Candidates gather for Third Congressional District candidate forum


Republicans Joe Kent, Heidi St. John and Wadi Yakhour continue to make the case that Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler needs to be replaced

Three Republican candidates for the Third Congressional District Congressional seat currently held by Republican Jaime Herrera Beutler gathered Tuesday night in Battle Ground for a candidate forum hosted by the Clark County Republican Party and the Activate Republicans group.

Republican candidates for the Third Congressional District participated in a candidate forum Tuesday night in Battle Ground. Shown here (left to right) are candidates Joe Kent, Heidi St. John and Wadi Yakhour. Photo by Mike Schultz
Republican candidates for the Third Congressional District participated in a candidate forum Tuesday night in Battle Ground. Shown here (left to right) are candidates Joe Kent, Heidi St. John and Wadi Yakhour. Photo by Mike Schultz

The event, held before a large crowd at the Church of the Rock and live streamed by Clark County Today, featured candidates Joe Kent, Heidi St. John and Wadi Yakhour. According to Clark County Republican Party Chairman Joel Mattila, Herrera Beutler was invited to participate in the forum but did not respond.

The candidates who did participate made it clear how they differentiate themselves from the six-term congresswoman they are seeking to defeat.

“I think everyone can agree, I mean we’re all Trumpian’s up here, every single one of us,’’ St. John said at one point during the event.

In his opening remark, Yakhour referenced a telephone town held by Herrera Beutler last week.

Wadi Yakhour
Wadi Yakhour

“If you’re like me, you’re tired of seeing self-serving politicians who failed to stand for their constituents and America’s values,’’ Yakhour said. “And that’s one reason why I’m here today. I’m tired of it. Did anybody listen to that town hall last week? I’ve never felt (more) like I’ve taken the time machine back to 10-15 years ago where President Trump never happened.’’

“A big reason why I’m doing what I’m doing is because of what happened in November of 2020,’’ Kent said. “I will not let the media or the swamp bully us into saying that the election of 2020 was completely and totally legitimate.’’

One interesting moment in the event came when the three candidates were asked if they would endorse whichever Republican candidate advances in the race to the 2022 general election. All three candidates quickly agreed they would. However, the candidates were then asked if they would still endorse their fellow Republican if it was Herrera Beutler. Kent and Yakhour stated they would not endorse Herrera Beutler, who recently told Clark County Today (read here) that she would be seeking re-election and she would continue her political career as a Republican. 

St. John was the only one of the three candidates who said she would, albeit reluctantly, support Herrera Beutler.

Heidi St. John
Heidi St. John

“This is rough,’’ St. John said. “None of us are going to be happy if Jamie’s the girl. That’s why we’re here. But, if you’ve got somebody who’s a complete radical leftist do you want them to take away your rights? We would be taking a bad situation in Washington’s Third Congressional District and making it worse. If I thought it would make it worse and not better, I would vote for Jamie again, sorry.’’

The candidates were also asked about a potential endorsement in their race by the former president considering the fact that Herrera Beutler was one of 10 Republicans in the House of Representatives to vote to impeach Trump in January.

“That would be really bad for me,’’ said Yakhour, when asked if he would support Trump’s endorsement for a candidate other than himself. “I mean I spent the last four years working for the guy, but you know what, at the same time I would respect that decision. He is the former president. I think he might be popular still in the Republican Party. I think we’ve got some Trump fans in here, but if he sees something in another candidate that we may not even have met yet, I will go with the president and I will fully endorse that individual.’’

“If President Trump’s going to put his weight behind one of the people that’s up here on the stage, I’ll back them,’’ Kent said. “I think President Trump wants to see who’s gonna work the hardest for it. That’s just my personal opinion.’’

Joe Kent
Joe Kent

“I think we can agree that whoever President Trump endorses is going to kind of suck the oxygen out of the room for everybody else,’’ St. John said. “My plan is to get that endorsement, but in lieu of getting the endorsement, I would back whoever did. I think that is the wisest thing to do.’’

Today (March 31) is the first reporting date for the candidates to reveal results of their fundraising efforts. It’s believed that the ability to raise the necessary funds to operate a Congressional campaign may be a deciding factor in who survives as the lone candidate to battle Herrera Beutler in Washington’s top-two primary election. If more than one of the candidates are still on the ballot for the primary election, the belief is that it would strengthen Herrera Beutler’s opportunity to advance to the 2022 general election against a Democratic candidate.

“We’ve actually been doing very, very well,’’ St. John said. “We just had a kickoff event over at Firmly Planted Family. We had about 400 people show up to that. As I checked right before I came here tonight. I’ve currently raised right around $125,000. And so we’re moving well toward the goal that we have. It’s going to take, from what I understand, it’s going to take $4 million. The Democrats are talking about throwing an awful lot of money at this race. We’re talking about, from what I’m understanding, people they’re talking about throwing $10 million at it. They smell blood in the water and they want to flip the seat.’’

Yakhour said he’s trailing St. John in fundraising at this point.

“I think all three of us were forced to run a little earlier than we wanted to,’’ Yakhour said. “It would have been nice to take a couple months off, but this is a campaign that is serious. In the 30 days I’ve run, I probably raised about, don’t quote me on this, about $35-40,000, but I’ve also put $25,000 of my own money into this campaign and that’s how serious I am in a winning the seat.’’

Kent topped the three candidates in his personal contribution to his own campaign.

“I’m not sure how many individual contributors I have exactly,’’ Kent said. “We’ve raised in the ballpark of $50 grand and I’ve put up $200,000 of my own dollars for this campaign. I plan on going all in and going all out.’’

Clark County Today has previously published stories that introduced the three candidates, which include bio information that was also shared by the candidates in their opening remarks at Tuesday’s event. To learn more about the candidates, see those previous stories about Kent, St. John and Yakhour.

To view complete video coverage of Tuesday’s candidate forum, see below:

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About The Author

Ken Vance got his start in the newspaper industry in 1987 as a reporter at The Columbian Newspaper in Vancouver. Vance graduated from Stevenson High School in Stevenson, WA, and attended Clark College in Vancouver. He worked for The Columbian from 1987-2001. He was most recently a staff member of The Reflector Newspaper in Battle Ground, where he served as editor since 2010 and reporter since 2007. Vance’s work in the newspaper industry has won him multiple awards, including a first place award from the Society of Professional Journalists for in-depth reporting.

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