As Election Day 2024 slowly approaches, two familiar names are seeking a rematch: Republican Joe Kent of Yacolt and Democratic U.S. Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez of Skamania.
But another Republican candidate has thrown her name in the mix to represent Washington’s 3rd Congressional District: Leslie Lewallen of Camas.
Lewallen, a fifth-generation Washingtonian and former prosecutor who serves on the Camas City Council, said she decided to run for Congress at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I saw the people and the values in the country I love just kind of falling apart and disintegrating, and I decided at that point I was going to do something about it,” Lewallen said.
A graduate of the University of Washington and Seattle University law school, Lewallen started her career as a judicial clerk for Chief Justice Gerry Alexander at the Washington State Supreme Court before spending years as deputy prosecutor for King County.
Lewallen later pivoted to private law, where she focused on land use, property rights and environmental law, according to her Camas City Council biography.
In 2003, Lewallen retired from law to focus on her family, which moved to Camas in 2018. In 2021, Lewallen ran and won a seat on the city council.
“She is always well informed, she always knows the issues, she advocates for citizens,” Jennifer Senescu, another Camas city councilor, said. “I think she’s done an amazing job on council, she understands as an attorney that governmental process and how to get things done and how to take action.”
Platform focuses on safety, crime
Lewallen’s platform focuses on addressing homelessness, crime and safety and limiting government budgets.
On the Camas City Council, Lewallen voted against an increased utility tax — a decision that she says highlights her desire to limit government spending.
“That’s another reason that I want to get to Congress — I want to make sure that we put a cap on all this excessive spending,” she said.
To address safety concerns, Lewallen said she opposes light rail service on the Interstate Bridge Replacement Project. Similar to fellow Republican Kent, she claims that adding light rail would increase the amount of drugs coming up from the southern U.S. border.
“That’s just a one-way ticket for all of Portland’s homelessness, crime and drugs to come right across the river into Southwest Washington,” Lewallen said.
Lewallen has released several statements criticizing Perez’s actions in Congress. In a recent statement responding to the news that several Target stores in Portland were closing due to theft, she said the closures were a result of Democrats “playing politics with public safety resources.”
“Perez has long been a supporter of violent groups who actively denounce the police, and wants to bring the progressive nature of Portland, where her business is located, to Southwest Washington,” Lewallen said.
Perez’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
Lewallen said another passion of hers is education. She said that parents should have a say in their child’s education and that schools should welcome more parent input.
She also listed several environmental issues she would address in Congress, specifically regarding toxic waste in the Columbia River and preserving logging jobs in the area.
Two major opponents stand in the way of Lewallen’s path to Congress: Perez and Kent, both of whom have outpaced Lewallen in financial contributions.
From April until the end of September, Lewallen raised about $220,000 and reported about $143,000 on hand, compared with the $2.1 million and $630,000 that Perez and Kent raised in the first nine months of this year, respectively.
Lewallen said Perez has made few decisions that she agrees with. According to Voteview, a website that rates members of Congress from liberal to conservative based on their vote record, Perez’s record is more conservative than 99 percent of House Democrats.
But Lewallen criticized Perez for not working across the aisle, adding that, “right now, I don’t see that she’s solving any problems.”
Lewallen said she is a better candidate than Kent because she is a traditional Republican. In a post on X (formerly Twitter), Lewallen said, “Joe has more in common with MGP than SW WA voters.”
“I think Joe had his shot in 2022,” Lewallen said. “He ousted an incumbent of 12 years, and he lost and there hasn’t been one federal or statewide rematch that’s resulted in a flipped outcome in the last 30 years.”
Lewallen focused her early attention on endorsements, which include former Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna; former Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed; political group Endeavor PAC Chair Tiffany Smiley; and King County Council Vice Chair Reagan Dunn.
Meanwhile, Kent has the endorsements of every county Republican group in the district. But that’s not deterring Lewallen, who has stated she wants to return sanity back to Southwest Washington.
“Common sense has gone out the window, and frankly, I think people are sick and tired of being used as guinea pigs for progressive policies that have failed at every single level,” she said.