As incumbent Rep. Dan Newhouse was poised to advance through the 4th congressional district primary despite voting to impeach former President Donald Trump, on Wednesday his fellow Republican Loren Culp, who was endorsed by Trump, blamed his third-place finish on a crowded field of Trump-aligned candidates.
With more than 85,000 votes counted as of Wednesday afternoon, Newhouse led with 27.2%, on track to face Democrat Doug White, who finished second with 25.8%, in November’s general election. Culp, who would be eliminated in the top-two primary with 21.1% of the vote, accused the other Republicans of foiling his chance to eliminate Newhouse and suggested there may have been a coordinated effort to “dilute” right-wing votes.
“Right now, the spoiler candidates worked perfectly for the swamp,” Culp said Wednesday. “Was it pride, was it ego or was it a plan that they stayed in after the leader of the Republican Party, President Trump, endorsed me?”
About 47% of votes were divided among Culp and five other GOP candidates who sought to oust Newhouse after the four-term lawmaker from Sunnyside was one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. Yet none of the six Trump-aligned Republicans appeared likely to advance.
State Rep. Brad Klippert, R-Kennewick, was the first Republican to enter the race against Newhouse but had just 9.3% of votes despite being endorsed by the Benton County and Franklin County GOPs, the only local Republican organizations to endorse a candidate in the race.
“They’re the only counties that really vetted the candidates, and then once they vetted the candidates, they both endorsed Brad Klippert,” said Klippert, who often refers to himself in the third person, pointing out his own party-line voting record in the State Legislature.
“It’s just interesting to me that the voters didn’t catch on to stuff like that,” he said. “They didn’t look at Brad Klippert’s voting record that has largely represented their beliefs, but oh well. It is what it is.”
On a call with reporters Tuesday night, Newhouse called for unity in the Republican Party and said he would work to combat the narrative promoted by Culp and other Republicans that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Trump through massive fraud, a claim Trump’s own White House advisers told him was baseless. But it is unclear how many GOP voters will be willing to forgive Newhouse for his relatively moderate stance and vote to impeach Trump.
“I will work very hard to unite our country, to unite our party,” he said. “If people don’t have confidence in the electoral process in our country, our future is pretty bleak.”
Asked whether he would endorse Newhouse in a general election race against White, a Yakima businessman, Culp replied, “Dan Newhouse is not a Republican.”
Klippert, who went to high school with Newhouse in Sunnyside, took a softer line but suggested he also couldn’t support his former classmate.
“It would be hard for me to do that,” Klippert said of endorsing Newhouse. “Dan’s a super nice guy. I like him a lot as a person. Every time I see him I shake his hand and give him a hug. He’s a fellow Republican, but there’s some votes out there that I can’t tolerate, and I don’t see why so many other people in the 4th congressional district do, because it’s such a conservative district and he has not voted conservatively.”
Of the other Republicans in the race, only Pasco engineer Jacek Kobiesa expressed support for Newhouse, saying in a text message, “Yes, between Newhouse and White I will give my vote to Newhouse.”
Corey Gibson, a marketing entrepreneur from Selah, said he “will root for whoever rises to the top against the Dem” and focus his energy on an organization he founded to support Trump-aligned, “America first” candidates.
Jerrod Sessler, a former NASCAR driver who lives in Prosser, didn’t respond when asked if he would endorse Newhouse. Benancio “Benny” Garcia III, an Army veteran from Sunnyside, had a succinct answer.
“No,” he texted, followed by praying-hands and American flag emojis.
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