Joe Kent speaking at a neofascist rally
Joe Kent speaking at a neofascist rally

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.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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