Extreme, ultra MAGA Republican Joe Kent has secured the backing of the Washington State Republican Party for a 2024 rematch with United States Representative Marie Gluesenkamp Perez in the state’s 3rd Congressional District, according to reporters who are present at the party’s summer meeting.
After some debate, the party’s state central committee voted to embrace Kent’s candidacy, spurning Camas City Councilmember Leslie Lewallen, who is supported by Tiffany Smiley, the party’s unsuccessful challenger to Senator Patty Murray.
Kent already had the backing of the Clark County Republican Party, which voted to endorse him back in May. (Clark County is the most populous county in the district.) The county committee’s chairman, Matthew Bumala, told Clark County Today in a May 25th email that the vote to endorse Kent was overwhelming.
“The governing body of the Clark County Republican Party made a strong statement tonight that they support Joe Kent early on for Congress in our 3rd Congressional District,’’ Bumala said following the vote.
“The choice to endorse Kent this early was massively supported with nearly 84% of the votes,” Bumala added. “Only two-thirds of the Precinct Committee Officers needed to vote in approval for this endorsement to be passed.’’
Now the state party has followed suit.
Reporters present at the August 2023 summer meeting of the Washington State Republican Party include Jerry Cornfield from The Washington State Standard, Claire Withycombe from The Seattle Times, Jeanie Lindsay from NW News Network, and Joe O’Sullivan of Crosscut. O’Sullivan tweeted a photo of Kent standing in the back of a room at the meeting.
In 2022, Kent lost a close race to Gluesenkamp Perez, who became the first Democrat to win in the 3rd since Brian Baird’s final reelection campaign in 2008. Baird and the late Don Bonker, another former Democratic representative from the 3rd, enthusiastically endorsed Gluesenkamp Perez’s successful campaign.
Kent’s extreme beliefs and eagerness to promote a wide swath of discredited conspiracy theories led a number of Republican donors, activists, and voters to break with their party and cross over to back Gluesenkamp Perez. MGP outperformed Democratic Senator Patty Murray across the district, just as our team’s research suggested she could, and held onto her lead in late ballots.
Kent at first refused to concede defeat, and indicated he would not accept the outcome. But eventually, he grudgingly threw in the towel, making it clear he’d just keep on running and carry his campaign over to the 2024 cycle.
While other states use primaries or nominating conventions to determine candidate placement, Washington uses a Top Two system to determine what candidates will advance to the general election. So while Kent may have the endorsement of the state party and many of its locals, he’ll still need to get more votes than Lewallen or any other Republican candidates who decide to run to be MGP’s November 2024 general election opponent.