After almost a week of ballots being counted in a methodical fashion, Republican challenger Joe Kent has overtaken fellow Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler in the primary election for Washington’s 3rd Congressional District.
Ballot tallies Monday evening showed Kent, a former Green Beret, surpassed the congresswoman by 960 votes. He had trailed by roughly 5,000 votes on election night last week while tens of thousands of ballots waited to be counted.
The two candidates are vying for the second and final spot on the November ballot. Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Perez already won the top position with around a third of the vote in the primary. In Washington state, the top two vote-getters advance regardless of party.
Kent’s biggest gains Monday came in Clark County, the largest county in Washington’s 3rd Congressional District. He picked up 5,053 votes to Herrera Beutler’s 3,937 votes.
The challenger also made gains in Thurston County. There, he picked up 2,753 votes to Herrera Beutler’s 1,565 votes.
Herrera Beutler, meanwhile, had made slim gains elsewhere in the southwest Washington district. In Cowlitz County, the Battle Ground congresswoman notched 7,221 new votes, a hair more than Kent’s 7,089 votes.
Herrera Beutler’s campaign could not be reached by press time Monday. Kent, in a text message, declined to comment until “all the votes are in.”
Kent’s comeback didn’t come in a rush, but rather percolated over days. Though he trailed on election night, there had been more than 70,000 ballots still to be counted, most of them in Clark County. In Washington, mailed ballots can be returned up until Election Day as long as they have a valid postmark. That law leads to results that can take several days to tally.
Clark still has 10,000 more ballots to count, as of Monday.
A recount could occur even after all ballots are counted. Under Washington law, recounts are required if two candidates are split by less than 2,000 votes and 0.5% of the total votes cast.
Even if state law doesn’t trigger a recount, processes are in place to allow people – candidates and non-candidates – to call for recounts.
Counties have until Aug. 16 to finish counting. Then, the results must be certified by local canvassing boards.