Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, one of two Republican members of Washington’s congressional delegation who voted to impeach Donald Trump, has conceded his re-election bid after being overtaken in late voting by a GOP challenger endorsed by the former president.
Trump had targeted the six-year incumbent and endorsed Joe Kent, a former Green Beret, in the 3rd Congressional District contest. The district is located in southwestern Washington state, across the border from Portland, Oregon.
Herrera Beutler, who was first elected to the U.S. House in 2010, led Kent by about 4,700 votes on election night, but her lead shrank through last week, and updated results put Kent ahead and into the No. 2 spot Monday night.
When Clark County, the district’s largest, and Thurston Counties updated their numbers Tuesday, Kent led with 928 votes and 22.7% of the vote, and Herrera Beutler was third with 22.3% of the vote.
Herrera Beutler conceded in an email shortly after the latest update, saying that “since I was first elected to this seat I have done my very best to serve my home region and our country.”
“Even though my campaign was cut short this time, I’m proud of everything we’ve accomplished together for the place I grew up and still call home,” she wrote, saying that “I’m proud that I always told the truth, stuck to my principles and did what I knew was best for our country.”
Under Washington’s primary system, the top two vote-getters in each race on Aug. 2 advance to the November election, regardless of party. Washington is a vote-by-mail state, and voters do not have to declare a party affiliation.
Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Perez had already advanced to the November ballot since she was the top vote-getter after the Aug. 2 primary, with 31% of the vote.
According to the Secretary of State’s office, the last incumbent member of Congress to lose a Washington state primary was Representative John Miller, who lost to Ralph Horr in 1930.
Because Washington is a vote-by-mail and ballots must be in by Election Day, it often takes days to learn the final results in tight races as ballots arrive at county elections offices throughout the week.
Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey said Tuesday that votes in his office were taking longer than usual to process because a large number of voters were holding on to their ballots longer than in previous elections. Kimsey said 92,300 ballots arrived between last Monday and Wednesday, compared to 49,000 over the same three-day period in 2018.
Herrera Beutler has said she has no regrets about the impeachment vote after the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol — and has stood by her comments both on the floor and on Twitter afterward — including her revelation that Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told her he spoke to Trump while rioters stormed the Capitol, and that, according to McCarthy, the president said, “‘Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.’
Kent is a regular on conservative cable shows echoing the former president’s complaints about the 2020 election results, and on Steve Bannon’s podcast Monday, Kent criticized the state primary as “not a transparent process” and said he had to correct a signature issue with his own ballot that day .
Kimsey, the county elections official, noted that signature verification is a critical part of the process that ensures the security and integrity of the state’s vote-by-mail system.
In a statement issued Monday night after Kent withdrew, Gluesenkamp Perez pointed to Kent’s comments about the state election, saying the 3rd congressional district race “is going to be a national bellwether for the direction of the country, and for the future of our democracy.”
Of the ten House Republicans who voted for Trump’s impeachment, four chose not to run for re-election. Michigan Rep. Peter Meijer was defeated in a primary last week 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.
Washington Rep. Dan Newhouse advanced to the general election in his Washington state primary last week, fending off a Trump-endorsed rival, and will appear on the November ballot with Democratic challenger Doug White.
Cornell Clayton, director of the Thomas S. Foley Institute for Public Policy at Washington State University, noted that the fact that three anti-Newhouse Republican candidates each had double-digit percentages helped him survive the primary with just 25% of the vote.
But in the third, where the only serious Republican challengers were Kent and Heidi St. John, “it was close, but it wasn’t enough to break the anti-incumbent vote on the Republican side.”
The Kent campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but campaign manager Ozzie Gonzalez said in an email last week that Kent would wait until the winner was certified. The counties have until August 16 to complete the count and the boards of inquiry to certify the results, followed by certification by the Secretary of State by August 19.