Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler conceded her reelection race Tuesday, making her the first incumbent to be defeated in the 3rd Congressional District since 1994.
The Battle Ground Republican’s concession statement arrived minutes after the latest tally showed Joe Kent of Yacolt with what appeared to be an insurmountable lead.
“Ever since I was first elected to this seat, I have done my very best to serve my home region and our country,” Herrera Beutler’s statement said. “Though my campaign came up short this time, I’m proud of all we’ve accomplished together for the place where I was raised and still call home.”
Kent, who had been steadily gaining votes in updated tallies since Election Day, saw his lead decline slightly on Tuesday evening, though he was still ahead by 928 votes.
On Tuesday evening, Kent had 49,515 votes, or 22.74 percent of the vote, compared with Herrera Beutler’s 48,587 votes, or 22.31 percent of 217,780 tallied ballots. He will join top vote-getter Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Perez on the general election ballot in November.
Perez received 67,674 votes as of Tuesday evening, or 31.07 percent of the total.
In Clark County, the most populated county in the district, Perez led with 35.96 percent of the 139,195 votes cast, followed by Herrera Beutler, 21.52 percent, and Kent, 20.40 percent. Voter turnout rose to 43.44 percent as of Tuesday evening, with 500 ballots left to count. An update will be posted at 2 p.m. Wednesday.
Although there are ballots to be tallied in rural counties, the remaining counts will not change the outcome of the primary election. The results will be certified Aug. 16.
“I’m proud that I always told the truth, stuck to my principles, and did what I knew to be best for our country,” Herrera Beutler wrote in a statement.
The congresswoman will remain in her position until Jan. 3, her statement said.
Kent made an appearance Tuesday evening before the Clark County GOP, who formally endorsed the candidate by a unanimous vote. He thanked the other candidates who ran for the position and added that the party needs to unify moving forward.
“My answers are generally going to stay the same. But I think we have some major wedge issues between us and the Democrats that are affecting people in their daily lives that they’re concerned about,” he said in an interview with The Columbian.
In a statement Monday, Perez called her November race a “national bellwether for the direction of the country” now that Kent has advanced to the general election.
National trends, looking forward
Herrera Beutler’s absence from the playing field is unusual but not unprecedented, especially when considering national trends.
She was one of 10 House Republicans who voted for former President Donald Trump’s impeachment last year.
Among those seeking re-election, Rep. Peter Meijer, R-Mich., lost his primary to a Trump-endorsed candidate, but Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside, triumphed over Loren Culp, a former police chief and gubernatorial candidate who had also won the former president’s support.
Political analysts say Herrera Beutler’s stand likely cost her the race.
“If she had not voted that way, I have a really hard time believing that she would have lost in the primaries,” said Mark Stephan, Washington State University Vancouver political science professor.
Stephan said Trumpism, or the goal to sustain powers associated with Trump and his base, has dominated the district and local politics in general. Consequently, Kent receiving the former president’s endorsement last September was significant in his campaigning and was a key tool in overcoming the incumbent.
Vancouver-based political consultant Jim Mains questioned whether Herrera Beutler invested what she could have into the race to retain her congressional seat. Often incumbents utilize every penny of campaign funding they have, he said, but it appeared that Herrera Beutler’s campaign didn’t pick up steam until a few weeks before the primary election.
“In some respects, you wonder, did she take it as serious as she could have?” he said.
Mains said the primary results will leave moderate Republicans struggling to decide whether to cast a vote for Perez or Kent — or to sit out the upcoming election entirely.
Both Perez and Kent are new to politics, and they face a similar problem. They don’t have name recognition outside their loyal base.
“The big thing I’ve been hearing about both of these candidates, Joe Kent and Marie Perez, is nobody really knows them,” Mains said.
On the other hand, Carolyn Long, the former Democratic candidate in the 2018 and 2020 election for the same position, hosted hundreds of listening sessions and town halls throughout the region to instill familiarity in voters. Mains said constituents had a grasp of who she was, which is something neither Perez nor Kent has.
Now, the best move is for candidates to stake their claim, particularly when it relates to appealing to Herrera Beutler’s base — moderates.
“It goes back to who’s going to get out in front and who’s going to really tell their story and tell their opponent’s story,” he said. “For me, this whole game is going to be in the middle.”
Washington’s 3rd Congressional District has tilted Republican since 2010, when the Washington State Redistricting Commission adjusted boundaries after the 2010 Census created the need for a new congressional district to accommodate increasing populations, drawing Democratic voters near Olympia away from the 3rd District.
Democrats are leading into the race with an optimistic note that the district can flip. Stephan is dubious about this forecast.
“If there’s an open contest, there is a chance for the party in opposition to flip that seat,” he said. “Is that likely under the current conditions in the 3rd District? No.”