016 and 2020.

Gov­er­nor Inslee has decamped to Sharm el Sheikh this week for a Unit­ed Nations-spon­sored glob­al cli­mate con­fer­ence. He has pre­vi­ous­ly shown up for cli­mate sum­mits in Glas­gow, Copen­hagen and Bonn.

He did good in Bonn, chal­leng­ing a Trump regime spokesman who was tout­ing “clean” coal and nuclear energy.

He did well on a fundrais­ing stop enroute home from Glasgow.

A mod­est pro­pos­al: The gov­er­nor needs to spend qual­i­ty time down in the 3rd Dis­trict. Our state’s gov­ern­ing Democ­rats ought to deliv­er for vot­ers who reject­ed the ultra MAGA extrem­ism of Joe Kent and opt­ed for a rea­son­able, work­horse House mem­ber in Marie Glue­senkamp Perez.

She will be a ser­vant of South­west Wash­ing­ton but is a nation­al mod­el for Democ­rats recon­nect­ing with blue col­lar work­ers and rur­al America.

About the author

Joel Connelly is a Northwest Progressive Institute contributor who has reported on multiple presidential campaigns and from many national political conventions. During his career at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, he interviewed Presidents Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and George H.W. Bush. He has covered Canada from Trudeau to Trudeau, written about the fiscal meltdown of the nuclear energy obsessed WPPSS consortium (pronounced "Whoops") and public lands battles dating back to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

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One reply on “Lessons from the biggest House upset in the country: The victory of Marie Gluesenkamp Perez in Washington’s 3rd District”

  1. Thank you for your report­ing on Marie Perez’s cam­paign. As a 3rd Dis­trict res­i­dent and sup­port­er of Marie’s cam­paign, I believe that the help we received from Seat­tle area Democ­rats real­ly helped us get her over the fin­ish line.

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