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News / Politics / Clark County Politics

Perez leads Kent in Washington’s 3rd Congressional District race

By Lauren Ellenbecker, Columbian staff writer
Published: November 8, 2022, 11:20pm
3 Photos
Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Perez hugs her husband, Dean Gluesenkamp, after delivering a speech to supporters Tuesday evening at the Clark County Democrats election night watch party at the Hilton Vancouver Washington.
Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Perez hugs her husband, Dean Gluesenkamp, after delivering a speech to supporters Tuesday evening at the Clark County Democrats election night watch party at the Hilton Vancouver Washington. As of Tuesday evening, Perez is leading the race with 52.62 percent of the vote, while Republican Joe Kent trails with 46.80 percent out of 191,100 votes cast (Taylor Balkom/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Initial results from Southwest Washington’s 3rd Congressional District race show Marie Gluesenkamp Perez leading Joe Kent by more than 11,000 votes — but with tens of thousands more ballots yet to be counted.

As of Tuesday evening, Perez, D-Stevenson, is leading the race with 100,564 votes, or 52.62 percent of the total, as Kent, R-Yacolt, trailed with 89,441 votes, or 46.8 percent of the 191,100 votes tallied Tuesday, according to the Washington Secretary of State.

There were also 1,095 write-in ballots cast throughout the district, accounting for 0.57 percent of the total.

More ballots remain to be counted, with about 80,000 still to be processed and counted in Clark County alone, and another 15,000 expected to arrive by mail this week. The county had reported 36.37 percent voter turnout based on ballots counted Tuesday.

Elections officials in all but one of the remaining 3rd Congressional District counties reported about 7,300 ballots left to count, with an undetermined total for the small piece of Thurston County that is part of the district.

As such, these early results are no guarantee of who will secure the congressional seat.

The next updated count is expected at 5 p.m. Wednesday.

At a local Democrats’ election watch party in Vancouver, Perez remained cautiously optimistic and called on supporters to fight for democracy in the face of extreme polarization.

“This campaign has always been about work and community. It is about creating a community where our sense of responsibility for each other is more than our sense of pride,” she said to the crowd in Hilton Vancouver Washington’s event space. “Regardless of the outcome, that kind of work is always meaningful and makes you a better person.”

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As Perez presented her address, tears welled in her eyes, something she later told The Columbian stemmed from realizing how far her campaign has progressed, which Perez attributed to her campaign staff and “door-knockers with wet socks.”

“This is the little campaign that could,” Perez said. “We weren’t taken seriously. It’s only because of our community that I’m here today.”

Perez, who co-owns a Portland auto shop with her husband, positioned herself as a candidate who is familiar with Southwest Washington’s needs and challenges rather than just hot-button issues. Perez centralized her message around protecting abortion rights and supporting trade jobs and technical training, the latter she described as being critical for improving the region’s economy and addressing climate change.

As a rural Democrat, Perez deviates from the state and national party as it relates to assault rifle bans. The candidate, who owns a gun, instead supports raising the purchasing age for these weapons to 21.

The Columbian was not given access to Kent’s watch party at Cloverlane Mercantile and Event Center in Brush Prairie, and his campaign declined to provide a comment.

Kent, a former Green Beret and Donald Trump-endorsed candidate, led an “America First” campaign, a label tagged to nationalist movements that prioritize energy independence, southern border security, cracking down on immigration and reducing governmental regulations and federal spending. The “establishment,” an ambiguous collection of Republican and Democrat bureaucrats, hinder the country’s prosperity in Kent’s view.

He has remained steadfast in his unsubstantiated rejection of the 2020 presidential election results —making frequent requests for forensic audits — while also heavily criticizing the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attacks.

After edging 11-year incumbent Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, out of her seat, both Perez and Kent quickly gained traction among voters, donors and media outlets inside and outside of Washington state.

The race in Washington’s 3rd Congressional District — encompassing Clark, Cowlitz, Lewis, Pacific, Skamania and Wahkiakum counties and a portion of Thurston County — is one of a few nationwide that will have implications on the majority in the U.S. Congress.

Election results will be certified on Nov. 29.

Columbian staff writer