UPDATE: Candidate Heidi St. John offers sharp response to former president’s endorsement of her fellow candidate Joe Kent

Race to become top challenger to Jaime Herrera Beutler in the 3rd Congressional District heats up with Donald Trump’s endorsement

The gloves have officially come off in the battle to see who will become the main Republican challenger to incumbent Jaime Herrera Beutler in the race for U.S. representative in the 3rd Congressional District.

Earlier this year, three Republicans — Joe Kent, Heidi St. John and Wadi Yakhour — stepped forward to challenge the six-term congresswoman, citing Herrera Beutler’s vote to impeach then-President Donald Trump in January for his perceived role in the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol Complex. Herrera Beutler was one of 10 Republican representatives to vote in favor of Trump’s impeachment.

At a candidate forum held in March, Republican candidates in the race against incumbent Jaime Herrera Beutler in the 3rd Congressional District -- (left to right: Joe Kent, Heidi St. John and Wadi Yakhour) made a pledge to support whichever candidate was endorsed by former President Donald Trump. File photo
At a candidate forum held in March, Republican candidates in the race against incumbent Jaime Herrera Beutler in the 3rd Congressional District — (left to right: Joe Kent, Heidi St. John and Wadi Yakhour) made a pledge to support whichever candidate was endorsed by former President Donald Trump. File photo

There was a great deal of anticipation among those following the 3rd Congressional District race of a potential endorsement from Trump, who has openly vowed to campaign against the Republicans who voted in favor of impeachment. On Sept. 1, Trump announced that he was endorsing Kent. 

Kent thanked the former president for his endorsement on Twitter. His campaign manager Byron Sanford offered a statement to Clark County Today via email.

Joe Kent
Joe Kent

“With the endorsement from President Trump, it is clear that Joe Kent is the frontrunner,’’ Sanford wrote. “Joe outraised Jaime by more than a two to one margin among individual contributors in the second financial quarter. Jaime is weak, holds no public events. and is financed by big pharma and Mitt Romney. We look forward to defeating her next year.’’

Days later, St. John issued a reaction to the Trump endorsement, saying she was undeterred.

“For the first 200 years of America’s history, congressional races were about electing a qualified person who understood and could best represent the issues of a particular congressional district,’’ St. John stated. “In recent years, that has changed. In many races, the focus is on building a congressional coalition for either the liberal or conservative agenda. President Trump is understandably focused on building that coalition and on payback for RINO representatives like Jaime Herrera-Butler who voted for impeachment. Unfortunately, Mar-a-Lago is about as far away from Washington’s 3rd Congressional as you can get — nearly 2700 miles. The former President neither knows nor understands the issues that are important to 3rd district voters. I do.’’

St. John, a resident of Battle Ground, continued to brand herself as the Clark County candidate.  Kent purchased a home in Yacolt in June 2020 after living and growing up in Portland. St. John has lived in Southwest Washington since 1999.

Heidi St. John
Heidi St. John

“While both Joe Kent and I represent a dependable vote for the America-first agenda in Washington DC, I’m the only candidate who has lived in the district, worked in the district, and been a conservative activist in the district for nearly two decades,’’ St. John stated. “Joe is a johnny-come-lately who is deeply tied to the beltway and a former Portland resident where he was a registered democrat.’’

In her statement, St. John also addressed a pledge that she, Kent and Yakhour each made at a candidate forum held in March.

“In March 2021, when I was brand-new to this race, I participated in a forum with Joe Kent,’’ St. John said. “We were asked if we would support whoever Trump endorsed. We all said we would, in good faith — because we believed each of us could represent the area well. It has been said, ‘You don’t know what you don’t know.’ There was much I did not know about Mr. Kent when I said I would support him if he got Trump’s endorsement. Now I know better. 

In Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler’s letter to ODOT Director Kris Strickler, she highlighted the fact that implementing a tolling program, as well as “congestion pricing’’ on I-5 and I-205 would punish Southwest Washington residents.
Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler

“Joe isn’t who I thought he was,’’ St. John continued. “He isn’t from here. He is an opportunist who has a history of bending the truth and members of his campaign have launched a democrat-style, dirty campaign against me, full of fake news and outright lies. People govern how they campaign. Joe is not the person I want representing me, my children, my grandchildren or this district, and so, I am going to stay in the race. 

“If we want to change the way things are done in Washington DC, we need to send true representatives to speak for us,’’ she added. “If elected, I believe that Joe will promptly return to his Beltway friends and abandon his constituents, just like Jaime Hererra-Butler. Voters have never had a more dramatic choice. I’m running to represent our district, AND I will be a powerful voice in defending our families against the progressive agenda that is dismantling this amazing country one piece of devastating legislation at a time.’’

Kent Campaign Advisor Matt Braynard provided a response to St. John’s comments.

“Heidi St. John’s comments are deceptive,” Braynard wrote in an email to Clark County Today. “In 1999, when Heidi moved to Boring, Oregon, which is farther from the district than Portland, Joe had already been serving in the Army for a year. When she eventually moved into the district in 2004, Joe was on his second deployment to Fallujah. After his wife was killed serving in Syria in 2019, Joe left government service. In 2020 he settled with his two sons in the district to provide stability since it’s near where he grew up and nearby his parents.”

“Three of these candidates made a promise to the public to drop out based on the Trump endorsement,” Braynard stated. “One was endorsed, one kept their promise, and one has decided to break that promise. Politicians breaking a promise after they are elected is nothing new, but breaking a basic and clear promise long before the election is a new low. Given we are in a jungle primary, her presence in the race only helps to re-elect Jaime Herrera Beutler.”

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