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News / Politics / Clark County Politics

White Nationalists dominate discussion at Joe Kent town hall in Onalaska

By Isabel Vander Stoep, The Chronicle
Published: March 12, 2022, 12:51pm

Centralia — The Mason Jar in Onalaska, a shabby-chic barn venue for weddings and events, had an unusually raucous group of guests at a town hall event Wednesday night for 3rd Congressional District candidate Joe Kent, R-Yacolt.

The event was supposed to be, as Kent said, “a job interview,” where voters could ask questions and get to know the man they may elect to represent them in Congress.

Some of the night went as planned.

But, as was reported by Oregon Public Broadcasting, Kent earlier this week denounced the platform of Nick Fuentes, an emerging far-right figure who has been described as a white nationalist by many news outlets. Fuentes is a self-described “American nationalist” who participated in the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville in 2017. Now, Kent is facing backlash from Fuentes supporters, including five men from Idaho who drove five hours, despite soaring gas prices, to attend the Wednesday night event in Onalaska.

The group confirmed to The Chronicle they were there to support Fuentes. Of them, the most vocal was Vincent James, who was a speaker at a convention hosted by Fuentes titled the “America First Political Action Convention.” James also said he is the founder of a political podcast and described himself as a “Christian nationalist” and “sort of like a monarchist, I would say.”

The other members of James’ party would not reveal their names. Another Fuentes supporter said he drove to the town hall from Tacoma but likewise refused to reveal his name.

Throughout the meeting, the six men took turns hurling questions at Kent, with many focused on race. They were met with hostility from the mostly-local crowd of around 75 people, a majority of whom cheered loudly when Kent said his platform was meant to be populist and aimed at “fighting for” all Americans “regardless of what your skin color is, regardless of what your religion is.”

James, after first bringing up Fuentes, asked Kent: “Do you support a complete shutdown on all immigration for the next 20 years, at the very least, to give people time to assimilate? Because we have these massive enclaves that are forming all across the country where people don’t even have the most fundamental form of assimilation, which is language.”

In response, Kent said currently the only form of immigration he supports is through marriage, because it leads to the formation of more families.

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James then pushed the question again, saying, “So a complete shutdown on all immigration for the next 20 years, at the very least. Right?”

Kent responded: “Yep. That’s one of the best ways to keep a tight labor market in favor of American workers.”

James replied: “Well, not only because of labor, because of the demographic replacement that’s happening in this country as well, right?”

Kent responded: “Yeah.”

Other meeting attendees were vocally opposed to the stance taken by the six Fuentes supporters. One said they were taking up valuable time that actual 3rd district voters could be using to speak with their candidate. A member of the Lewis County Young Republicans told The Chronicle they did not want to be associated with the radical visitors, and attendees throughout the venue called out to the group: “be respectful,” “we’re all Americans” and “race doesn’t matter.”

When asked about the vocal far-right guests after the meeting, Kent said he saw a similar group at a recent event in Clark County, but that he was surprised to see them in Lewis County.

“I had no idea who Nick Fuentes was until like a month ago,” Kent said.

However, in an Aug. 28, 2021 tweet, Kent tagged Fuentes, whose handle is @NickJFuentes, saying “Many are glad that their political rivals are targeted by the state & big tech, they hate Trump, @NickJFuentes & MAGA. This short side thinking has led to some of the greatest tragedies in human history.”

And on March 3, Kent shared the same tweet, writing “I stand by this,” before then denouncing Fuentes’s “focus on race and religion.”

Kent was under fire on social media from white nationalists this week after Heidi St. John, another challenger to Herrera Beutler, called on him to condemn Fuentes’s platform after finding his tweets where he was associated with the controversial figure.

According to a post on a website James told The Chronicle he founded, Fuentes said he had spoken to Kent and that “members of his group” had been assisting Kent with his social media presence. The post also says that many Fuentes supporters have claimed Kent has “remained deliberately adjacent to their movement” for over a year. Terms such as “America First” and “immigration moratorium” have been used widely by white nationalist groups. Both have been used frequently by Kent, whose campaign slogan is “America First for Congress.”

Throughout the event, a man accompanying James was taking video clips and photographs, and said he would be creating a video on the event for a YouTube channel. The town hall was also being filmed by staff on Kent’s campaign.

At one point, one of the men from Idaho asked: “Will America be worse off after white people cease to be a majority in this country? Yes or no?”

Kent responded: “I reject that entire premise, man. That’s not what this country is. We need sovereign Americans, and that’s it.”

“You can’t have western civilization without the people who built it, though. I’m feeling I’m losing out on the country,” said the questioner.

After this exchange, the crowd began to erupt with backlash toward the Fuentes supporters. Then, the traveler from Tacoma interjected loudly enough to draw Kent’s attention once again by saying: “I appreciate the rhetoric that ‘we’re all the same under God. We’re all entitled to the same rights.’ But, what makes America and American values, are only held — in majority, by itself, in terms of demographics by 50% or more of the population — by, unfortunately, in reality, white people.”

Kent responded with: “We are all God’s kids.”

James called out and interrupted this exchange with: “It’s true, but white people are becoming the minority.”

At one point, James also said “the only discrimination that’s happening right now is discrimination against white people.”

On Thursday afternoon, James called The Chronicle to speak with the reporter who attended the Wednesday night town hall.

When asked about the fact some locals felt he took away valuable time for potential voters to ask Kent questions, James responded by saying that Kent’s grab at a seat in Congress had federal implications, not just district-wide ones.

“He’s going to represent me just as much as he’s going to represent you,” James said.

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