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Newhouse, Schrier and Herrera Beutler each face multiple challengers after busy candidate filing week

UPDATED: Tue., May 24, 2022

WASHINGTON – With the slate of candidates for Washington’s Aug. 2 primary election officially set after last Friday’s filing deadline, three of the state’s congressional representatives each face multiple challengers in crowded races whose outcomes are tough to predict.

Reps. Dan Newhouse of Sunnyside and Jaime Herrera Beutler of Battle Ground, two moderate Republicans who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump for inciting the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, have drawn multiple Trump-aligned GOP challengers. Meanwhile, Democratic Rep. Kim Schrier is aiming to fend off several Republicans and hang onto Washington’s only true swing district, which stretches across the Cascades from Ellensburg and Wenatchee to the eastern suburbs of Seattle and Tacoma.

The abundance of Republicans running for each position speaks to the enthusiasm driven by the widespread expectation that the GOP will retake control of the House in November’s general election. The challengers’ platforms also suggests the party once helmed by Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan is now very much the party of Trump.

In central Washington’s 4th congressional district, Newhouse – a third-generation farmer with close ties to the region’s agricultural industry – is facing six Republican challengers: former NASCAR driver Jerrod Sessler, Army veteran Benancio “Ben” Garcia III, marketing entrepreneur Corey Gibson, state Rep. Brad Klippert, former Republic police chief Loren Culp and Pasco resident Jacek Kobiesa.

With the exception of Kobiesa, who did not announce a campaign or platform before filing for office May 16, all of Newhouse’s GOP opponents have praised Trump in interviews with The Spokesman-Review and cited the incumbent’s impeachment vote as a primary factor in their decisions to run.

Culp received Trump’s endorsement in February, but his relatively small fundraising haul suggests the former president’s imprimatur may not be enough to vault the onetime gubernatorial candidate through the crowded GOP field. Yakima-based businessman Doug White is the sole Democrat who filed to run in the heavily conservative district.

In southwest Washington’s 3rd district, Herrera Beutler is facing eight challengers, four of them Republicans. Joe Kent, a former Green Beret who earned Trump’s endorsement by repeating the claim that the 2020 presidential election was rigged by massive fraud, leads the pack. While rare cases of fraudulent voting occur in nearly every election and are often prosecuted, Trump’s own attorney general and dozens of judges – including some appointed by Trump himself – have concluded no systematic fraud occurred on a scale that affected the outcome of the presidential election.

Other candidates vying for Herrera Beutler’s seat include Democrats Marie Gluesenkamp Perez and Davy Ray; Republicans Heidi St. John, Leslie French and Vicki Kraft; independent Chris Byrd; and Oliver Black, who filed as a member of the American Solidarity Party, a party that models itself on Christian democratic parties in Europe.

The biggest surprise in the race came when Democrat Brent Hennrich, who had campaigned for months, withdrew from the race late last week and encouraged voters to support Perez, his fellow Democrat. Ray, the other Democrat, will appear on the ballot.

The race for the 8th district seat Schrier has occupied since 2019 is more conventional. While Auburn resident Keith Arnold and Emet Ward of Covington are also running as Democrats, the incumbent has raised more than $4 million and is the clear front-runner in the primary. The biggest question is which of her five Republican challengers will also advance through the primary, at which point that candidate can expect a deluge of cash from the national GOP’s campaign arm to oust the Democrat from a seat long held by Republicans until Schrier’s 2018 victory.

The Republican challengers – attorney Matt Larkin, Army veteran Jesse Jensen and King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn – have raised similar amounts of money, and none of the three is a clear favorite for the chance to run against Schrier in a more favorable two-candidate race in November. Fall City resident Scott Stephenson and Dave Chapman of Auburn are also running as Republicans. Independent candidate Ryan Dean Burkett and Patrick Dillon, who listed his party affiliation as “Concordia,” round out the field.

Washington’s “jungle primary” system, in which the top two vote-getters in the primary advance to the Nov. 8 general election regardless of party, makes the outcomes of all three races hard to predict. While Newhouse and Herrera Beutler have largely lost the support of county-level GOP leaders, their Republican opponents are numerous enough that they could divide pro-Trump votes and fail to advance past the primary. Democrats, while outnumbered in both districts, see an opening to squeak through to a general election where they could pick up moderate Republicans’ votes against a more extreme GOP candidate.

Washington’s primary election, which like the general is conducted by mail, will conclude Aug. 2. Election Day is Nov. 8.

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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