The two Republican members of Congress from Washington who drew cross-party challenges over their vote to impeach former President Donald Trump led fellow Republicans in the state’s top two primaries on Wednesday.
Under Washington’s primary system, all candidates run on the same ballot, and the top two vote-getters in each of Tuesday’s races advance to the November election, regardless of party — a system observers say may have helped Washington GOP incumbents who had been targeted. by Trump.
In early returns, Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler and Dan Newhouse looked like they could advance to the general election with a Democratic candidate in each of their races. Trump-endorsed candidates in both races were in third place.
Because Washington is a vote-by-mail and ballots must be in by Election Day, it may take days to learn the final results as ballots arrive at county elections offices throughout the week.
Of the 10 Republicans who voted for impeachment after the attack on the US capital on January 6, four chose not to run for re-election. Michigan Rep. Peter Meijer was defeated in a primary Tuesday by Trump-endorsed John Gibbs and Rep. Tom Rice of South Carolina lost to a Trump-endorsed challenger in June. Rep. David Valadao of California — which has an open primary like Washington — survived a primary challenge. Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming is bracing for defeat in her Aug. 16 primary against a Trump-backed rival.
If Herrera Beutler and Newhouse ultimately advance to the general election as Valadao did, it will be largely because of the mechanics of the top two primaries, said Cornell Clayton, director of the Thomas S. Foley Institute for Public Policy at Washington State University.
“The top two primaries are designed to favor more moderate candidates and make it more difficult for the extremes in both parties to primary moderate candidates,” he said.
The number of Republican candidates in those two races gave an advantage to Democrats’ chances of taking one of the top two spots, leaving the Republican vote split, Clayton notes. Herrera Beutler faced eight opponents, half of whom are Republicans, and Newhouse faced seven, including six Republicans.
“There is a slight current advantage among these Republicans,” Clayton said.
Herrera Beutler, who represents the 3rd congressional district in the southwestern part of the state, had about 25% of the vote Tuesday night, and Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Perez captured nearly 32%. Joe Kent — a former Green Beret endorsed by Trump who faced significant spending against him from another Republican attacking him from the right — was at 20%.
“Right now, I’m focused on making sure I don’t trip over my skis,” Herrera Beutler, who is seeking his seventh term, said in a Zoom news conference with reporters Tuesday night. “I’m excited about the numbers, but we’re not done yet, we still have more votes to count.”
Kent tweeted Wednesday that dozens of districts have not yet reported their numbers and that “there’s still a ways to go.”
Rep. Dan Newhouse, the four-term incumbent in central Washington’s 4th Congressional District, had just over 27% of the vote in early returns, followed by Democrat Doug White, who had about 26%. Loren Culp, a Trump-endorsed former small-town police chief who lost the 2020 governor’s race to Democrat Jay Inslee, was just under 22%.
Culp noted on Facebook that the difference between first and third place is a difference of just over 4,100 votes.
“The call is tight and more than half the votes are still out!” he wrote.
Counties in both districts are expected to update their numbers later Wednesday afternoon and evening, and most counties will post updates daily until all votes are counted.