After a week of close ballot counts in which her chances to make the November ballot grew slimmer and slimmer, U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler conceded her bid for another term in Congress on Tuesday evening.
The congresswoman wrote in an prepared statement that it had been “an honor” to serve the 3rd Congressional District in Southwest Washington since she first won election in 2010. She conceded shortly after the last ballot counts in Clark County showed she likely can’t close a voting gap for the final spot on the November ballot. Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Perez secured the first-place finish in Washington’s top-two primary last week.
The Republican from Battle Ground, Washington, now joins several U.S. House Republicans whose political career ended shortly after they voted to impeach then-president Donald Trump in the wake of the Jan. 6 insurrection.
“I’m proud of all we’ve accomplished together for the place where I was raised and still call home,” Herrera Beutler wrote in a statement. Her tenure in Washington D.C. ends Jan. 3.
The final spot in November’s general election with Perez now belongs to Joe Kent, a former Green Beret whom Trump endorsed last September and who entered the political arena only after Herrera Beutler’s impeachment vote.
“This was a very hard fought primary,” Kent said about two hours after Herrera Beutler’s concession. He spoke to a crowd at a meeting of the Clark County Republican Party. “I think that’s an absolutely good thing. That’s going to serve us very well going forward, because steel sharpens steel.”
Herrera Beutler’s concession Tuesday night came almost exactly one week after the first ballots dropped and showed her comfortably in second place. She held a nearly 5,000-vote lead over third-placed Kent. That night, she told reproters she felt “cautiously optimistic.” Still, she made clear that the race was not over.
Her lead then disappeared day by day as election workers continued to comb through tens of thousands of ballots. As Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey told The Columbian newspaper, more than 60% of voters — about 90,000 in all — handed in their ballots on Election Day.
By the end of last week, Kent trailed by just 257 votes. On Monday, he took control of the second-place position. National prognosticators, such as David Wasserman of The Cook Political Report, saw votes slipping away from Herrera Beutler in recent days and declared Kent would be the eventual winner.
Meanwhile, both campaigns largely remained quiet. Kent did make appearances on national conservative media, and lamented a lack of “transparency” after his own ballot was challenged — though election workers ultimately accepted his ballot, according to Kimsey.
When asked Tuesday night about his thoughts over the slow-drip election, Kent said he spent most of his week “hitting refresh a whole bunch.”
“I wasn’t as optimistic as some people were on Tuesday,” Kent said. “But then as we kept seeing how many more ballots were out there ... pretty incredible.”
A combat veteran turned politician and commentator, Kent’s victory came after a fraught primary among Republicans. One subplot throughout the race involved conservative candidates running to the right of Herrera Beutler dividing the votes.
Christian podcaster Heidi St. John played a central role, benefitting greatly from anonymous outside spending that the campaigns of both Perez and Kent believed aimed to benefit Herrera Beutler by sapping votes from Kent. St. John secured around 16%.
The race also feature Republican state Rep. Vicki Kraft, who grabbed a little more than 3%.
Perez, meanwhile, ran as effectively the sole Democrat, enabling her to gobble up most of the district’s left-leaning voters. She finished the race with a leading 31%, despite raising far less money than Herrera Beutler, Kent or St. John.
Perez may be pleased with the outcome among Republicans in the 3rd District. She previously told OPB that she entered the race because she considered Kent’s views too extreme for Southwest Washington, and she has expressed confidence in her ability to defeat a candidate with less moderate appeal than Herrera Beutler.
Shortly after the congresswoman’s concession, Perez tweeted she had “beat Joe Kent in the primary and will beat him again in November.”