Joe Kent, a Republican 3rd Congressional District candidate, believes the Yelm and Rainier communities are a crucial factor in his second attempt running for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
That’s why he visited Mr. Dougs in Yelm on Thursday, Feb. 8 for a meet and greet with approximately 50 supporters in attendance. Despite only a portion of southern Thurston County being represented in the 3rd District, Kent said the region is “key” to his candidacy.
“Yelm and Rainier and this little sliver of Thurston County is very important because it’s a very conservative district. We did very well here in the primary and in the general election [in 2022],” said Kent, who earned 62.3% of the votes in Thurston County in the 2022 general election, compared with 37.4% for Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, who won the race. “Every part of the district is important, but I think this is really critical as well. I love coming up here.”
For nearly 90 minutes, Kent spoke to and answered questions from the crowd about the U.S. Southern border, the fentanyl crisis, President Joe Biden’s administration, overseas conflicts and the importance of Republican voter participation, among other topics.
After the event, Kent said he will “certainly” return to Yelm in the spring and the summer to continue his campaign before the Nov. 5 election.
State of the United States
Kent opened the meet and greet by expressing his thoughts on the state of the country. He criticized President Biden for his role in “inflation stealing so much of our hard-earned wages, destroying the working class, destroying the middle class and destroying any kind of potential for younger generations to buy a home for the first time.”
He also blamed the administration for “adding billions of dollars that we just don’t have” to the national debt, adding that it chooses to ship money to Ukraine and Iran.
Overall, Kent claimed that the country is “in major trouble” and that one of the “biggest things missing from our current representative and just Washington D.C., in general, is that they don’t come to actually listen to the people and hear what’s on their minds of what issues really matter.”
Fentanyl crisis and the Southern border
Kent said he visited the border near San Diego last week “because fentanyl is killing our loved ones in southwest Washington and allowing millions of illegals into our nation.” He criticized Gluesenkamp Perez for voting against securing the border and siding with President Biden’s policies regarding what Kent called the “wide open Southern border.”
“We’ve had enough fentanyl coming into this country to kill every American citizen multiple times over,” he told the crowd. “Basically, anywhere I go in the district, I talk to people all the time who have lost a loved one or a friend due to fentanyl poisoning. It’s absolutely wreaking havoc right now on Washington state.”
The Yacolt resident added that the Interstate 5 corridor from San Diego to Seattle is being infiltrated with “human trafficking, sex trafficking and crime” and that “the Democrats are behind this 100%.”
During his trip to the border, Kent said he witnessed cartels drop people off at the border in “massive vans” and that there were camps full of people from the Middle East, China and India.
Kent advocated for the security of the Southern border, claiming that “our enemies see our wide-open Southern border basically as a free-for-all. It is not a matter of if we’re going to be attacked, it is when. Just use your imagination. Twelve million illegal immigrants come into our country, and we have no idea who they are.”
One audience member requested Kent’s comment on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which is approaching its two-year anniversary on Feb. 24. The congressional candidate denounced the Biden administration “blindly sending billions of dollars that we don’t have.”
Kent, who spent more than 20 years in the United States Army’s Special Forces, said the United States’ involvement in Ukraine has continued to escalate matters rather than bringing peace.
“We’ve gotten more and more Ukrainians killed. I quite frankly think that the Marie Gluesenkamp Perez and Joe Biden policy of blindly supporting the carnage in Ukraine has been absolutely immoral,” he continued.
Kent noted that every effort to de-escalate violence in Ukraine should be about getting both parties to the negotiating table and that “we need to bring about a ceasefire.” However, he does not want the United States to draw boundaries between Ukraine and Russia, adding that “that’s none of our business. That’s a border dispute between Slavic cousins.”
He also accused President Biden of funding “both sides” of the Israel-Palestine conflict and said that further conflict can be avoided by cutting off American capital and removing troops from small outposts that “don’t serve a purpose anymore.”
Kent narrowly lost the 2022 election to Gluesenkamp Perez, who received less than 1% more votes — 2,629 — than her Republican counterpart. One significant reason for the loss, Kent said, was because he and other Republicans emphasized voting on Election Day, which he claimed gave Democrats a 30-day head start.
He is endorsed by the state GOP and noted that he anticipates a stronger Republican voter turnout, especially after a low participation in the 2022 midterms.
“We had about 100,000 Republicans who voted for President Donald Trump in 2020 that simply didn’t show up to cast their ballot for 2022,” he told the crowd. “Unfortunately, that’s actually typical for the district. We usually suffer from a very low Republican turnout in the midterm years and then it spikes back up for presidential elections, but we’re not going to leave that to chance.”
Kent suggested that his voters spread the word about his campaign to Republicans who didn’t participate in the last election. He also aims to bring ballot drop boxes into churches, gun stores, gyms and “places that share our values.”
“That’s the big way that we win in 2024 is voter turnout. I know coming out to a town hall on a rainy Thursday night in February isn’t really for everybody, but as we get closer and closer to election season, we’ve got to make sure our friends and people that share values with us are registered to vote and they get their hands on a ballot and they turn that ballot in,” Kent said. “I believe especially in rural counties like Thurston County and Lewis County, if we get the rural people to vote, we will win in a very, very big way. This is still a very conservative district.”