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An Avatar For The Republicans' 2022 Efforts-- Joe Kent

"And The Winners..." by Nancy Ohanian

Crawling through the wreckage of the GOP midterm campaign, I noticed that on Friday, during an interview with, far right former Congressman Mo Brooks (R-AL) said that “It would be a bad mistake for the Republicans to have Donald Trump as their nominee in 2024. Donald Trump has proven himself to be dishonest, disloyal, incompetent, crude and a lot of other things that alienate so many independents and Republicans… Keep in mind 2016 when I said he was dishonest, you cannot trust a single word that he says and I have never recanted that… I challenge anybody to make the argument that you can trust the word of Donald Trump.”

Brooks learned the hard way that Trump can’t be trusted. He’s without a job now. America also learned the hard way. Conservative journalist Jonathan Last pointed out this morning that Republicans performed so much worse in the midterms than anyone had predicted (especially Republicans) for a large variety of reasons, including he wrote, “one that doesn’t get talked about much: excess COVID deaths. There’s been an ongoing study of the Republican resistance to the COVID vaccines and the preliminary findings suggest that post-vaccine, Republicans accounted for about 80 percent more of the excess deaths than Democrats. Part of this is because of vaccine hesitancy; part of it is because of the age profile of voters… Adam Laxalt lost the Nevada Senate race by 6,000 votes… [B]etween January 2021 and this month, 9,400 people in Nevada died of COVID. The data suggests that the majority of these people would have been Republican voters… Joe Kent lost in Washington’s 3rd District by 5,000 votes.”

In his Atlantic column this morning, David Graham held up a magnifying glass to what happened in WA-03, the red district Last mentioned that Joe Kent lost. (The PVI is R+.5) He didn’t talk about COVID states. But I will mention that 75% of Washington state residents are fully vaccinated and none of the counties that make up WA-03 are at, let alone above that average. A friend of mine who lives in Portland and works across the bridge in Vancouver (Clark County) calls it “Vantucky.” And that’s the most progressive part of the district, where the vaccination rate is relatively high— 67%— and where Marie Gluesenkamp Pérez did best, winning 56% of the vote. It also has twice as many voters as the rest of the district combined.

“Democrats,” wrote Graham, “have sought for years to flip the Third, repeatedly spending piles of money to defeat Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler. But what they were unable to achieve, the GOP achieved for them this year: A Trump-backed primary challenge unseated Herrera Beutler and paved the way for a Democratic takeover.”

This time, though, the Democrats— led by an incredibly incompetent DCCC— didn’t spend piles of money. Gluesenkamp’s and Kent’s own campaigns spent approximately the same amount— around $3 million each. The DCCC spent exactly nothing at all in the race, foolishly viewing it as unwinnable. In 2020, the DCCC spent $987,168 and in 2018 they spent $90,000. But this year: Sean Patrick Maloney couldn’t be bothered, not even when it became clear that mainstream Republicans were turned off by Kent's extremism.

And that’s insane! Kent is extremely extreme— a fallen MAGA/QAnon movement freak, the darling of the most far right activists in the GOP. Jaime Herrera Beutler was a mainstream conservative who voted to impeach Trump. When he beat her, many of her supporters decided not to vote for him. I don’t understand why the DCCC didn’t understand the opportunity.

In districts like this one, outside the Seattle sphere, “there’s kind of a built-in, inherent Republicanism, a low-key Republicanism built on a perception that Democrats don’t care and they don’t need to care,” Kevin Pirch, a political-science professor at Eastern Washington University, told me this summer.
…Washington holds nonpartisan primaries— the top two candidates advance— and in August, Herrera Beutler came in third, just half a percentage point or about 1,000 votes behind Kent. Gluesenkamp Perez, a little-known Democrat, took 31 percent of the vote, but she was still a heavy underdog: The assumption was that Republicans would coalesce around Kent.
But Kent, despite his sparkling résumé, was vulnerable because of the company he keeps and the positions he holds. He gave an interview to a Nazi sympathizer and was friendly with Nick Fuentes, an infamous white-supremacist leader who participated in the racist 2017 melee in Charlottesville, Virginia; his campaign paid thousands of dollars to a Proud Boy.
Before the election, conventional wisdom held that candidates like Kent would probably be able to win despite these liabilities, especially in a solidly Republican district like the Third. FiveThirtyEight’s model gave Kent a 98-in-100 chance at victory on the eve of the election. But with most of the vote in, Gluesenkamp Perez leads by roughly 1.5 points. (Like clockwork, Kent is crying fraud, without any evidence.)
Kent’s weaknesses don’t take away from Gluesenkamp Perez’s accomplishment. She seems to have been the perfect Democrat to win the district. She has a bit of the magic John Fetterman dust many in her party will soon be seeking: She’s young (in her mid-30s) and owns an auto-body shop with her husband. She ran in large part on abortion rights, but is also a gun owner who opposes an assault-weapons ban.
Soon she’ll be a U.S. representative too. Voters turned out to be repulsed enough by MAGA candidates who question elections and pal around with racists that they were willing to give a chance to the right alternative. Democrats alone couldn’t flip seats like Washington’s Third, but with the help of Trump and the most extreme primary voters in the area, they were finally able to make it happen.

Back in August, a friend of mine in Vancouver wrote that he had never heard Marie speak until the day before he wrote. “There was a last-minute reception organized by Washington State Attorney General Bob Fergueson. I was very impressed with her ability to engage the audience. Marie’s strong, smart, and compassionate. She has a great story. I was particularly impressed that she called Kent a fascist. As you know, the establishment Dems have been too timid about using the ‘F’ word.” A month later, he told me local polling was showing Gluesenkamp already polling better than Kent with likely voters. That’s when the DCCC should have moved. But they didn’t. She had good polling and was raising significant money— the supposed 2 DCCC criteria for getting involved. But they didn’t.

Her message after the polling was released was that the results “show that people are tired of extremists hijacking Washington. They want their representative to understand their everyday challenges and are willing to work with anyone to solve them. As a small business owner of a repair shop, I know first-hand that government is often in the way and that crime is out of control. I’ll work to streamline bureaucracies and secure investments for things like job training programs to give people real skills to get good jobs, so small businesses like mine can finally solve worker shortages.”

She pushed the narrative that “Kent, a committed advocate of ending abortion rights nationally without exceptions, who vocally espouses a slew of conspiracy theories, including claiming the 2020 election was stolen and that the Jan. 6th storming of the U.S. Capitol may have been organized by intelligence agencies, is significantly better known to the voters at this early stage, but of those with an opinion more dislike him than like him. Overall, 75 percent of voters say they know enough to have formed an opinion about Kent. But 39 percent of district voters currently have an unfavorable view of Kent, with 30 percent holding a strongly negative view.”

Pelosi's SuperPAC spent modestly to run this ad, which was very helpful, although it still didn't inspire the DCCC to get involved:

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