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News / Politics / Clark County Politics

3rd Congressional District candidate Leslie Lewallen shares vision at meeting hosted by Republican group

Camas city councilor offers ideas, takes questions

By Dylan Jefferies, Columbian staff writer
Published: April 23, 2024, 6:24pm
5 Photos
Republican 3rd Congressional District candidate Leslie Lewallen talks with Elden Ferris of Vancouver at a Monday meeting of the Southwest Washington Federated Republican Women.
Republican 3rd Congressional District candidate Leslie Lewallen talks with Elden Ferris of Vancouver at a Monday meeting of the Southwest Washington Federated Republican Women. (Photos by James Rexroad for The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Fellow Republicans asked 3rd Congressional District candidate Leslie Lewallen pointed questions about her record and candidacy Monday night.

The Southwest Washington Federated Republican Women invited Lewallen to speak to the group’s monthly meeting at Fiesta Bonita near Vancouver Mall.

The Camas city councilor is running as a Republican to unseat incumbent Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, D-Skamania. First, though, Lewallen must face Joe Kent — a Yacolt Republican who narrowly lost to Perez in 2022 — in August’s primary election.

The meeting was at times confrontational. While drinking margaritas and eating chips and salsa, attendees challenged Lewallen about her long-shot candidacy, her experience as a prosecuting attorney and her vision for the 3rd District.

“We’re here to preview our candidates,” said local Republican Carolyn Crain, who hosted the meeting. “This club prides itself on education of our members so that they can go out and help educate the public.”

Lewallen began by describing her deep roots in Washington.

“I am a fifth-generation Washingtonian,” she said. “My family actually homesteaded in Pullman before we became a state. My grandfather on my dad’s side of the family was the Olympia city manager for 30 years. I have 21 first cousins, and I went to undergrad and law school here in Washington state. So, the fact is, you don’t have to question that I’m from Washington state.”

Then, she explained why she is running to represent the 3rd Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“When I got to the city of Camas, I also simultaneously got a front row seat to all of the issues facing Southwest Washington,” she said. “I decided at that point that there was more work to be done.”

She said she is running to “secure the southern border” and to “put parents back in the driver’s seat with respect to their children’s education.” She also wants to ensure that Republicans flip the seat to protect their majority in the House, she said.

“The fact is, Joe lost,” Lewallen said. “There hasn’t been one federal or statewide rematch that’s resulted in a flipped outcome in Washington state for the past 30 years.”

She chided Perez for being too liberal and said she has a better chance at winning than Kent.

“We need to pull together and make sure that we send progressive Perez and all of her liberal policy back across the river, back to Portland where they belong,” she said. “The No. 1 thing that people have said to me is they don’t want to see Southwest Washington become like Portland. We don’t want the crime. We don’t want the homelessness. We don’t want the loss of jobs.”

Q&A session

Following opening remarks, attendees questioned Lewallen about her vision for the district and her record as a prosecuting attorney and Camas city councilor.

Crain said she investigated cases Lewallen prosecuted as a King County prosecuting attorney, but that she was unable to locate any records.

“Can you please tell us what is the most important case that you felt that you worked on?” she asked.

“I can’t remember that far back because it was about 21 years ago,” Lewallen responded.

She said she was a deputy prosecuting attorney in Redmond District Court, and she decided to leave after working there for less than a year to focus on her family.

“I determined at that point in time that they didn’t pay me enough to be a prosecuting attorney,” she said. “So I went back into … private practice, where I could actually afford my child’s day care.”

Anthony Ho, a former candidate for the state House of Representatives in the 17th Legislative District, asked Lewallen about foreign aid.

“I believe that aid packages should be specific,” Lewallen said. “I don’t like them all lumped together. I think that allows for the Democrats to pull shenanigans and try to get things on the table that shouldn’t be on the table.”

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Ultimately, she said “what people are upset about is the fact that the southern border is not secure.”

When asked about which committees she’s interested in serving on, Lewallen responded “judiciary” and that she “would love to be on energy and trade.”

Another attendee asked how Lewallen intends to run her campaign against the well-funded Perez and Kent campaigns, which have garnered millions of dollars collectively. The Lewallen campaign has so far raised about $530,000 total, according to Federal Election Commission filings.

“The money will come,” Lewallen said. “The money will be thrown at this race by both sides of the party.”

She added that “money isn’t everything” in a campaign.

“You have to build a strong grassroots campaign,” she said. “What I’ve been able to accomplish is I’ve been able to bring Republicans from the entire spectrum back to the table.”

She cited her endorsements so far, which include former Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna, former Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed and Endeavor PAC Chair Tiffany Smiley.

The final question of the night: What do you say to people who think that America is beyond repair?

“We are resilient, and we have overcome so many challenges,” Lewallen said. “I think that if we can continue to focus on that hope and that greatness, I know that we’re going to come back. I just know that we are. We’re Americans. We don’t give up.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that Lewallen’s grandfather was the city manager of Olympia.