The next election is 21 months away, but three Southwest Washington Republicans have already announced congressional campaigns to challenge embattled GOP incumbent Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler for the 3rd District seat.
The challengers — a former staffer in Donald Trump's administration, a pro-Trump military veteran and a Christian author — appear to be positioning themselves to Herrera Beutler's right by aligning themselves with the former president.
"I'm running to push back against the status quo, the far left and the establishment in their effort to halt the progress made by President Trump for the great working men and women of this district," said Joe Kent, a military veteran from Battle Ground who announced his campaign in a video on Feb. 18.
"Since the 2020 election, we've seen conservatives and Trump supporters labeled as insurrectionists and terrorists by the far left and the mainstream media," Kent said.
Heidi St. John, an author and speaker on family values — and a blogger with a Facebook following of 330,000 people — announced her campaign Sunday.
In a media release, St. John cited the "controversial decisions" made by Herrera Beutler, adding that they "jeopardized the Republican seat and caused division within the party."
Herrera Beutler, the six-term congresswoman from Battle Ground, drew condemnation from many in her party when she voted to impeach Trump over the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. She drew an even brighter national spotlight during the impeachment trial when she publicly described a phone conversation between Trump and GOP leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy that had revealed Trump's blase attitude toward the attack.
Her secondhand account of the call was admitted to the formal impeachment trial record. She also called upon her colleagues to come forward if they had any more information about Trump's state of mind during the siege — no Republicans took her up on it.
Immediately after her impeachment vote, rumblings in the Clark County Republican Party pointed toward an inevitable primary challenge for Herrera Beutler. While some constituents lauded her backbone, CCRP Chair Joel Matilla wrote that her support for impeachment placed her in "lonely political waters."
In her campaign announcement, St. John wrote that voters can still "save America."
"But this will only come about when our representatives exhibit true strength of character and a commitment to return to the values that made this nation great," St. John said.
The most recent post to St. John's blog elevated the falsehood that the election was stolen from Trump. She called Joe Biden's 2020 victory "the greatest vote heist in American history" perpetrated by "the left," a claim that's been proven false over months of court battles that affirmed the election's results.
"Soon, they'll come for our national identity and our history. Now that we know they can do it, I hope we guard it with our lives," St. John wrote.
St. John's position on the election results stands in opposition to that of Herrera Beutler, who did not join the 147 congressional Republicans who sought to overturn the election. Following the Capitol breach, Herrera Beutler also called on her colleagues and constituents to accept the outcome as legitimate.
The third challenger to declare a campaign is Wadi Yakhour, a Brush Prairie resident who filed his candidacy with the Federal Elections Commission on Feb. 16.
While Yakhour hasn't put out an official statement announcing his candidacy, his resume and social media presence would also seem to align him with Trump.
Yakhour previously served as special assistant to the Secretary of the Interior under the Trump administration. On his Facebook page, he describes the current status of his campaign as in the "prelaunch" stage. The page also includes a meme calling ownership of an AR-15 "a right, not a want or a privilege."
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