Roughly 11 months away from his potential rematch, Joe Kent continues to make the case he’s best positioned to defeat the candidate he’s lost to once before.
“If I pull this off, I would have beaten an incumbent from both parties,” Kent noted.
During the August 2022 primary, Kent defeated six-term incumbent Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground.
“So I will only be beholden to you guys,” Kent said this week.
Kent, a candidate for the Third Congressional District seat held by Maire Gluesenkamp Perez, D-Washougal, hosted the first of nine “Cup of Joe” events at the Napavine Diner on Monday, an opportunity for voters to hear the Republican congressional candidate’s stances and ask questions directly.
The seat is a potential pickup for Republicans and is one of the three the state GOP sees as flippable in 2024. Elected in 2022, Gluesenkamp Perez beat Kent by about 2,600 votes in a race outlets including The Seattle Times, The New York Times and The Hill referred to as among the biggest upsets of the cycle.
This time, the race has drawn another candidate, with Republican Camas City Council member Leslie Lewallen announcing her candidacy in October. The state GOP formally endorsed Kent in August, before Lewallen announced her candidacy, and the party could reconsider the endorsement at the state convention in April.
The earlier convention, Kent said, will allow for additional time to campaign for the November election.
“It was mid-August before I was actually the nominee. The ballots got sent out, for the general (election), like five weeks later,” Kent said of the 2022 race. “When we have long, brutal primaries, we don’t have time to unite the Republican caucus, and we’ll be divided going into the general (election).”
A flyer for the “Cup of Joe” promotes an “introductory training in legal ballot collection,” a practice commonly referred to as “ballot harvesting.” The process includes the collection and submission of mail-in ballots to designated drop-off areas by third parties rather than registered voters.
“We’re going to need boots on the ground to do that,” Kent said.
The Washington Legislature voted in 2011 to shift the state’s electoral process entirely to mail-in voting.
“None of us like the way that ballots get sent out to us. None of us like the way that machines tabulate votes,” Kent said. “However, we can’t change that unless we win.”
While the race for 2024 will include an additional focus on increasing voter turnout, the race will be won on the issues, Kent said.
“Democrats won’t talk about issues,” Kent said. “All they do is name-call and say ‘these guys are racists, these guys are zealots…’ They don’t want to discuss the issues. On the key issues that are destroying our country right now, we actually have better ideas.”
During the event, Kent touched on economic uncertainty and the increase in illegal border crossings. The topics have become hallmarks of his pitch to voters, and are among the highest priority issues for Republicans and Republican-leaning citizens, according to Pew Research. In his speech, Kent referred to those crossing the border as “illegal invaders.”
“(United States Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas and President Joe Biden) have made it their policy to flood the United States with as many illegal immigrants as possible,” Kent said, adding that undocumented immigrants have been transported throughout the United States as part of a concerted effort to increase the Democratic voter base. “This is a pure power play. The Democrats don’t care how much carnage is impacted upon us, upon we the people.”
Kent further claimed that the increase in undocumented immigration posed a national security threat, through the alleged infiltration of terrorists into the country and the rise in fentanyl.
Another key issue, Kent said, is transgender people in sports and school settings. In 2022, Washington had approximately 5,000 children between the ages of 13 and 17 and about 33,000 adults who identify as transgender, according to data from the Williams Institute, a think tank at UCLA Law School. Across the country, about 1.3 million adults and 300,000 children identify as transgender.
“I think if you would just rewind to about 10 or 15 years ago and ask Republicans and Democrats, the entire political spectrum, ‘Hey, do you guys think a guy should go into the girl’s locker room?’ every single one of them would have said, ‘What, are you crazy? That’s a stupid question,’” Kent said. “Yet, here we are, and that’s the mainstream of the Democratic Party.”
During his speech, Kent said Gluesenkamp Perez “voted against parental rights and parental transparency” and opposed a parental bill of rights. Kent further said House Republicans attempted to outlaw “for men to enter women’s spaces and to compete against them on the athletic field.”
“Every single Democrat, including Marie Perez, voted against that,” he said.
According to a 2019 study conducted by the National Institute of Health, “sexual assault is highly prevalent in transgender and non-binary youth, and restrictive school restroom/locker room policies may be associated with risk.”
During his speech, Kent said that inflation has largely been caused by rising fuel prices and “out of control” spending by Democrats.
“All of us understand that you can’t spend more than you take in,” Kent said. “This is a kitchen table conversation that every single family has, yet the Democrats continue to think we can continue to print money. Continue to print money when we’re not energy independent, when our manufacturing base is being shipped overseas to China when the Biden administration wants to get us involved in foreign entanglements throughout the entire world.”
“Marie Perez and every single Democrat, they support this,” Kent said, alleging Perez has continuously voted against energy independence.
Kent had another stop on the tour Friday night, with another scheduled for the Duck Inn in Skamokawa at 11 a.m. on Saturday.