VANCOUVER, Wash. — Political ads for Washington's third congressional district race have been running nonstop on local TV stations ahead of Tuesday's primary.
The most frequent TV ads seem to be for the incumbent Republican Jaime Herrera Beutler or ads for or against one of her Republican challengers, Joe Kent.
Ads from Congresswoman Herrera Beutler's campaign claim that Kent was a "registered Portland Democrat" who supports "socialist ideas," while Kent's ads tout his Trump endorsement and question the incumbent's loyalty to the Republican Party.
Before diving into the ads, here's some background on these two opponents.
Herrera Beutler is a Battle Ground, Wash. resident who was first elected to Congress in 2010. She was also one of 10 Republicans who voted to impeach President Trump in January 2021 after the insurrection on the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C.
Trump vowed revenge the Republicans who impeached him. He also endorsed Kent, who is running on a hardcore conservative platform.
Kent grew up in Sweet Home, Ore. and was a special forces soldier in the Army. In 2019, his wife Shannon was killed fighting ISIS in Syria. That brought Kent back to Portland, which he found was too far to the left, so he moved to Yacolt, Wash.
Kent says he's running against Herrera Beutler because she "betrayed the trust of voters in her district."
"Really it was the aftermath of the 2020 election. I had major issues with the way the election was handled, I felt there was a good deal of evidence of fraud," he told KGW's Laurel Porter in a Straight Talk interview this week. "So when Jaime Herrera Beutler voted to certify the election of 2020, I had major reservations. And then when she voted for the impeachment of President Trump after the riot of Jan. 6, I realized that she was not capable of defending our district and really our nation against what the radical left is doing to our country right now. I didn't see any other Republicans stepping forward to challenge her. I never intended on running for office before, but I fought for this country for 20 years, I lost many friends, I lost my late wife in this fight, worked heavily on the Trump 2020 campaign because I believe in the America First agenda. And so I looked around and I said, if I don't go do this, no one else will."
Herrera Beutler told KGW that she stands by her vote to impeach Trump but wishes more of the public had been able to see what led her to that vote.
"I didn't understand that people hadn't seen police officers being beaten with Blue Lives Matter flag poles. I didn't know that people hadn't seen officers being dragged into a crowd and tased. I assumed that that was being seen all over," she said in an interview with Porter. "I felt like I did what I needed to do per my oath of office. It definitely, as you noted, has caused me to get some primary challengers, but I also feel like this is exactly what, as a conservative who grew up in this district, I would expect from someone who was my elected official."
A third Republican running for the third congressional district is Heidi St. John, a home school advocate and Christian author. She has raised less money than the other two, which is why people might be seeing less of her TV ads. In her interview on Straight Talk, she said she is the only "true conservative" in the race.
"I think if people are looking for a true conservative voice in Congress, I am that voice. I am the only true conservative," St. John said. "I'm running against a Democrat who has communist viewpoints. I'm running against another person who claims to be a Republican but has absolutely no record of voting for conservative values at all, and in fact leans toward socialism. And I am running against Jaime Herrera Beutler, who votes more often with the Democrats than almost any other Republican in Congress. And so I am running to be a true conservative voice for Southwest Washington."
A fourth candidate challenging Herrera Beutler in this race is Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, a small business owner running as a Democrat. She says she has a good chance of winning the primary because of the voter makeup of Southwest Washington.
"Listen, this district is 43% Democrats, so Jaime is relying on Democrats to vote for her. That is a very risky bet on her part. So we've got to work hard, we can't take anything for granted — and we are working hard, but we believe we can make it through," she told Porter.
Those are the main players we're focusing on. To get some insight on how the race is going so far, we turned to Portland-based Republican strategist Rebecca Tweed.
While Herrera Beutler has faced challenges before, Tweed said this year's primary is "a pretty significant one."
"Her opponents have raised some money. You know when you see campaigns go negative, whether it's advertising on TV or social media or even letters, to the editor that pop up in my news feed for that race, it's typically indicative that the incumbent feels they're vulnerable somewhere," Tweed said. "They've done some polling and have seen a certain section of voters that seem to be leaning towards an opponent. And in these last few days before the primary comes out, that's when you're gonna see this kind of activity if you are worried about something."
Meanwhile, an organization called "Winning For Women" has spent $741,000 to campaign against Kent. The group is a political action committee, or "PAC," that's focused on getting Republican women in Congress. The group has also spent $230,000 on campaign mailers supporting Herrera Beutler.
Tweed believes that the incumbent is worried.
"Look, Joe Kent has an amazing story, amazing history of serving the country and it's no surprise that he has kind of carried the banner for the very far-right — [a] pretty aggressive flag that people are waving right now from what we're seeing across the country in some of these big seats. And I think that women voters and younger voters are worried about what kind of impact that would have, if he's elected, on some of the policies that he's looking to put forward," said Tweed. "There are some really strong women candidates, including the incumbent of course, who I would say have a more reasonable approach to some policy-making. Joe Kent has made quite a name for himself. He's raised a lot of money. These outside organizations are always going to come in at the last minute or when votes really start to matter, to push those voters their direction."
So that's why people are seeing so many ads painting opposite pictures of Kent.
Interviews with all four candidates will air Friday, July 29, at 7 p.m. for an hour-long special of Straight Talk with Laurel Porter.
Washington's primary is less than one week away, on Tuesday, Aug. 2.