PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Amid a close race to represent Southwest Washington in Congress, the race remains too close to call with ballots still getting counted.

As of Wednesday, Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Perez’s lead of 11,000 votes over Republican Joe Kent is holding steady. Counted votes reported at 5 p.m. show Gluesenkamp Perez increased her lead in Clark County by 1,500 votes.

The tight race comes as the candidates seek to replace Republican Jaime Herrera Beutler who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump and lost her seat in the primary.

“Nationally, they’re starting to look at this race, as well, because most of the national bodies had it leaned Republican or really thought that Joe Kent was probably going to win this race. With Perez having the lead, I think that’s a surprise to everybody,” said Linfield University journalism professor Kevin Curry. “The question is, can she hold onto the lead as more votes come in? We just don’t know. If Joe Kent is urging his voters to wait until Election Day, will it make a difference and see a late push of ballots? But right now, I think a lot of eyes are on this race.”

The race is a dogfight between a self-proclaimed MAGA Republican and moderate Democrat with the question: who do outstanding votes favor?

Middle-of-the-road Democrat Gluesenkamp Perez jumped out to a narrow, early lead on election night over Trump-endorsed Kent.

Tuesday night, Gluesenkamp Perez spoke to supporters in Vancouver after taking an early lead in the race, before telling KOIN 6 she’s also thanking any Moderate, Independent, and Republican voters who came forward to support her.

“We can see people in our community want to put patriotism above partisanship. It’s not just about political parties, it’s about doing the work in the middle,” said Gluesenkamp Perez. 

Political columnist and former editor of the Columbian newspaper, Lou Brancaccio, is tracking the election trends.

“I think this race is going to be very close,” Brancaccio said. “If you look at it nationally, and if you look at it in Clark County, there has been a repudiation of the extremists.”

Brancaccio points to Clark County voters rejecting far-right candidates in 2022 who were running for sheriff and auditor.

“The Republicans today see the error of their ways going as far right as they have gone is costing them,” Brancaccio explained. “So, we’re in this position of the Republicans, again, being in a position of losing a safe seat, mainly because Kent is in the race.”

But there are still remaining ballots to be counted and room for Kent to catch up.

As pillar of Kent’s campaign he’s denied the results of the 2020 presidential election, tweeting on Aug. 25 of this year he believes it was “rigged and stolen.”

In late October, he appeared to sow doubt in election integrity at his campaign events, encouraging his supporters to wait to cast their ballot until “game day.”

“Bottom line is if you’re concerned about election integrity like so many of us are, join me if you live in Clark County — join me on November 8th: I’ll be hand delivering my ballot to the auditor’s office,” Kent said.

Meanwhile, Brancaccio explains “Republicans tend to vote late in Clark County. So, there’s no question that these remaining votes are going to favor him. Whether or not it’s enough to overtake the Democrat — that’s in doubt.”

With tens of thousands of votes in limbo, this once republican stronghold is up for grabs.

Gluesenkamp Perez responded to the initial results saying, “there are still a lot more votes to be counted and we will not know the final outcome for several days, but these initial results are hugely encouraging.”

In 2020, votes that came in late heavily favored the republican candidate. 

KOIN 6 News will continue to follow this race. The earliest we will see new updates to these numbers is Thursday at 4:30 p.m. in Lewis County, with the rest of Southwest Washington set to update their numbers between 5 and 6 P.M.