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caption: U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse speaks to a crowd at the Okanogan County Fairgrounds about possible grizzly bear reintroduction in the North Cascades. Most voiced opposition to the idea, including Newhouse.
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U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse speaks to a crowd at the Okanogan County Fairgrounds about possible grizzly bear reintroduction in the North Cascades. Most voiced opposition to the idea, including Newhouse.
Credit: Courtney Flatt/Northwest Public Broadcasting

Trump's revenge targets Washington state's 2022 primary elections

After the assault on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, a number of House Republicans voted to impeach Donald Trump on charges of inciting the violence. Two of those representatives are from Washington state.

Both are up for re-election in the midterms later this year. Trump wants them gone and has endorsed Republican challengers in those races. That means the Evergreen State has emerged as a prime target for Trump's revenge at the ballot box in 2022.

Washington’s 3rd Congressional District

Earlier this month at a fundraiser on the marbled steps of his Florida estate, Mar-a-lago, Trump introduced a former Green Beret and congressional candidate named Joe Kent.

“I think Joe's got an incredible future. He's gonna win this race, help him out,” Trump said.

Kent is running against incumbent Republican Jaime Herrera Beutler, who represents southwest Washington state’s 3rd Congressional District. Herrera Beutler was inside the U.S. Capitol when Trump supporters launched their Jan. 6 attack.

“They were at the doors just pounding to get in, and these doors, they're just glass,” she said. Herrera Beutler, who said she voted to impeach because Trump failed to intervene during the siege, outraged conservatives, leading several Republican challengers to run for her seat, including Joe Kent.

Kent has criticized Herrera Beutler for rejecting conspiracy theories about Jan. 6, including one that claims the Federal Bureau of Investigation provoked the violence that day.

Kent also pushes fringe conspiracy theories about vaccines. Last month for example, Kent led a rally in Washington’s capital city, Olympia, to protest a rumor that the state was supposedly talking about locking up people who are unvaccinated. That rumor is false.

From Kent’s point of view, the government simply can't be trusted to tell the truth about the pandemic or practically anything.

“We're setting ourselves up for continually being lied to, constantly being lied to, constantly being manipulated by all these forces, whether it's the military industrial complex, whether it's big pharma, whether it’s Wall Street, it's all the same problem. There's a lack of transparency. And there's an underlying agenda,” Kent said in an interview with KUOW.

But Kent never provided any proof or evidence about that supposed agenda.

Jamie Herrera Beutler could not be reached for comment.

Battle for Republican control of Washington’s 4th Congressional District

Donald Trump endorsed a second Washington congressional candidate last week: failed gubernatorial hopeful Loren Culp, who lost to Governor Jay Inslee in 2020.

This fresh endorsement makes Washington one of the epicenters for Trump’s revenge in the 2022 congressional races.

Until Culp’s endorsement, only Michigan had two Trump-backed candidates running against Republican representatives who voted for impeachment.

Culp is a booster of Trump's big lie about Democrats stealing the presidential election. He also claims — with zero evidence — that his own election for governor was stolen in Washington state. In reality, he lost by well over half a million votes.

Culp is challenging incumbent Republican Dan Newhouse, who also voted to impeach Trump in 2021.

"The President took an oath to defend the constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic. Last week there was a domestic threat at the door of the Capitol and he did nothing to stop it,” Newhouse said on the floor of the U.S. House.

Congressman Newhouse could not be reached for comment.

But some anti-Trump Republicans and groups are jumping to his defense, including the Republican Accountability Project, which supports GOP incumbents who voted for impeachment.

Meaghan Leister, who runs the Accountability Project, explained to KUOW why her group is involved in stopping Trump’s revenge candidates.

“I think it's bad for the country to be steeped in the kind of lies and misinformation that's being put out by these anti-vax, the-election-is-stolen, January-sixth-is-no-big-deal type candidates,” Leister said.

She added that her group will be deciding which races to focus its campaign ads on in the coming months.

Of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach in 2021, three are retiring. That leaves just seven running for re-election this year across the country including Liz Cheney of Wyoming, Tom Rice of South Carolina, David Valadao of California, and Fred Upton and Peter Meijer of Michigan. All this makes Washington's races that much more significant.

According to Leister, the future of democracy itself is at stake in 2022.

“Things can unravel, and we can start to look like other countries that were democracies. The reason they weren't able to hold on is because there were demagogues and liars and a bunch of people who imitated them and people who followed them,” she said.

Washington state voters will have their say this summer in the August primary. Only the top two candidates from either party will move on to the general election.