Nov. 9, 2021 — Another of the House Republican Trump impeachment supporters appears to be having trouble back home. A new Trafalgar Group poll (Oct. 30-Nov. 2; 682 likely WA-3 primary voters; combination live interview, interactive voice response system, and text) finds six-term Washington Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Battle Ground/Vancouver) placing third in a field of four as a prelude to next year’s jungle primary.
According to Trafalgar, former Green Beret Joe Kent (R), who has former President Trump’s endorsement, leads the candidate field with 35 percent preference. Next is Democrat Brian Hennrich, a movie theatre technician, who records 24 percent. For this poll, Hennrich realistically serves as a placebo candidate to test Democratic support. Rep. Beutler then places third with 23 percent and another Republican, pastor and author Heidi St. John, posts 10 percent support. An additional eight percent said they would vote for “another Democrat.”
Surveys such as this will likely spur the Democrats to recruit a much stronger candidate in what plays as a marginal southwestern Evergreen State congressional district.
Washington is one of three states that employs a top-two jungle primary system. All candidates are placed on the same ballot and the top two finishers, regardless of percentage or party, advance into the general election. Therefore, this poll would suggest that Rep. Beutler, at least today, could be eliminated before the general election cycle even officially begins. Washington has a late primary, Aug. 2, 2022, so plenty of time remains for the congresswoman to right her political ship.
The Washington districts won’t likely change a great deal in redistricting. Washington redistricts by commission, and has since 1991. Because none of the state’s 10 districts need a major population influx, it is probable that most of the seats, and especially District 3 (largely because it must only shed 2,222 individuals) will remain relatively constant.
The 3rd District is nestled into the southwestern corner of the state, bordering Oregon and the Pacific Ocean. The seat needing to gain the most people is Rep. Derek Kilmer’s (D-Gig Harbor) 6th District, but the 33,730 residents it requires is still a relatively small number in comparison to some other states.
Currently, the Beutler district votes as a marginal Republican seat. Former President Trump carried WA-3 in 2020 with a 51-47 percent margin after posting a 50-42 percent showing against Hillary Clinton in 2016. Rep. Beutler, in what was billed as a competitive race at the beginning of the 2020 election cycle, scored a 56-43 percent re-election victory. She has averaged 57.6 percent of the vote in her six successful congressional elections.
Fundraising so far has been significant. The September 30 FEC reports find Rep. Beutler already raising $1.73 million for the cycle with $1.38 million cash-on-hand. Kent has also done well, especially for a challenger, raising $1.09 million with $837,000 in the bank. St. John (R) has also raised a respectable $334,000, and held just over $213,000 in her campaign account at the reporting period’s end.
At this early point in the 2022 election cycle, the intangibles have not gone well for the 10 Republicans who supported the second Trump impeachment.
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) has lost her leadership position within the Republican conference in a highly publicized vote and is facing increasingly united GOP opposition back in Wyoming.
Reps. Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) are not seeking re-election due to their political situation at home and redistricting.
Michigan Reps. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) and Peter Meijer (R-Grand Rapids) could potentially face paired situations with other incumbents or in a district becoming significantly more Democratic.
Upstate New York Rep. John Katko (R-Syracuse) also faces a potential incumbent pairing. Rep. David Valadao (R-CA), who already holds one of the most Democratic seats in the country to elect a Republican US Representative, could see redistricting give him an even more difficult seat.
Rep. Tom Rice (R-SC) has drawn a dozen Republican opponents, and Washington Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Sunnyside/Yakima) faces a sitting state legislator and former gubernatorial nominee as his most significant Republican opponents. All this, in addition to Rep. Beutler now posting poor polling numbers.
In a US House election cycle that is likely to feature more competitive seats than any we’ve seen in recent memory, we must also acknowledge that the Washington state jungle primary will become a political point of interest next summer.