Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler Concedes Primary Defeat to Trump-Endorsed Challenger Joe Kent


Six-term U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler conceded defeat to Donald Trump-endorsed challenger Joe Kent on Tuesday after new vote totals confirmed she would place third in the primary.

The concession was further proof of the political price paid by Republicans who dared to impeach Trump over his role in stoking the Jan. 2021 assault on the U.S. Capitol. Of the 10 House Republicans who joined Democrats in that vote, Herrera Beutler was the seventh to retire or be ousted in a primary.

Kent, an Army combat veteran and first-time candidate will face Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Perez in November. She placed first in the primary with about 31% of the vote to 23% for Kent and 22% for Herrera Beutler.

In a prepared concession statement just after 5 p.m., Herrera Beutler thanked voters of southwest Washington’s 3rd Congressional District for supporting her for many years, and cited accomplishments including working to help the local fishing industry and passing a law helping low-income children get specialty medical care.

“Ever since I was first elected to this seat I have done my very best to serve my home region and our country. Though my campaign came up short this time, I’m proud of all we’ve accomplished together for the place where I was raised and still call home,” Herrera Beutler said in a statement.

Herrera Beutler did not mention Kent but made an apparent reference to her vote to impeach him over the Capitol attack.

Referring to “unexpected and difficult” moments, Herrera Beutler said, “I’m proud that I always told the truth, stuck to my principles, and did what I knew to be best for our country.”

Kent’s campaign did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

He ran a campaign marked by loyalty to Trump — echoing the former president’s false claims about the 2020 election — promoting an “America First” agenda including a near-total shutdown on immigration and refugees. He also has vowed to move immediately to impeach President Joe Biden if elected and to launch investigations of Democrats.

On social media and in appearances on Fox News, Kent loudly criticized the FBI search warrant executed at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, where agents were reportedly looking for classified documents illegally taken by the ex-president.

“Now, more than ever, we must unite to save our nation. The enemy is organized & on the attack, we have to be ready to fight back,” Kent tweeted on Monday.

Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, had led Kent on election night, but slipped in subsequent vote counts, finally falling behind Kent on Monday. After new counts Tuesday in Clark and Thurston County, Kent kept his hold on second place, leading Herrera Beutler by 928 votes out of more than 200,000 that were cast in the race.

Kent advanced to the general election despite a flood of attack ads fueled by more than $4 in outside PAC spending aimed at helping get Herrera Beutler incumbent past the primary despite the widespread anger among GOP voters over her impeachment vote. Some of that money came from a newly created super PAC that timed its spending to avoid revealing its donors until after the primary.

An ex-Green Beret combat veteran and Gold Star husband, Kent first met Trump at Dover Air Force Base in 2019, after Kent’s wife, Navy cryptologist Shannon Kent, was killed by a suicide bomber in Syria while fighting the Islamic State terrorist group.

Trump endorsed Kent last year, calling him “a warrior for the America First agenda” and attacking Herrera Beutler for supporting “the Democrats’ impeachment scam.”

Gluesenkamp Perez lives in rural Skamania County and co-owns a Portland auto-repair shop with her husband. She has been involved in the state Democratic Party and ran unsuccessfully for Skamania County Board of Commissioners in 2016.

In a statement Monday after Kent passed Hererra Beutler for second place, Gluesenkamp Perez said the November race will be “a national bellwether for the direction of our country.”

Calling Kent a white nationalist for his ties to extremist groups, she said his “unapologetic extremism and divisive approach demonstrate he is unfit for public office.”

The race may still be headed for a mandatory recount, though those almost never change the outcome. A machine recount is required if the gap between the No. 2 and No. 3 candidates is less than half of 1% and less than 2,000 votes.