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Wednesday, February 21, 2024
Feb. 21, 2024

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Kent, Perez joust in 3rd District debate in Vancouver

Political newcomers make their case for who is the best fit to represent Southwest Washington in Congress

By , Columbian staff writer
4 Photos
A crowd member reacts to an answer Tuesday during a debate between 3rd Congressional district candidates Joe Kent and Marie Gluesenkamp Perez at RV Inn Style Resorts Convention Center.
A crowd member reacts to an answer Tuesday during a debate between 3rd Congressional district candidates Joe Kent and Marie Gluesenkamp Perez at RV Inn Style Resorts Convention Center. (Taylor Balkom/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Nearly two months after the Aug. 2 primary election, the 3rd Congressional District’s top two candidates argued why they are the best fit to replace Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, and represent Southwest Washington at the federal level.

On Tuesday evening, Joe Kent, R-Yacolt, and Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, D-Skamania, presented their stances on the economy, health care, foreign affairs and crime and security in a traditional debate. A group of residents organized and moderated the event, saying they had been dissatisfied with previous forums, which they said focused more on politics than testing a candidates’ knowledge on the scope of the position.

“Together, we were like, this could be done so much better,” said Sharon Studt, who arranged the event with her sister, both of whom aren’t involved in politics. “And one thing that I try to live my life by is: Knowledge is power, but action is authority.”

In this economy?

To the prospective homeowners who desperately search for housing and come up empty handed, Kent knows who the culprit is: Wall Street. He said large international shareholders, such as BlackRock, a global investment management company, are driving prices up by purchasing single family homes at a price families can’t afford — a scheme that Kent alleges Democrats ignore and have a hand in controlling.

On the other hand, Perez said large corporations pricing out homebuyers aren’t the only players fueling the affordable housing crisis. She said policymakers must look at supply and demand issues, as a larger housing stock can open the market. Another means of resolving the crisis, she said, can be realized through investing in educational programs centralized on technical careers.

“I am so proud to work in the trades and ensure in Congress that we are fighting to return the prestige of these career and technical education programs,” Perez said, “that we’re supporting kids in what they’re naturally gifted at, and that we’re growing our ability to resolve our housing crisis here with the talents we already have for battle.”

“That’s not going to create the ability for us to fix the systemic issues with the economy,” Kent rebutted. “Our energy sector has been absolutely decimated. While it’s important to train a new generation of workers, what we have to do is get our ability to produce things back here domestically.”

According to Kent, President Joe Biden and his fellow Democratic cohorts are driving inflation to an unmanageable degree through government spending and locking the economy with COVID-19 mandates. He said a pivotal step in resolving America’s fiscal dilemmas are by bringing manufacturing onshore and establishing energy independence.

Perez, who owns an auto shop with her husband, said the couple feels the brunt of inflation when assessing costs of basic supplies and worrying about making payroll for employees. She positioned herself early in the debate as a candidate who understands the real-world challenges presented to blue collar workers.

Both candidates agree that energy independence and domestic manufacturing is crucial for the country to boost its economy, but their approaches diverge — one is rooted in renewable energy whereas the other calls for less government regulation.

Perez nodded to Washington’s position as a bastion for green energy while acknowledging that oil production in unavoidable. She suggested repositioning Southwest Washington by establishing a renewable sector — creating jobs in the process — so it is prepared for a future transition away from petroleum use.

On the other hand, Kent argued environmentally oriented policies will ruin the district’s economies. Instead, he said illegal immigration poses a threat to the economy by displacing workers who are looking for manual labor jobs.

The candidates diverged on omnibus bills, which traditionally contain diverse subjects wrapped in one document, such as the Inflation Reduction Act. Omnibus packages, unless easily read and understood, should not be approved because the bundles can lead to irresponsible spending, Kent said. Perez retorted, saying that this means Kent won’t bring home federal dollars to fix Southwest Washington’s issues.

Assessing the district’s health

Perez didn’t have suggestions on how to address America’s current health care system but contended that it does not fulfill families’ basic needs and only benefits pharmaceutical and insurance companies. There needs to be more endeavors to lower costs and increase access to health care providers, she said.

Kent proposed fostering a free market for insurance and pharmaceutical companies to create competitiveness between the bodies instead of relying on government involvement.

Throughout the pandemic, Kent has criticized leaders who imposed COVID-19 mandates, whom he regularly calls tyrants. His stance remained unaffected, which he expanded upon by doubling down on his doubt of the vaccine and vehement rejection of mandating vaccinations.

12 Photos
*BEST WIDE* People listen to Washington House District 3 candidates Joe Kent, right, and Marie Gluesenkamp Perez speak at a debate Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, at RV Inn Style Resorts Convention Center.
Perez vs. Kent debate Photo Gallery

“The COVID-19 vaccine is an experimental gene therapy,” Kent said. “We also need the federal government to release the vaccine reaction database that they’re suppressing right now.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have listed COVID-19 vaccination ingredients and side effects on its website, cdc.gov.

Kent’s talking points, something Perez calls “clickbait politics,” are not fixing the challenges posed by the pandemic.

“This is not how we move forward,” she jabbed at Kent. “This is how you fundraise on Tucker Carlson.”

Foreign affairs, domestic security

Southern border control and illegal immigration were at the forefront of the candidates’ stances on the country’s security. Kent purported that drug addiction and increased crime are directly connected to a weak border, while also calling attention to a need for law and order.

Although Perez agreed that borders should be secured, she called Kent’s take on immigration morally bankrupt and “magical thinking” that will devastate the country’s agricultural industry.

“We cannot afford to just keep blaming people,” she said. “We’ve got to address the real impacts”

In a similar vein, Kent said he doesn’t support providing foreign aid until an equal amount of funding is allocated to America’s national security — going further by specifying it should be used to secure the southern border.

Debate details

The League of Women Voters will hold a debate between the candidates for the 3rd Congressional District seat currently held by Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler. Oct. 15. Five newspapers — The Columbian, the Chinook Observer in Ilwaco, The Chronicle in Centralia, The Daily News in Longview and the Skamania County Pioneer in Stevenson — are co-sponsors of the debate. Journalists from each of the news outlets will prepare questions for the candidates, who are facing off in the Nov. 8 general election.

The October debate will take place at 2 p.m. at the Vancouver Community Library, 901 C St. Seating will be very limited. It will be livestreamed by CVTV and available on columbian.com.

Perez said she is a proponent of providing foreign aid to countries, such as Ukraine, who are in wars defending their own democracy.

Reaching across the aisle

If elected, the chosen candidate will have to work with Southwest Washingtonians’ best interests in mind, leading some voters in the region to be skeptical of Kent’s ability to work with Democrats.

“(Kent) is so far outside of even when his own party thinks on issues. This is not a man who’s looking for the middle path and how he can forge alliances and build bridges,” Perez said. “Joe Kent wants to burn them down. We are not going to be getting our money’s worth out of a candidate who talks like that.”

“Our job is to be statesman it is to be actual civilian leadership, who’s going to represent us in Washington D.C. and to be accountable to the people,” Kent said. “Whether you vote for me or not, I’m there to represent you and I look forward to engaging with you.”

The event was livestreamed and can be found on Vancouver RV Inn Style Resorts’ Facebook page.

Columbian staff writer