Following up on vows to exact revenge against Republicans who voted to impeach him, former President Donald Trump on Wednesday endorsed Joe Kent, a challenger to U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler.
Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, was one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump in January, citing the former president's role in inciting the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol by promoting baseless claims of election fraud.
In a statement, Trump praised Kent, a retired Special Forces officer and Gold Star husband, as "a warrior for the America First agenda" and disparaged Herrera Beutler for backing "the Democrats' impeachment scam."
It was Trump's first endorsement of the 2022 midterms in Washington state. Herrera Beutler and Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside, have drawn multiple pro-Trump GOP challengers motivated by their impeachment votes.
Kent thanked Trump in a tweet, saying he was "honored & ready to take our country back!"
The Trump nod was not especially surprising given Kent's displays of public loyalty to the twice-impeached president. He has denied Trump was responsible for the Jan. 6 attack and backed false claims that the 2020 election was stolen. "I think Trump won, but I want to prove it," he told CNN in July.
Kent first met Trump after his wife, Shannon Kent, a Navy cryptologist who served four deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, was killed by a suicide bomber in Syria in 2019 while fighting the Islamic State terrorist group.
Trump, in his statement, cited that meeting at Dover Air Force Base, where Shannon Kent's body was returned to the U.S., saying he was "incredibly impressed" with Joe Kent and told him at the time "that he should someday run for office."
Herrera Beutler, who is up for a seventh term in 2022, has defended her impeachment vote, saying Trump encouraged a "ruthless mob" and "would-be assassins" who sought to use force to halt the certification of Joe Biden's win by Congress.
In a statement Wednesday, Parker Truax, a Herrera Beutler spokesperson, downplayed the Trump endorsement.
"Jaime ran well ahead of President Trump in both elections they were on the same ballot. Voters here in Southwest Washington know she works hard and gets results for them," Truax said in an email.
In the 2020 election, Trump received 50.6% of the vote in Herrera Beutler's 3rd Congressional District, which covers southwest Washington. Herrera Beutler received more than 56% of the vote.
While the 2022 primary is still nearly a year away, the Trump nod is likely to further solidify Kent's standing among the Republican base that remains loyal to the ex-president.
Another Republican challenger whose campaign has shown substantial support, Christian author and speaker Heidi St. John, also had sought Trump's endorsement. Her campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Kent has also sought out alliances with other far-right and pro-Trump figures. He has been endorsed by Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar, who has ties to white nationalist activists. He spoke at a rally in April with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, of Georgia, who was stripped of her congressional committee assignments for statements espousing conspiracy theories, including suggestions that high-profile school shootings were faked.
On Labor Day, Kent is scheduled to attend a Clark County rally and fundraiser headlined by controversial Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Florida, who is under a federal investigation as part of a sex-trafficking probe.