VANCOUVER, Wash. (KOIN) — Though the vote tally is not final, GOP challenger Joe Kent has taken a lead of 960 votes over incumbent Jaime Herrera Beutler in the race for second place in the Washington 3rd Congressional District primary.
Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Perez remains solidly in the lead by around 17,000 votes. Since Washington primaries select the top two finishers regardless of party affiliation, the candidate who places second will face Perez in the November election.
Late Monday afternoon, Trump-backed former Green Beret Kent jumped ahead of the veteran lawmaker.
KOIN 6 News reached out to both Kent and Herrera Beutler’s campaigns for response to the change in results this evening. While a representative for Kent’s campaign said they will not comment until the election is certified, a representative for Herrera Beutler spoke on her behalf, adding they will watch the vote count for one more day before making declarative statements.
‘Joe Kent danger to democracy, embarrassment to district’
Gluesenkamp Perez released a statement after the Monday vote tally was posted.
“White Nationalist and extremist Joe Kent has now pulled ahead,” she said, and “it appears he will be our opponent in November. … This means that our race in November is going to be a national bellwether for the direction of the country and for the future of our democracy.”
Kent, she said, “seeks to divide us, and if elected, he will be a danger to our democracy and an embarrassment to our district. He sees conspiracies everywhere. He spreads the lie that the 2020 election was stolen and still attacks Republicans and non-partisan election officials who say there is no evidence Trump won. He was even a co-plaintiff in frivolous election fraud lawsuits here in Washington State. Just earlier today he went on Steve Bannon’s podcast to cast doubts on the legitimacy of this election. Does he still think it is fraudulent now that he’s winning? Furthermore, he has a track record of making extreme statements, and spreading ugly racially charged claims. His unapologetic extremism and divisive approach demonstrate he is unfit for public office.”
Last week, Kent responded to claims that he’s been connected to White Nationalist-tied groups like Proud Boys and Oath Keepers — including a recent report by the Associated Press — which he denied.
“All of that is just the typical. I’m a conservative, I’m an America First guy, and we have people shockingly that are calling us racist and that’s the AP report, right? And one of the sources the AP cites is Rose City Antifa,” Kent told reporters on Aug. 2. “It’s absolutely garbage. I don’t have any ties to racist organizations, anti-Semitic organizations.”
Last week, KOIN 6 News asked Kent how he would react to a final two of Herrera Beutler and Gluesenkamp Perez, and he said neither would get his support.
“If it’s Jaime and a Democrat, we have from now until November to recruit a write-in candidate and go after them because I will not vote for Jaime Herrera Beutler again. Her and the establishment will not get my vote,” said Kent.
Asked that same question, Herrera Beutler said she “will still continue in this community to be a positive force, because I’m raising my kids here. Southwest Washington is our home so irrespective of what happens, I’m going to continue to serve folks here in whatever capacity they seem to think is fit.”
The deadline for counties to certify Washington’s primary results is next Tuesday. There is a strong possibility of a recount.
What the Associated Press reported
The Associated Press reported Kent is a close political ally of Joey Gibson, the founder of the Christian nationalist group Patriot Prayer.
The AP also reported campaign finance disclosures reveal Kent recently paid $11,375 for “consulting” over the past four months to Graham Jorgensen, who was identified as a Proud Boy in a law enforcement report and was charged with cyber stalking his ex-girlfriend in 2018. The charges were dismissed in late 2019. But a judge in Vancouver, Washington, issued an order of protection requiring Jorgensen to stay away from her, records show.
Matt Braynard, one of Kent’s top advisers, was the architect of a Washington, D.C., rally last year that sought to build sympathy for those arrested during the insurrection by rebranding them as “political prisoners.” Kent spoke at the rally, which was poorly attended, the AP reported.