VANCOUVER, Wash. — Six-term U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler conceded defeat Tuesday night in the race for Washington's 3rd Congressional District after a fresh update to the ballot count from last week's primary election failed to close the gap between her and far-right challenger Joe Kent.
"Thank you, Southwest Washington, for entrusting me six times with the privilege of representing you in Congress," she said in a statement. "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."
Speaking at a meeting of Clark County Republicans on Tuesday evening, Kent said that it was a hard-fought campaign which would serve them well going forward, "because steel sharpens steel."
"Right now we have seen the full scope of what can get thrown at us and the unity that Republicans can have," Kent said. "If you look at the Republican turnout on that ticket, it will be an absolutely loud and clear message to Washington D.C. and throughout this country that [Washington's 3rd District] is one of the most conservative districts in the country."
Kent, who was endorsed by former President Trump, claimed that the stakes would be high in the coming election because "the far left, the globalists, the administrative state" were unified against conservatives. He referenced the FBI's search of Trump's Mar-a-Lago home, the news of which broke Tuesday morning.
"Because it's clear right now, there's two sides — one side wants complete and total control and will do anything to get it, and then there's us," Kent said.
Herrera Beutler was one of ten Republicans in the U.S. House to vote in favor of impeaching former President Donald Trump after the Jan. 6 insurrection, a decision which Kent heavily criticized and cited as his main inspiration to join the race and try to oust her.
The district's Republican vote in the primary was heavily split between Herrera Beutler, Kent and Heidi St. John, another challenger running to Herrera Beutler's right.
Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Perez took an early lead with about 31% of the vote, securing the first slot on the November ballot under Washington's top-two primary system.
Herrera Beutler appeared to be on track to secure the second-place slot when the initial results came out on election night and showed her with a roughly 4.4% lead over Kent.
However, each county in the district made daily updates to the tally as more votes were counted, and Kent's share of the vote increased each day. By Friday he was fewer than 300 votes behind Herrera Beutler, and on Monday he overtook her with a 960 vote lead.
In an interview with KGW on Tuesday evening, Gluesenkamp Perez said that she admired Herrera Beutler's dignified concession of the race and her previous stands for election integrity.
"There is not enough of that in Congress today, so we are grateful for her honor," the Democrat said.
On the other hand, Gluesenkamp Perez had sharp criticism for her general election opponent-apparent, Joe Kent.
"Defeating Joe was why we got into this race, in large part," she said. "This is not someone that can adequately and effectively represent this district. Joe is an extremist. Joe loves to talk about his support for jobs and the economy — but I'm the candidate in the race who has been growing family-wage jobs, who works in the trades, who's a small business owner and who understands how difficult this economy has been for families like mine to navigate."
Gluesenkamp Perez said that Kent would fuel hyper-partisanship and political polarization. She made the case that she could and would appeal to people closer to the political center, who perhaps voted for Herrera Beutler in the past.
In response to follow-up questions from KGW, Herrera Beutler's campaign said that she would not consider endorsing a Democrat for the 3rd District, but also said that there was no indication from Kent's camp that an endorsement from her "is something he wants."
The last major ballot update in the race came Tuesday evening when Clark County added about 9,500 of its roughly 10,000 remaining ballots to the total and Thurston County added about 2,000 of 7,000.
Herrera Beutler gained slightly, closing the gap to 928 votes, but with only a tiny percentage of ballots left to count, the deficit became functionally impossible to make up. Her campaign sent out the concession statement about 20 minutes after the Clark County update was posted.
The 928 vote margin also places the race outside the range that would trigger a mandatory recount. Under Washington's rules, the gap between the two candidates must be fewer than 2,000 votes and also less than half a percent of the total votes for both candidates, which at this point would be about 491.
Herrera Beutler's current term in Congress ends Jan. 3, 2023.