SEATTLE — In a pair of nationally watched races testing Donald Trump’s continued hold over the Republican Party, U.S. Reps. Dan Newhouse and Jaime Herrera Beutler were leading their pro-Trump 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.
Newhouse, R-Sunnyside, led Loren Culp, his Trump-endorsed challenger. In Tuesday’s initial vote count, Newhouse was taking 27.3% of the vote, with Democrat Doug White at 26% and Culp at 21.7%.
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.
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 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 closer races likely won’t be determined until later in the week.
Newhouse and Herrera Beutler 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 ex-president’s supporters.
Both endured blowback from Republicans back home, with county GOP organizations condemning them and vowing to support primary challengers.
Newhouse has held the Congressional District 4 seat since 2015 and served in the state House of Representatives from 2003-2009. He operates an 850-acre farm in the Yakima Valley and previously served as the director of the Washington State Department of Agriculture.
He said during a news conference Tuesday night that the trend for the race looks good.
“(I’m) feeling a little bit of relief at this point, but still not ready to declare victory,” Newhouse said.
Herrera Beutler, in an interview before polls closed, had no regrets about her impeachment vote and said she was the only candidate talking about local issues like a new I-5 bridge and salmon populations.
“I’m the only one in this race who has the temerity and the fortitude to stand up to either party to do what’s right on behalf of people,” she said in an interview after doing some last-minute campaigning Tuesday afternoon, waving to cars from a freeway overpass.
Herrera Beutler was seeking a seventh term in the 3rd District of Southwest Washington. Newhouse was running for a fifth term in the 4th District, which covers Central Washington.
Outside a party at a packed sports bar in Battle Ground Tuesday, Kent stressed Trump’s endorsement and criticized Herrera Beutler for her impeachment vote.
“It’s important that we have bold conservatives that are ready to really fight against the establishment and not just be like Jaime Herrera Butler and go along to get along because we’re in a blue state,” he said.
He denied a recent Associated Press report about his campaign’s ties to right-wing extremist groups like the Proud Boys. “It’s absolutely garbage,” he said. “I don’t have any ties to any racist organizations, any antisemitic organizations.”
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.
Their leading Republican challengers attacked them as betraying constituents by impeaching Trump and echoed the ex-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.
Culp, a former police officer and 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 half a 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.
Both Newhouse and Herrera Beutler benefited 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 then-President 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 following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling striking 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.
Schrier, in an interview Tuesday afternoon, 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 racked up endorsements from some conservatives and may have benefited from 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.
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.
The Yakima Herald-Republic contributed to this report.