VANCOUVER, Wash. — Republican challenger Joe Kent has overtaken incumbent Jaime Herrera Beutler following Monday night's ballot count update in the race for Washington's 3rd Congressional District, likely ousting the six-term GOP congresswoman in the primary election.
As of Monday night, Kent had 22.8% of the vote and Herrera Beutler has 22.3%, a gap of 960 votes. Herrera Beutler held a narrow lead going into Monday, and her lead increased slightly when Cowlitz County updated its results at about 3 p.m., but then disappeared when Clark County updated just after 5 p.m.
In Washington's primary system, all candidates compete in a single race and the top two finishers, regardless of party, advance to a runoff in the general election. If his new lead holds, Kent will take second place and advance along with Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Perez.
The outcome is a reversal from where things stood after the first round of results were posted on election night. Gluesenkamp Perez took an early lead with about 31.8% of the vote, but Herrera Beutler appeared to be securely in second at about 24.5%, with Kent in third at about 20.1%.
But each county in the district made daily updates to the tally last week as more votes were counted, and Kent's share of the vote increased each day. The Friday update left him fewer than 300 votes away from overtaking Herrera Beutler.
Herrera Beutler has represented the southwest Washington district since 2010, but she faced a tougher primary challenge this year due to the prominence of Kent and another Republican challenger, Heidi St. John, both of whom ran to Herrera Beutler's right.
Kent was endorsed by former President Donald Trump and has said his opposition to Herrera Beutler's vote to impeach Trump after the Jan. 6 insurrection was the biggest factor that pushed him into joining the race.
A former Green Beret and CIA employee, Kent describes himself as an America First candidate and has repeated Trump's false claims about the 2020 election being rigged and stolen. He also argued in an interview with KGW that Trump bore no responsibility for the events of Jan. 6.
Herrera Beutler was one of 10 House Republicans who voted for impeachment. The only other one from Washington, Rep. Dan Newhouse, has survived a similar primary challenge in the 4th Congressional District, defeating Trump-endorsed candidate Loren Culp and advancing along with Democrat Doug White.
There will be a couple more ballot tally updates this week, but they'll be smaller. Clark County had about 10,000 ballots left to count as of Monday evening and will next update Tuesday. Cowlitz had just under 500 and will next update Wednesday.
The district also includes a small southern portion of Thurston County, which had about 7,000 votes left countywide after Monday's update and will next update Tuesday.
The other counties within the district — Lewis, Pacific, Skamania and Wahkiakum — have a combined total of only about 200 ballots left and will not update again until next week (the county certification deadline is Tuesday, Aug. 16).
In Washington, a mandatory recount is triggered if the gap between an advancing candidate and a defeated candidate is less than 2,000 votes and is also less than 0.5% of the total number of votes cast for both candidates.
The current gap of 960 votes between Kent and Herrera Beutler comes close to that threshold but does not meet it. It's fewer than 2,000, but more than 0.5% of the total votes, which would be 471.