Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Perez maintained her lead over Republican Joe Kent in new ballot counts Friday, leaving her in position for a likely surprise pickup for Democrats in Washington’s final undecided House race.
With new ballot counts released Friday evening, Gluesenkamp Perez had 51% of the vote to Kent’s 49%. While Kent gained some ground, the latest count was not enough to put him on a path to overtaking her, as he still trails by nearly 5,000 votes.
If the trend holds, Democrats would notch another midterm win against a Donald Trump-endorsed candidate who proved unpalatable to voters in a moderate-to-conservative district.
Kent would need to get 61% of the estimated remaining votes to catch up, according to a Seattle Times analysis of voting data.
More ballots will be counted on Saturday in Clark County, where most of the remaining votes reside, favoring the Democrats.
The unexpected nail-biter — a race barely on the national radar a few weeks ago — had more recently raised hopes among Democrats that they could pull a surprise House seat flip in the Republican-leaning district.
In a statement Friday night, Gluesenkamp Perez political consultant Sandeep Kaushik hailed the new totals, saying Kent “once again fell short of the gains he needed in order to change the outcome of this race.”
He added: “It’s clear that the voters of the 3rd Congressional District are choosing Marie Gluesenkamp Perez’s approach of moderation and pragmatism over Joe Kent’s toxic politics of extremism and division.”
Asked whether the Kent campaign had any comment on the latest numbers, Kent’s campaign manager Ozzie Gonzalez replied in a text message: “Nope.”
Kent earlier in the day appeared on former Trump adviser Steve Bannon’s podcast, urging supporters to ensure their ballots have been accepted. He said the campaign had teams ready to “cure” disputed ballots that have been challenged, adding: “We’re already lawyering up for the fight ahead.”
Incumbent U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, was ousted in the August primary by Republican voters angered by her vote to impeach Trump after the Capitol assault last year by a mob of his supporters.
That left Kent, who had Trump’s endorsement and plentiful Fox News and other media exposure, facing Gluesenkamp Perez, a virtually unknown candidate only a few months ago.
The general election race had been regarded by national analysts as a probable easy win for Republicans in the general election. But Kent’s far-right views, ties with white supremacists and embrace of false conspiracy theories about the 2020 election helped open the door for Democrats to make the race competitive.
After the primary, some notable Republicans publicly backed Gluesenkamp Perez, who also outraised Kent in recent months and drew some independent spending by Democratic groups.
Still, Kent remained officially backed by the state Republican Party, as well as county GOP organizations, and his campaign advisers said they were confident few Republicans would defect to support a Democrat with control of the House at stake.
Kent, an Army Special Forces veteran, ran as an unabashed MAGA Republican, vowing if elected to shun cooperation with Democrats and establishment Republicans. He said his priorities included impeaching President Joe Biden, launching an investigation into the FBI and blocking virtually all immigration to the U.S.
Gluesenkamp Perez, who co-owns a car repair shop with her husband, sought to distance herself from the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, emphasizing her small-business experience and rural roots in ads featuring her cutting down a tree with a chain saw.
Seattle Times staff reporter Manuel Villa contributed to this report.