Washington’s 3rd Congressional District election has been a nail biter. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez holds a significant lead, but Joe Kent has been on Steve Bannon’s podcast war room saying he is “lawyering up,” and continues to use Twitter to encourage his base that a win is still possible.
One important win Democrats should pay close attention to is Lewis County. Often thought of as a MAGA Republican stronghold, when you compare Lewis County midterm results between 2018 and 2022, the ballot box isn’t telling the same story. Among rural counties, Lewis County had the biggest increase in Democratic votes between midterms, gaining 1,510 more Democratic votes in 2022, than in 2018, while Republican Kent, actually lost votes.
Whatever the outcome, one thing has been evident over the past two years: Kent and far-right Republicans, beat Democrats in building a ground game to get out the vote in Southwest Washington. Everywhere you went in Southwest Washington over the last year, you saw or heard from the Kent campaign. Kent volunteers were sign waving on freeways overpasses from Vancouver to Centralia. They showed up at county council, school board, and city hall meetings. Kent signs lined rural and city streets across the district for nearly a year. Small, rural towns like Bucoda held rallies with a couple hundred attending.
During these rallies, 20-plus Kent field organizers pounded signs up around the town and door knocked. Their ground game over the last year has been impressive.
Southwest Washington is used to getting overlooked, but one group that is not overlooking our region, is the far-right. Billionaire Peter Theil was one of Kent’s first financial supporters and Steve Bannon calls him a golden child of the MAGA movement. These two are actively lobbying for monopoly capitalism, and Christian nationalism, but campaign with a message of economic populism. Democrats need to show they are the party that has fought for the populist economic policy that is the backbone of our country and expand the voter base.
Another place to see the impact of rational Republicans is in the voter turnout for the Republican Tiffany Smiley race for U.S. Senate. Smiley received 14,309 more votes across the 3rd Congressional District than Kent. Were voters turned off by Kent’s spreading of Trump’s “big lie” about election fraud? Was it rational Republicans not willing to participate in a candidate that called those arrested during Jan. 6 “political prisoners?” We would need extensive exit polling to have a better sense.
One thing is certain, Democrats need to invest in the 3rd Congressional District to hold it. In Lewis County, rural Democrats received positive support as they waved signs and knocked on doors. The district needs Political Action Committees’ funding the organizations that can do the deep canvassing, targeted voter engagement, and get out field organizers. We need to invest in groups like Dirt Road Democrats, LULAC SWWA, Young Farmers Coalition, Sunrise Movement SWWA, and others to increase a Democratic base and hold the 3rd Congressional District.