SEATTLE — (AP) — Democrats won a second key home race in Washington state on Saturday — an open seat in a conservative region that has long eluded the party.
Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, a dealership owner who describes herself as an independent-minded Democrat, has won a victory in the Southwest against Joe Kent, a far-right “America First” ex-Green Beret who was backed by former President Donald Trump in Washington’s 3rd congressional district .
Combined with Rep. Kim Schrier’s re-election to what Democrats feared was a vulnerable seat, Gluesenkamp Perez’s victory helped boost the party’s hopes for a majority in the House of Representatives.
“I am humbled and honored by the vote of confidence that the people of southwest Washington have given me and my campaign,” Gluesenkamp Perez said in a statement.
The 3rd Circuit, which narrowly voted for Trump in 2020, had been represented by Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler for more than a decade. But she didn’t make it through the state’s top two primaries after angering Conservatives with her vote to impeach Trump after his supporters’ attack on the US Capitol.
Schrier survived a challenge from Republican Matt Larkin to win a third term in the 8th District, which stretches from Seattle’s affluent eastern suburbs to the Cascade Mountains and orchard country in central Washington. Schrier, a pediatrician, in 2018 became the first Democrat to win the seat since its inception in the early 1980s.
“I don’t know which party will control Congress, but it’s races like mine — on the razor’s edge — that tilt one way or the other,” Schrier told The Associated Press. “If more of them go in that direction, it may mean we have the majority and set the agenda.”
Reversing the 3rd District, which Democrats had not held since former Rep. Brian Baird resigned in 2010, will now have eight of Washington’s 10 congressional seats. Herrera Beutler won 22% of the primary vote and the split of her voters between Gluesenkamp Perez and Kent may have been the deciding factor in the race.
Gluesenkamp Perez — who owns an auto shop with her husband across the Columbia River in Portland, Oregon — said that as a small business owner living in a rural part of the county, she is more in tune with voters than Kent. who repeatedly had to explain his connections to right-wing extremists.
Gluesenkamp Perez supports access to abortion and action to fight climate change, but also described herself as a gun owner who opposes a ban on assault rifles, although she supports raising the purchase age for such guns to 21. She would not be a “typical Democrat” in Congress, she said.
Kent, a former Green Beret who regularly broadcasts conservative cable and podcasts, has called for President Joe Biden’s impeachment and an investigation into the 2020 election. He has also railed against COVID-19 shutdowns and vaccination mandates, and urged to debunk the FBI after the search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home for classified documents.
In the 8th Precinct, Schrier highlighted the results she has achieved, including helping secure funds for road projects, rural broadband access and police body cameras. She also stressed that as the only doctor in Congress to support abortion rights, she was a bulwark against any effort by the GOP to limit abortion nationwide after the US Supreme Court ruled to overturn Roe v. Wade.
She called Larkin’s opposition to abortion rights disqualifying.
Larkin is an attorney and former candidate for Attorney General in Washington who works for his family’s water pipe parts company. Unlike more extreme Republican candidates, Larkin says Biden was legitimately elected, although he also notes that many people disagree and are frustrated by it. He pounded Schrier on inflation, gas prices and crime, saying Democratic policies had made all three worse.
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