The stunning victory of Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Perez in the 3rd Congressional District is an inspiring story of an average citizen taking it upon herself to stop extremism from succeeding.

With minimal funding and scant help from the national Democratic Party, Gluesenkamp Perez defied expectations and conventional assumptions about what it takes to run a winning campaign. She made herself into an appealing candidate by emphasizing the down-to-earth details of her life; the auto repair shop she runs, her chainsaw skills, her modest rural homelife and her moderate, practical take on politics. She told voters she would not ban abortions or guns, and neither would she engage in crusades inspired by social-media fantasies or radio talk show fear mongering.

Besides being a political novice, the biggest disadvantage Gluesenkamp Perez had to contend with was the Republican-leaning nature of her district. Her greatest advantage though, was that she was facing a Republican opponent who was MAGA on steroids. Joe Kent was not just a 2020 election denier endorsed by former President Donald Trump, he favored the most extreme right-wing positions on abortion, immigration, the war in Ukraine, the COVID-19 pandemic and pretty much everything else.

Kent’s rhetorical bomb throwing was too much for independent voters and even many Republicans. They helped lift Gluesenkamp Perez to the winner’s circle by joining the majority of those casting ballots in Southwest Washington in rejection of Kent. Still, he lost by a tiny margin, which means close to half of voters were just fine with the idea of sending an extremist to Congress.

The same is true in many other state and federal races around the country – Arizona, in particular – where the hard-right conspiracy pushers were defeated, but only after days of counting ballots in contests that were frighteningly close. Yes, this Election Day was a good day for democracy, but it is still disturbing that millions of Americans remain eager to give their support to candidates whose commitment to democracy is seriously in doubt.

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