VANCOUVER, Wash. — On Election Night, Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Perez held an 11,123-vote lead over Republican Joe Kent.
The preliminary results were a surprise to many political forecasters — a sign that Gluesenkamp Perez had a chance to flip Washington's 3rd Congressional District from red to blue.
In the following days, as counties have updated their result totals, the race has tightened to less than 5,000 votes.
Now, it hinges on the final vote counts from Clark County.
However, the last two days' returns from the district's largest county represent encouraging news for the Gluesenkamp Perez campaign.
On Friday night, Clark County added the results of about 24,000 ballots. The previous night, the county had shared about 25,000 new ballot returns.
Kent netted 158 votes on Friday and 126 votes on Thursday. The candidates effectively split the large additions of close to 50,000 ballots.
Unless Clark County's outstanding 20,000 ballots swing strongly in Kent's favor, it is unlikely he will be able to overcome the 5,000-vote deficit to Gluesenkamp Perez.
“With today's latest count of ballots from Cowlitz County and Clark County, Joe Kent once again fell well short of the gains he needed in order to change the outcome of this race," Gluesenkamp Perez's campaign said in a Friday night statement. "While we expect the margin to tighten a bit more as the final outstanding ballots are counted, Marie's lead now looks all but insurmountable."
Election officials in Clark County report there are close to 20,000 outstanding votes remaining to be counted. The other six counties combined have a projected few thousand votes left to add.
Clark County auditor Greg Kimsey said the county expects to share the results of about 20,000 votes on Saturday night, as election staffers are working an extra day to add to the totals.
"It's a ton of work, it's a grueling schedule, and I'm really grateful to everyone who's taking time away from their family to make our elections work," Gluesenkamp Perez said.
Cowlitz County, a county that has favored Kent in this election, added about 5,000 votes in its Friday afternoon update. County election officials said they still have about 2,400 votes to add on Monday.
Gluesenkamp Perez has led decisively in Clark County throughout the race, having received about 56% of the vote through Friday night.
Pacific County, the only other county that favors Gluesenkamp Perez, also has about 2,400 ballots left to report, which it plans to share on Monday.
The Kent campaign had been hoping for Kent to perform dramatically better among Clark County returns post-Election Day in order to overtake Gluesenkamp Perez.
That hope, based in part on how Kent won the nomination in the August primary through a late surge of favorable voting results, is connected to a strategy endorsed by some Republican candidates.
In the buildup to the November election, Some Republican candidates in Clark County encouraged their supporters to wait until Election Day to return their ballots, often based on false and disproven theories about election fraud.
Before the election, voting officials were aware that a greater-than-usual number of mailed ballots may be received on or after Election Day, slowing down the results process.
Kent did not answer questions from KGW or other press members on Election Night, and his campaign has declined to comment since.