Nap time: Marie Gluesenkamp Perez on the House floor on January 13th
Nap time: Marie Gluesenkamp Perez on the House floor on January 13th (Congressional photo)

She has held office few­er than three months, but the 3rd Con­gres­sion­al Dis­tric­t’s Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Marie Glue­senkamp-Perez (MGP), D‑Washington, is emerg­ing as a role mod­el and media mag­net in the Democ­rats’ Class of 2022.

She’s drawn recog­ni­tion for mak­ing the lengthy jour­ney from co-own­ing a Port­land auto repair shop to the Long­worth House Office Building.

The basics: MGP upset extrem­ist ultra MAGA Repub­li­can Joe Kent in a Repub­li­can-lean­ing dis­trict twice car­ried by Don­ald Trump.

She did it despite receiv­ing no sup­port from the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Con­gres­sion­al Cam­paign Com­mit­tee. She out­ran Sen­a­tor Pat­ty Mur­ray, par­tic­u­lar­ly among rur­al and blue-col­lar vot­ers who had drift­ed away from the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Party.

A New Voice for Win­ning Back Demo­c­ra­t­ic Votes” head­lined a New York Times opin­ion piece, while a Politi­co arti­cle enti­tled “She Fix­es Cars: Can She Fix Con­gress’ Elit­ism Prob­lem” spoke to her “brac­ing cri­tique of her party’s deeply out-of-touch approach to the mid­dle class.”

Representative Marie Gluesenkamp Perez
Offi­cial con­gres­sion­al por­trait of Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Marie Glue­senkamp Perez

South­west Wash­ing­ton has been a poster region for shifts in Amer­i­can pol­i­tics. Once home to Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Julia But­ler Hansen, the “lit­tle old lady in log­gers’ boots,” its econ­o­my has fall­en on hard times and many of its vot­ers have turned to the hard right.

In the 1972 pres­i­den­tial race, only two coun­ties in Wash­ing­ton, Grays Har­bor and Pacif­ic, gave majori­ties to George McGovern.

Both went for Repub­li­can Tiffany Smi­ley in the 2022 Sen­ate race.

Once-Demo­c­ra­t­ic Cowlitz Coun­ty has giv­en Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee less than forty per­cent of its vote in the 2016 and 2020 guber­na­to­r­i­al races.

The 19th Leg­isla­tive Dis­trict has switched from an all-Demo­c­ra­t­ic del­e­ga­tion in the state­house to an all-Repub­li­can one in the past three elections.

The Demo­c­ra­t­ic Party’s base has shift­ed to upper mid­dle class, col­lege-edu­cat­ed vot­ers in places like Seattle’s 43rd and 46th Dis­tricts – where Repub­li­can lumi­nar­ies Dan Evans and Slade Gor­ton had their start – and the 41st and 48th Dis­tricts in the east side of Lake Wash­ing­ton. Pro-lib­er­ty Demo­c­ra­t­ic women hold State Sen­ate seats in what was once a Repub­li­can heartland.

The same trend holds true nation­al­ly. The cen­ter of America’s “rust belt”, the upper Ohio Riv­er val­ley, used to be Demo­c­ra­t­ic turf, its House mem­bers under the thumb of a tough-mind­ed Appro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee pow­er­house Rep­re­sen­ta­tive John Murtha, D‑Pennsylvania. The Repub­li­cans have cap­tured the region, in par­tic­u­lar turn­ing Ohio and West Vir­ginia into red states.

Glue­senkamp-Perez, already nick­named MGP, has bucked the trend.

She car­ried Pacif­ic Coun­ty, cut loss­es in heav­i­ly Repub­li­can Lewis Coun­ty, cap­tur­ing just enough rur­al and blue-col­lar sup­port while run­ning up a major­i­ty in pop­u­lous Clark Coun­ty, just as NPI’s research indi­cat­ed that she could.

She is already on Repub­li­cans’ tar­get list for 2024.

A sig­na­ture MGP TV spot cre­at­ed by Dan Kul­ly showed her slid­ing out from beneath an auto body. In the ador­ing Politi­co pro­file, MGP spoke of “recon­nect­ing Amer­i­cans with our lost abil­i­ty to fix your own shit” and said with pride, “I replaced hun­dreds of cat­alyt­ic con­vert­ers last year.” She and her hus­band live in semi-rur­al Ska­ma­nia Coun­ty, a Tea Par­ty strong­hold in its time.

Dri­ving south on Inter­state 5, through Lewis Coun­ty, motorists have for decades been treat­ed to right-wing mes­sages just south of Chehalis on the Hamil­ton Farms’ Uncle Sam bill­board. It has denounced gun safe­ty bills, mocked Hillary Clin­ton and relent­less­ly jabbed at then-Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Jolene Unsoeld.

MGP is court­ing Lewis Coun­ty. She has a seat on the House Agri­cul­ture Com­mit­tee, and recent­ly held a “farm bill lis­ten­ing ses­sion” in Centralia.

Marie Gluesenkamp Perez at a Farm Bill listening session
Marie Glue­senkamp Perez at a Farm Bill lis­ten­ing ses­sion in Cen­tralia (Con­gres­sion­al photo)

An arti­cle in the Chron­i­cle, the very con­ser­v­a­tive local paper, pub­li­cized her spon­sor­ship of the bipar­ti­san “Small Busi­ness and Tech­ni­cal Edu­ca­tion Act.”

The leg­is­la­tion directs the Small Busi­ness Admin­is­tra­tion to assist small busi­ness own­ers in hir­ing grad­u­ates of career and tech­ni­cal edu­ca­tion pro­grams. It is cospon­sored with Sen­a­tor Roger Mar­shall, R‑Kansas.

It mir­rors an ini­tia­tive by Pennsylvania’s new­ly elect­ed Demo­c­ra­t­ic Gov­er­nor Josh Shapiro to no longer to require a col­lege degree in state hiring.

Glue­senkamp-Perez is also cospon­sor­ing leg­is­la­tion to involve tribes and coun­ties in for­est restora­tion. “Keep­ing the woods work­ing for future gen­er­a­tions is cen­tral to who we are as rur­al Amer­i­cans,” MGP said in announc­ing the legislation.

A cospon­sor is arch­con­ser­v­a­tive Sen­a­tor Jim Risch, R‑Idaho, known for rais­ing a stink when a wilder­ness area in his state was named after a con­ser­va­tion cham­pi­on, the late Demo­c­ra­t­ic Gov­er­nor Cecil Andrus.

MGP is also part of a bipar­ti­san appeal, ask­ing the House Appro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee to main­tain or increase the $390 mil­lion bud­get for the Com­mod­i­ty Sup­ple­men­tal Food Program.

The pro­gram deliv­ers food pack­ages to seniors with annu­al incomes of less than $18,955 per adult. It serves Cowlitz, Pacif­ic, Thurston and Ska­ma­nia Counties.

The MGP agen­da is one of con­nect­ing nation­al pri­or­i­ties to local needs. Glue­senkamp Perez has a coun­ter­part in fel­low first-ter­mer Mary Pel­to­la, D‑Alaska, who has focused on a suf­fer­ing salmon fish­ing indus­try in her home state.

Marie Gluesenkamp Perez speaking at a house party
Marie Glue­senkamp Perez speak­ing at a house par­ty (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

MGP has come up to Puget Sound for fundrais­ers. Pel­to­la has raised mon­ey from Seat­tle envi­ron­men­tal­ists while at the same time cham­pi­oning the Wil­low Project, Cono­coPhillips’ big oil and gas devel­op­ment on Alaska’s North Slope.

Pel­to­la has joined Glue­senkamp-Perez on Repub­li­cans’ tar­get list for 2024.

Joe Kent is off and run­ning – some would say off-but-run­ning — for a 3rd Dis­trict rematch. He’s cer­tain to get air­time from Tuck­er Carl­son on FNC and has already staged a fundrais­er at the Capi­tol Hill Club in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., and an event in Lewis County.

The Democ­rats have elect­ed five con­sec­u­tive gov­er­nors in Wash­ing­ton, and held both our U.S. Sen­ate seats since 2000, boost­ed by majori­ties in the Puget Sound basin. Sen­a­tor Mur­ray car­ried King Coun­ty by a 400,000 vote mar­gin, despite a bar­rage of Tiffany Smi­ley TV ads and the com­mand from Sean Han­ni­ty on Fox: “We want that seat.”

It’s time, how­ev­er, from the Cowlitz Riv­er to Ohio’s Mahon­ing Val­ley, for the D’s to reclaim lost ter­ri­to­ry. The Repub­li­cans are seek­ing deep cuts in edu­ca­tion and social pro­grams, notably those that serve an endan­gered mid­dle class. MGP is coun­ter­ing Repub­li­cans’ cul­ture wars by putting focus on needs of her district.

Rur­al and labor Democ­rats used to be a vibrant part of our polit­i­cal culture.

As an aging Baby Boomer, I can remem­ber unions ral­ly­ing in the 1950’s to defeat fire-at-will employ­ment ini­tia­tives. The mea­sures were cham­pi­oned by Boe­ing CEO William Allen. Sen­a­tor War­ren Mag­nu­son deliv­ered on mea­sures rang­ing from putting doc­tors in such rur­al locales as the Methow Val­ley to secur­ing mon­ey for the great third pow­er­house at Grand Coulee Dam.

Marie Glue­senkamp-Perez is a new kid from the Class of 2022 but with lessons to teach. She’s using auto body parts to edu­cate Democ­rats on the body politic.

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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