VANCOUVER, Wash. — Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler could soon find herself edged out of the race to represent Washington's 3rd Congressional District, based on the latest vote tallies published by the Secretary of State's office.
When election workers called it a night on Tuesday, Beutler was a strong second to Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, who has retained the top slot in the days since. The Associated Press on Wednesday projected that Perez would advance to the general election.
However, due to the closeness of the race and the quirks of a mail-in election, the political landscape has gradually shifted since Tuesday. Beutler's lead over Joe Kent, the Trump-endorsed candidate who ran to her right, has increasingly narrowed.
In fact, as of Friday evening, Beutler's lead over Kent consisted of less than 300 votes — Beutler with 41,603 votes to Kent's 41,346. With ballots left to count in parts of the 3rd District, it's more than conceivable that Kent could supplant Beutler as the second candidate to advance.
Overall, Perez maintained her lead of just over 31%, followed by Beutler with 22.6%, then Kent with 22.5%, and Heidi St. John with 15.8%.
Herrera Beutler has represented the Southwest Washington district since 2010, but the prominence of Kent and St. John in the current election raised the possibility that she could be knocked out of the race if one of them managed to grab a larger share of Republican votes in the primary.
The district leans conservative overall, but Gluesenkamp Perez appears to have drawn more unified support from Democratic voters, which was enough to land her in first place due to the splintered Republican vote.
Unlike Oregon's closed primaries, Washington uses a "top two" open primary format, which means candidates from all political parties compete in single contests for each elected position and the top two vote-getters advance to what is essentially a runoff in the general election in November.
The runoff doesn't have to be between a Democrat and a Republican — under the top two format, two candidates from the same party could potentially come out on top in the primary and take both slots on the November ballot.