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News / Politics / Clark County Politics

‘The economy is destroying people’: 3rd District candidate Joe Kent hosts town hall in Camas

He says inflation is ‘the No. 1 issue right now’

By Dylan Jefferies, Columbian staff writer
Published: May 21, 2024, 5:58pm
3 Photos
Republican 3rd Congressional District candidate Joe Kent speaks at a Tuesday town hall at the Camas Community Center.
Republican 3rd Congressional District candidate Joe Kent speaks at a Tuesday town hall at the Camas Community Center. (Taylor Balkom/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

CAMAS — At a town hall event Tuesday morning, Republican 3rd Congressional District candidate Joe Kent declared that inflation, immigration and parental rights are the biggest issues facing the United States today.

“I think if we talk about those three big issues, people will come over to our side,” said Kent, who lives in Yacolt. “These are not hardcore Republican conservative ideas. These used to be pretty basic commonsense American ideas.”

Kent was speaking to a large crowd gathered at the Camas Community Center. In attendance were many Kent supporters and some undecided voters.

It was one of many stops Kent made on the campaign trail this week. He held a town hall in Ridgefield on Monday, and another in Battle Ground on Tuesday evening.

Kent is running to unseat incumbent Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, D-Skamania. Kent lost to the unheralded Perez in 2022 after he unseated Jaime Herrera Beutler in a hard-fought primary. Also vying for the seat this year are Camas residents Leslie Lewallen, a Republican, and John Saulie-Rohman, an independent.

Biggest issues

Kent began the event by laying out his vision for representing the 3rd District.

He said inflation is “the No. 1 issue right now.”

“The economy is destroying people,” he said, adding that young people are the most impacted.

He said “out-of-control spending in Washington, D.C.” and “Biden’s war on domestic energy” are driving inflation, as well as “printing money to send overseas.”

If elected, he would focus on domestic issues, such as securing the southern border, which is the second biggest issue facing the U.S., he said.

He argued that Democrats, including Perez, want to “pump as many people as they can into the country to skew the Census numbers.” He also blamed Washington’s fentanyl crisis on current border policies, including the asylum process.

“This is a pure, cold-blooded power play by the Democrats to flood our country so they can gain more control of power,” he said. “They don’t care about the fentanyl deaths, and the 113,000 people who have gotten killed by fentanyl. It’s just collateral damage to them.”

Some attendees expressed fear that the influx of illegal crossings will lead to a terrorist attack.

“Basically, we have to be lucky every day going forward for the next two or three decades,” Kent responded. “We have to be lucky that entire time, and the enemy only needs to get lucky once.”

If elected, Kent said he will work to cut off economic incentives for people migrating to the U.S., and he would support mass deportations.

“We just need to tell these people: We’re going to find you, and we’re going to deport you, and you’re never going to be able to come back into the country ever again,” he said. “And if you’re here illegally, there’s no pathway to citizenship.”

He said he wants “to close the asylum loophole,” and that if people want to claim asylum, “they need to go to a third country so that they can be properly vetted,” he added.

The third biggest issue facing the U.S. is parental rights, Kent said.

He criticized Washington’s Senate Bill 5599, which ensures shelter for teenagers estranged from their parents who are seeking reproductive health services or gender-affirming care.

“It basically allows Washington state to get between parents and their kids,” he said. “Whether that’s so-called gender-affirming care, castration, gender-altering surgeries or abortion, you name it, the parents are completely and totally cut out,” he said.

He praised Washington’s Initiative 2081, approved by the Legislature this year. The measure — known as “the parents bill of rights” — requires a range of school materials, such as textbooks, curriculum and a child’s medical records, to be easily available for review by parents.

Focus of campaign

Kent said his campaign is focused on spreading awareness of these issues, unifying the Republican Party and activating voters. Additionally, Kent said his campaign will be conducting ballot harvesting this year. Ballot harvesting is the legal practice of gathering absentee ballots and delivering them to polling places.

“Last election, we were encouraging people to hold on to the ballot until Election Day,” he said. “Unfortunately, that was a mistake that gave the Democrats about three to four weeks head start collecting ballots.”

He encouraged attendees to vote by mail if necessary.

“I wish we could go back to voting in person where you actually had to show your ID,” he said. “But in order for us to actually enact that someday, we have to win within the current system.”

During the Q&A session, one attendee asked Kent about replacing the Interstate 5 Bridge.

“I think the federal government should be leading on this,” he said. He added he does not support tolling or light rail, but he supports restoring the current bridge while building a third bridge that could handle interstate commerce.

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Other questions during the Q&A focused on immigration policies, corruption in Washington, D.C., foreign aid, energy independence, bipartisanship, and winning over younger and undecided voters.

Kent has additional town halls slated in late May and early June. To learn more, visit joekentforcongress.com/category/events/.