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Dan Newhouse, despite impeachment vote, appears to survive contentious primary for Central Washington congressional seat

Aug. 2, 2022 Updated Tue., Aug. 2, 2022 at 11:05 p.m.

MOSES LAKE – After a crowded and contentious race that saw eight candidates vie to represent Central Washington’s 4th district in Congress, four-term Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside, appeared poised to emerge from Tuesday’s top-two primary along with Yakima businessman Doug White, the only Democrat in the race.

With about 47% of ballots recorded Tuesday night, Newhouse led with just more than 27% of votes, followed by White with nearly 26%. Former police chief and gubernatorial candidate Loren Culp was in third place with less than 22% of votes.

On a call with reporters just after 9 p.m., Newhouse said it was too soon to declare victory but said “the trend looks good.”

“The elephant in the room here is certainly Jan. 6 and the impeachment vote,” Newhouse said. “That’s certainly been an issue in this race, but I think I can say – if the numbers continue to show what they have so far – that people see the hard work that I’ve been putting in to represent the people of Central Washington, and I want to continue that and work very hard to earn that vote from them in November as well.”

That outcome would deal a blow to Donald Trump, whose preferred candidate, Culp, appeared on track to come up short despite the former president’s endorsement. After Newhouse voted to impeach Trump in January 2021 for his role in the attack on the U.S. Capitol, six GOP candidates jumped into the race to challenge the incumbent, ultimately dividing right-wing voters enough to ensure none of them advanced.

Newhouse and White will face off in November’s general election to represent the district that spans Central Washington from Okanogan County in the north to Klickitat County and the Tri-Cities, in a test of pro-Trump voters’ willingness to forgive Newhouse for spurning the former president.

White would face an uphill battle against Newhouse, who has handily beaten previous Democratic rivals by taking about two-thirds of the general election vote, but he said Tuesday night that he likes his chances.

“It seems very clear that the people here in Central Washington are expecting a change,” White said. “They want somebody who’s capable and has the skills and the focus on Central Washington. It’s important for us to be able to focus on the people, the economy and raising everybody up.”

Doug White, a Democratic candidate for Washington’s 4th congressional district, calls prospective voters on July 31 at the Yakima County Democrats office in Yakima.  (Orion Donovan-Smith/The Spokesman-Review)
Doug White, a Democratic candidate for Washington’s 4th congressional district, calls prospective voters on July 31 at the Yakima County Democrats office in Yakima. (Orion Donovan-Smith/The Spokesman-Review)

The other Republicans in the race are Jerrod Sessler of Prosser, who received about 11% of votes; Brad Klippert of Pasco with about 8%; marketing entrepreneur Corey Gibson of Selah with 3.5%; Army veteran Benancio “Benny” Garcia III of Sunnyside with 1.5%; and engineer Jacek Kobiesa of Pasco with 0.3%.

All six Republicans who challenged Newhouse cited his impeachment vote as a major reason they entered the race. Collectively, they received about 46% of votes, suggesting a single Trump-aligned candidate may have earned enough votes to get through the primary.

The race was marked by escalating attacks between the candidates down the final stretch as political action committees backing Newhouse spent more than $1.5 million to support the incumbent and oppose Culp. Newhouse’s campaign spent another $1.3 million on the race, according to Federal Election Commission filings.

Sessler, a former NASCAR driver who said he stopped working to campaign full-time for more than a year, spent more than $483,000 on the race, most of it his own money. White spent about $279,000. Culp spent roughly $265,000 while the other GOP candidates lagged in spending.

Culp, who refused to concede in Washington’s 2020 gubernatorial race and sued the secretary of state’s office despite losing to Gov. Jay Inslee by more than 545,000 votes, sought to cast doubt on the election’s legitimacy after The Yakima Herald-Republic mistakenly published a table that appeared to show results in the race from Yakima County on Sunday before any votes were tabulated.

In an interview on former Trump adviser Steve Bannon’s podcast Monday, Culp accused the newspaper of publishing “fake results” in an effort to influence voters and tamper with the election by “the radical left, which is most of the media.”

After Culp’s campaign filed a police report over the incident, Yakima County Prosecutor Joseph Brusic investigated the incident with Yakima County Auditor Charles Ross, the county’s top election official. Brusic and Ross issued a statement Tuesday explaining that employees at the newspaper had accidentally published random numbers as part of a test, concluding that no violation of election law had occurred.

Because of Washington’s vote-by-mail system, a significant portion of votes will be processed after election day. Ballots are valid as long as they are postmarked on or before Aug. 2 or deposited in official drop boxes by 8 p.m. on election day.

Orion Donovan-Smith's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.

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