In a pair of nationally watched races testing Donald Trump’s continued hold over the Republican Party, U.S. Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler and Dan Newhouse were leading their Trump-endorsed challengers despite backlash over their votes to impeach the former president.
In Tuesday’s primary vote count, both incumbents were placing in the top two, which would secure them a spot on the general election ballot, putting them in position to win reelection this fall.
Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, was in second place with 24.5% of the vote, behind Democratic challenger Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, who had nearly 32%. Joe Kent, the Trump-endorsed Republican challenger, trailed in third place with 20% of the vote.
Newhouse, R-Sunnyside, led Loren Culp, his Trump-endorsed challenger. In Tuesday’s vote count, Newhouse was taking 27.3% of the vote, with Democrat Doug White at 26% and Culp at 21.8%.
Meanwhile, in the swing 8th Congressional District — the top Republican target for flipping a House seat in Washington — U.S. Rep. Kim Schrier, D-Sammamish, led the field with about 49%, with Republican businessman Matt Larkin at about 16% and Metropolitan King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn in third place with 15% of the vote.
The top two vote recipients in each primary contest, regardless of party, will advance to the Nov. 8 general election.
Hundreds of thousands of ballots remain to be counted statewide, so the final outcomes of the close races likely won’t be determined until later in the week.
Herrera Beutler and Newhouse risked their political careers when they joined eight other House Republicans breaking with their party to vote for Trump’s impeachment after the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of the former president’s supporters.
Both endured blowback from Republicans back home, with county GOP organizations condemning them and vowing to support primary challengers.
In a conference call with reporters Tuesday night, Newhouse said he felt “a little bit of relief” after seeing the initial vote results, but he stressed he wasn’t yet declaring victory.
Despite the headline-grabbing criticism over his impeachment vote, Newhouse said he received support from many Republicans in the district who were either willing to overlook that vote because of his overall record, or agreed with his judgment.
“Gosh, there’s a large segment of people who have thanked me for standing up for the Constitution and protecting our country,” he said.
With fewer than half the expected votes tallied, Culp’s campaign manager, Christopher Gergen, said Culp was still in a position to secure a spot on the general election ballot.
“We’re very positive about where we are now,” Gergen said in a text message.
In a Zoom call with reporters late Tuesday, Herrera Beutler was cautiously optimistic that she would advance to the general election. Outside endorsements like Trump’s, she said, “never made or broke the races here in Southwest Washington.”
“There was a lot of folks trying to make it a national race, and I, being a local girl, I leaned into ‘Hey, this is my home, this is the area I fight for,'” she said.
The crowd was exuberant at Kent’s packed election night party at a Battle Ground sports bar but grew subdued as results came in.
“We kind of knew this was going to happen, especially with all the money that got dumped in at the last minute,” Kent said. “I’m confident we still have a pathway to victory.”
Gluesenkamp Perez, the Democrat who co-owns an auto shop with her husband, said in a statement she would move on to the general election despite being vastly outspent by the Republican candidates.
“The extremes in Washington are ruining our country and causing crippling dysfunction that only benefits a few. I’ll work to build bridges, not drive wedges,” she said.
Herrera Beutler and Newhouse didn’t dwell on their impeachment votes while campaigning for reelection, preferring to focus on criticism of the Biden administration and local issues such as opposition to breaching the four Lower Snake River Dams.
Herrera Beutler is seeking a seventh term in the 3rd District of Southwest Washington. Newhouse is running for a fifth term in the 4th District, which covers Central Washington.
Their leading Republican challengers attacked them as betraying constituents by impeaching Trump and echoed the former president’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen by fraud, even as they urged voters to send in their primary ballots.
Kent is a decorated Green Beret combat veteran whose wife, a Navy cryptologist, was killed by a suicide bomber in Syria in 2019 while fighting the Islamic State terrorist group — a death he blamed on the U.S. foreign policy elite’s addiction to foreign wars and entanglements.
He ran a campaign of hundreds of in-person town halls, in contrast with Herrera Beutler, who ceased such appearances several years ago. Kent also became a regular on far-right media shows, including former Trump adviser Steve Bannon’s podcast.
Culp, a former police chief in the small town of Republic, Ferry County, emerged as the Republican challenger to Gov. Jay Inslee in 2020. After losing by more than a half-million votes, Culp declined to concede.
He filed a lawsuit over the result, making claims of widespread fraud, but he quickly dropped it after Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office threatened to seek legal sanctions over its factually baseless claims.
Still, Culp continued to insist in an interview last week that he won the 2020 governor’s race, citing his large campaign rallies and Inslee’s relative lack of campaigning amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Herrera Beutler and Newhouse benefitted from a bevy of GOP challengers potentially splitting the pro-Trump revenge vote against them.
A flood of outside PAC money — nearly $6 million — poured into the Herrera Beutler and Newhouse races, bashing their challengers and seeking to squeeze the incumbents through the primary. A large chunk of that cash in the 3rd District race came from a pop-up super PAC exploiting campaign-finance rules to avoid disclosing its donors until well after the primary.
Meanwhile, Washington’s 8th District primary played out as a more conventional partisan battle, with an array of Republicans vying to take on Schrier in the fall.
Schrier, a pediatrician, was elected in 2018’s midterm election as the first Democrat to represent the 8th District, helping her party win a majority in the House of Representatives in a rebuke to Trump.
This year, Republicans are itching to capitalize on a different midterm environment, with President Joe Biden facing sagging approval ratings amid public dissatisfaction about inflation and crime.
But the political environment shifted to some extent after the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that stuck down federal protections for abortion rights. Democrats have seized on the issue to remind voters of the stakes if the GOP wins control of Congress.
On Tuesday afternoon, Schrier said she was confident no matter which opponent she faced in November.
“It does not matter to me one bit,” she said. “I am running on my record of delivering for the 8th District.”
Larkin, an attorney and co-owner of his family’s manufacturing business, who ran unsuccessfully for attorney general in 2020, played up his “Make Crime Illegal Again” slogan in tough-talking TV ads. He did not attend the GOP’s election-night event in Issaquah and didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Besides his tough-on-crime sloganeering, Larkin also sought to solidify social conservatives behind his anti-abortion stance and may have benefitted from the feuding between Dunn and Jensen.
Dunn, a longtime Metropolitan King County Council member and former federal prosecutor, is seeking to follow in the footsteps of his mother, the late Jennifer Dunn, who represented the district for six terms between 1993 and 2005.
At the state GOP’s election-night gathering in Issaquah, Dunn mentioned his close race with Larkin, saying whoever wins, they’ll unite to retire Schrier “and Nancy Pelosi.”
He criticized Jensen for going on the attack in the primary. “When you run a negative campaign in the Pacific Northwest like that, it will backfire.”
Jensen, a decorated Army Ranger veteran and director at the real estate company Zillow, ran for the seat in 2020 and came within 4 percentage points of Schrier despite being vastly outspent.
Besides touting his own accomplishments, Jensen has argued Dunn’s past, including struggles with alcoholism detailed in an acrimonious divorce, plus a DUI conviction, would make him vulnerable in a fall matchup with Schrier.
Those attacks — which generated bad blood between the two candidates — are likely to be repeated and amplified by Democrats if Dunn advances to the general election.
All other congressional incumbents in Washington were advancing easily to the general election against vastly outspent challengers.
Seattle Times staff reporters David Gutman and Mike Lindblom contributed to this report.
Editor’s note: The headline on this story has been updated because an earlier version prematurely indicated a final outcome.