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WA GOP primaries get ugly: Trumpism's staying power on the line

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Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) — Photo by Al Drago Pool via Reuters
Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) — Photo by Al Drago Pool via Reuters

Ex-President Donald Trump's continued power over the Republican Party will be tested soon in two Washington state congressional primaries.

Incumbent Republican Reps. Jamie Herrera Beutler (WA-3) and Dan Newhouse (WA-4) were among the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump in his second impeachment. Consequently, they are now on Trump's enemies list.

The ex-president has endorsed Joe Kent in District 3 and Loren Culp in District 4. Kent says he expects Trump to appear with him at an in-person rally sometime before the August primary election. Kent has already enjoyed a Mar-A-Lago fundraiser hosted by the ex-president.

In District 4, Trump has endorsed failed GOP gubernatorial candidate Loren Culp.

While a Trump endorsement remains meaningful in the Republican Party, it has — so far — been insufficient to drive out other far-right competitors to Herrera Beutler. In addition to Kent, she faces challenges from state Rep Vicki Kraft and Christian home-school activist Heidi St John.

In addition to Culp, Newhouse also faces other Republican challengers — Benancio Garcia, Corey Gibson, and Brad Klippert — all representing the far right of the GOP.

Kent is waging an "America First" campaign marked by fealty to Trump and resentment of Democratic and Republican elites.

In addition to calling for probes of the 2020 election, he says Congress should investigate Anthony Fauci over COVID-19's origins. He supports a near-total shutdown of immigration to the US, including barring refugees fleeing Ukraine.

Earlier this month, he called Vladimir Putin's demands that Ukraine cede territory to Russia "very reasonable."

Culp's issues are similar. He charges that noncitizens vote illegally in US elections, for example. Culp also believes that vaccines should be totally voluntary, and that critical race theory should be banned from schools.

Both Herrera Beutler and Newhouse have retained the support of mainstream Republican officials. GOP challengers in both congressional districts are expected to compete for the far-right vote that aligns with Trump, QAnon, and the January 6 insurrectionists.

Neither Herrera Beutler nor Newhouse have been friends of the LGBTQ community in their terms in Congress. Both opposed marriage equality and both voted against the Equality Act, for example.

Two Democratic candidates, Brent Hennrich and Marie Perez, are also campaigning for the 3rd District seat. Democrat Doug White is running for the 4th District. All three are first-time candidates.

In the August 2 primary, the two candidates who receive the most votes, regardless of party, will advance to the November 8 general election.