PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, who was virtually unknown before this election cycle, won the race to represent Washington’s 3rd Congressional District against Republican Joe Kent in what can legitimately be described as an upset.

After the Clark County vote totals were released around 4 p.m. Saturday, various media outlets — including The Hill, the Seattle Times, CNN and eventually the Associated Press — all called the race for the 34-year-old who co-owns a Portland auto body shop with her husband.

Shortly before 6 p.m., she tweeted: “We won. I am humbled, honored, and grateful. I pledge to work every day to live up to the responsibility placed in me. I will defend our rights. I will protect our democracy. And I will deliver the help working and middle class families need. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Marie Gluesenkamp Perez
FILE – Democratic candidate Marie Gluesenkamp Perez waits before taking the stage for a candidates debate, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, in Vancouver, Wash. AP Photo/Rachel La Corte, File)

Perez, who lives in Stevenson, told KOIN 6 News she is grateful and excited for this opportunity to represent the people of southwest Washington.

“We are thrilled. You know, this is the little campaign that could. I think we just achieved – ‘but it’s statistically impossible,’ according to so many pundits – and I think it just shows the resiliency and really the character of southwest Washington,” Perez said.

She said she sees her election as “a gift” to help restore politics to a venture that helps, not divides, people.

“I’m so gratified for the opportunity to make people’s lives better, to do the work that it takes to bring politics back to a place where it reflects America,” she said. “I think we all look at Congress and we don’t feel like it looks like any of us or our neighbors. And what a gift to be in a position to bring Congress back to a place where it looks like what we believe in.”

Marie Gluesenkamp Perez was all smiles after she was declared the winner in the race against Joe Kent to represent Washington's 3rd Congressional District, November 12, 2022 (KOIN)
Marie Gluesenkamp Perez was all smiles after she was declared the winner in the race against Joe Kent to represent Washington’s 3rd Congressional District, November 12, 2022 (KOIN)

Perez said she has not spoken with Kent since the race was called. But she said she is confident in the elections system.

“We have a sincere belief in the integrity of our election system and we’re looking forward to seeing the rest of the ballots come in and we’re confident they will affirm the results we’ve seen today,” she told KOIN 6 News.

Kent did not release a statement. But he was defiant in a tweet.

“What the media says is irrelevant, its another narrative designed to stop voters from ballot curing & to force me to concede – not gonna happen. We’re on the streets ballot curing. The fight goes on while the talking heads talk. Power dry & check your ballot,” Kent tweeted.

Republican Joe Kent, Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Perez on the campaign trail for Washington's 3rd Congressional District, October 2022 (KOIN)
Republican Joe Kent, Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Perez on the campaign trail for Washington’s 3rd Congressional District, October 2022 (KOIN)

What the Saturday numbers revealed

New numbers from Clark County released around 4 p.m. Saturday show Perez maintained her lead over Kent. The latest tally in Clark County showed Perez with 55.15% to Kent’s 44.23%. Of the 14,896 votes tabulated and released on Saturday, Perez got 18 votes more than Kent — 7419 to 7401.

And with only 10,291 ballots left to count district-wide, media outlets including The Hill, the Seattle Times and CNN almost immediately called the race for Perez.

The Associated Press called the race for Perez shortly before 6 p.m.

Overall in the 3rd District, Perez leads 50.47% to Kent’s 48.96%. By the ballots counted, Perez leads Kent by 4621 votes. That means Kent gained only 338 votes overall in this latest tally.

Clark County has about 5000 ballots left to count. Officials said they won’t have another vote total release until Monday. District-wide a total of 10,291 ballots remain to be counted.

In a Friday tweet, Perez said, “Nearly all of the remaining ballots in #WA03 will be counted tomorrow. Joe Kent and I have both repeatedly pledged to accept the results of this election. That moment is coming soon.”

Kent acknowledged on Friday he was trailing Perez in a tweet: “25k votes remain. 6500k need curing. Check your ballot,” with an image of the vote total at that time.

Kent is a 42-year-old former Green Beret who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump and has ties with right-wing extremists and white nationalists.

Perez is currently on the Washington State Democratic Party executive committee and the Underwood Soil and Water Conservation District board of supervisors. She will succeed Jaime Herrera Beutler once her term expires in January 2023.

KOIN 6 News will continue to follow this race.

Rejected ballots can still be counted

Any Clark County voter whose ballot was rejected because the envelope signature didn’t match the signature on file can “resolve those issues” until 5 p.m. on November 28, said Auditor Greg Kimsey.

Anyone whose ballot was rejected for this reason will receive a letter on how to resolve the matter.

“We understand candidate campaigns are contacting voters regarding rejected ballots. The Elections Office strongly encourages voters to only return their signature update forms directly to the Elections Office, by USPS, or via someone they know and trust. The forms must be received by 5 p.m., Nov. 28th,” Kimsey said in a statement.

“Elections Office staff are not visiting voters at their residences or texting them. If a voter has provided the Elections Office their phone number on their ballot return envelope and have not returned their signature update form they will be called within three business days before the Nov. 29 certification date to remind them to return their signature update or missing signature form. Phone numbers provided to the Elections Office are exempt from public disclosure and are not provided as part of any public records request,” he added.

Any Clark County voter with a question may call the Elections Office at 564.397.2345 or by email, elections@clark.wa.gov