Congressional candidates Joe Kent and Heidi St. John participate in forum

Candidates are just two members of a crowded field that has filed for the Third Congressional District seat currently held by Jaime Herrera Beutler

Third Congressional District candidates Joe Kent and Heidi St. John participated in a candidate forum held Monday night in Vancouver. The Republican candidates are challenging Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler in a race that also features Republican Rep. Vicki Kraft and Democrat Brent Hennrich.

Photo by Mike Schultz
Photo by Mike Schultz

According to the event organizers from the Southwest Washington Federated Republican Women, Herrera Beutler and Kraft were also invited to participate in the event held at Saap Fusion Kitchen in Vancouver. Kent and St. John also participated in a candidate forum held in March of last year in Battle Ground along with then-candidate Wadi Yakhour, who has since pulled out of the race.

Here are some highlights from Monday’s event (full comments available in video):

Opening statements

Candidate Heidi St. John addresses the crowd at an event held Monday night at Saap Fusion Kitchen in Vancouver. Photo by Mike Schultz
Candidate Heidi St. John addresses the crowd at an event held Monday night at Saap Fusion Kitchen in Vancouver. Photo by Mike Schultz

St. John: “Someone asked me tonight why I’m running. And the reason why I decided to run is because I don’t feel any longer like I am being represented by a true conservative in Congress. … The truth of the matter is our nation is at a crossroad. I know that you guys feel it or you wouldn’t be here. One of the reasons why I am excited about this run is because we’re watching it motivate people to action. I’ve been watching my representative. I voted for Jaime Herrera Butler every time she ran … the last couple of times she’s run. I’ve kind of been plugging my nose a little bit, wondering why she wasn’t taking a stronger stance on some of the issues that are affecting Washingtonians. I’d really like to see her come and participate in town halls. I know a lot of you guys would like to have seen that too. I would like to see more participation from the citizens here because it is supposed to be a representative government, I am running to represent you. And I believe that our government is wildly outside of its jurisdiction right now. The role of the federal government is not to keep you safe. The role of the federal government is to protect your freedom, to protect your rights that we as a United States have determined come from God and not from government. One of the reasons why we live in the most amazing nation on the face of the earth is because our founding fathers gave us a document that secures our freedom. And what we’re watching happen year after year after year is our elected officials are not defending those God-given rights. And so we’ve come now to 2021 and 2022 and we’re watching as these tyrannical leaders are encroaching every single day on our freedom. And I am running to make sure that my grandkids live free.

“I’m ready to make sure that the federal government learns to balance its budget. My husband and I have started three businesses here in Clark County that are very successful. And I happen to know that as a business owner, if I were to raise the debt ceiling on my business, year after year after year, we would go bankrupt, the federal government can no longer continue to saddle my grandchildren with a burgeoning debt that they will not be able to recover from. And so we need to call the federal government into account. 

“I’d like to see the federal government do the thing it’s supposed to do in protecting our southern border. If we don’t have a border, we don’t have a nation. I like to see us do our best to protect voting rights in this country. And I’m not talking about the kind that Joe Biden says you don’t have. We’re talking about election integrity and making sure that we have free and fair elections, which is why we’ve got to start being very active and vocal against the federal government hijacking our election system. If they hijack our election system, we will never have free and fair elections in this country. Again, I’d like to see these powers returned to the states, which is where they belong. And the same thing is true for education. The federal government has way too much of its energy and its money invested in education. I’d like to see the Department of Education go away. … I will do everything I can to make sure that it closes down and goes away for good because nothing good has happened since we’ve had a Department of Education.’’

Third Congressional candidate Joe Kent speaks to a gathering at a forum held Monday evening in Vancouver. Photo by Mike Schultz
Third Congressional candidate Joe Kent speaks to a gathering at a forum held Monday evening in Vancouver. Photo by Mike Schultz

Kent: “As far back as I can remember, I wanted to join the military and serve our country overseas. I was always inspired by those who went forward to fight overseas so we can enjoy freedom back here at home. So, when I turned 18, I enlisted in the Army, went right to Ranger Regiment and then worked my way into Special Forces and became a Green Beret right as our nation was attacked on 9/11. … I did 11 combat deployments, finished up my military career and started what I thought would be my second career in the CIA as a paramilitary operations officer. I felt that it was my duty to continue to serve because I had a good deal of experience. I had seen what our country does when it’s out of control with the lies and the endless wars. I felt that it was my responsibility to stay on the inside and continue to provide ground truth to decision makers. That was until about three years ago, when my late wife Shannon Kent, who was also in the military, was killed by a suicide bomber in Manbij, Syria. She was killed at a very critical juncture in our nation’s history. She was killed about a month after (President Donald) Trump tried to get our troops out of Syria the first time. So President Trump gave us the authority that we needed to take out the Islamic Caliphate. And once we met that objective, he did something that no other president had done before, he tried to get our troops out of Syria. And when he did, the permanent ruling class, the establishment of that deep state, whatever you want to call it, they turned against him because they didn’t want him to end a war. They didn’t want him to put the American people first. So they committed bureaucratic slow roll, they disobeyed his orders. And a month later, my wife and three other great Americans were killed in Manbij, Syria, a place that Americans had no vested national security interest to be in. So when my wife was killed … I had a brief chance to meet President Trump. And I just decided, hey, I’m resigning from the government. I’m gonna step away from all my service. And I just want to tell him, what’s going on on the inside. So I told him … hey, you’re getting it right. I’ve been fighting these wars my entire adult life. Your foreign policy is putting the American people first, and they’re revolting against you at the mid to senior levels of the Department of Defense in the intelligence community.

“President Trump, later on, reached back out to me and said he wanted to hear more of what I had to say. So I became an advisor in the Trump administration and started writing papers on the Middle East counterterrorism. At the same time, I moved back here and became a member of President Trump’s reelection team for 2020. As I was moving back here, our country was on fire in a way that I had never seen before. The lockdowns under the guise of COVID to take away all of our constitutional rights led to massive amounts of government infringements, and then the riots led by the Democrat party by the terrorist organizations of Antifa and BLM was like nothing I’d seen in America before. 

“I decided to put down my roots here in the Third Congressional District and bought a house up in Yacolt. I wanted to get my kids into a rural conservative community. …. This is a unique place because it’s a conservative district in the Pacific Northwest. And it is essential that we continue to fight for it.’’

For complete bio information, visit the candidates’ campaign websites:

Individual questions

Candidates Joe Kent and Heidi St John are asked about ideas for regulating social media.

During the event, each candidate received one individual question.

St. John was asked about the perception that she is behind in the polls.

“With regard to The Trafalgar (Group) poll, I don’t think it holds a lot of water. It said that 2 percent of Washingtonians are undecided. You can’t get to 2 percent two weeks ahead of an election in Washington’s Third Congressional District. And so I don’t think that that poll holds a lot of water. I think the fact that you see more and more people getting into the race is kind of proving the point that my opponent is not the presumptive nominee and people are still looking to see who they want to represent them. It’s a good thing to let the candidates run their races. 

“And with regard to Trump, listen, I loved President Trump. I loved his policies. I loved his presidency, probably one of my favorite presidents in the history of our country. But he doesn’t have a great record on endorsements. He endorsed Mitt Romney. He gave money to Kamala Harris. He endorsed John McCain. And so just because a president endorses someone does not mean that that is the presumptive nominee. And so for that reason, I am going to continue to stay in this race and run for the people that I love and the district that I have spent the last 20 years of my life fighting to represent in different areas. 

“When you talk about splitting the vote, there are now, I think, four, maybe even five Republicans running for this seat. This is the process you guys, we might see more people getting in. … Listen to the people that are running, let them make their cases and then take the information that you have to the ballot box and make your choice. We may not like it. But this is the process here in the United States and I for one am thankful for it. I’m glad to participate in it. And I look forward to seeing what will happen as we run our races and make our case.’’

Kent was asked about his presence at a rally in Olympia last week prior to a Washington State Board of Health meeting held Wednesday.

“We did that because the Board of Health was hearing about this Washington State Administrative Code 246-100-040-070.  Look up those statutes. I’m not making this stuff up. I thought it was a hoax as well. However, these statutes give the Board of Health the sole authority to task law enforcement to forcefully put people into quarantine situations. The other one gives the Board of Health the ability to establish temporary quarantine facilities. I’m not making this stuff up; these have been on the books since the mid 2000s. They say that they might cover HIV, that doesn’t really make very much sense to me. But they might cover other diseases. However, with the state of the pandemic and the continual infringement that we’ve had on all of our rights, I felt it was completely inappropriate for the Board of Health to even consider having those two Washington State Administrative codes on the books period, or even addressing them in one of their committee meetings. 

“Now, the committee meeting the way they did it, too, was they put it out on their website. It was kind of hard to find, and they said, you could go and you could tune in via zoom. And that’s not how we express our grievances in a fair and free society. We don’t do it via zoom. We get to show up. We pay those people’s salary. We bought that building. If they’re going to have a hearing about forced quarantine, you better believe we’re going to show up. And we’re actually going to have our voices heard. So that’s what we did.

“If you look at my comments, I’m very specific. I didn’t think the board was going to start rounding up people that night. However, I want those administrative codes off the books. We don’t want any more infringements.’’

What is your plan to win over independent and undecided voters?

St. John: “The fact of the matter is I think that Americans can come together around the issues of freedom. We are losing our freedom in this nation. For too long, Republicans have been too quiet and too mousy about what’s happening to our nation under the Biden administration. And frankly, I think the Democrats have thrown us a football right now with this tyrannical overreach and all we’ve got to do is not fumble it.

“Unfortunately, the Republicans are not great at that. And so my plan is to start talking and bringing people together around issues of freedom, issues of what is happening with our children. Because if you talk to people across the aisle, they don’t like what’s happening to the economy. They don’t like what’s happening to their children. And I actually think we have more in common, there may be more that brings us together than divides us. We know this because the Bible teaches us that a house divided against itself must not, cannot stand. And so I think that we’ve got a lot of things that we can talk about that will bring us together. We’re going to have to work hard to bring people to the table. But I think that the message that the Republicans bring now and in the past … we watched (Ronald) Reagan bring the Democrats over to this side. Why? How did he do that? He did it by casting a vision for what we could be if we work together. He did it by saying, ‘hey, we are not descended from fearful men. We have a country to be proud of. And let’s see if we can’t work together to move the needle forward.’’’

Kent: “To bring over independents and to bring over Democrats, we’ve already been very successful with populist, economic and nationalist policies to bring back our industry to give people the ability to leave high school and get a decent paying job, especially in tech and also in our timber industries and in our fishing industry. So, bringing back manufacturing to this country, that’s how President Trump started to make working class wages rise between 2017 and 2020. Those economic policies cut out a lot of the corporatist interest that Republicans have been defending for far too long with this message. We’ve already been very successful. The Trafalgar (Group) Poll that puts me in first place, the Democrat in second place and Jaime Herrera Butler in third place; the significance of that poll is that 41 percent of people surveyed in that, self-identified to the pollsters as Democrats, put me, Trump-endorsed America First guy, in first place. I would attribute a lot of that to bringing back our economy, bringing back our manufacturing, deregulating our timber industry and restructuring our economy to support American families to provide the economic environment that let someone leave high school, get a decent paying job that supports a family and allows one parent to stay home and work. 

“Also, people are coming over to us because of the mandates. Day one, I will present legislation that makes vaccines and masks illegal and I want to put people on record and see who will fight for that. That’s just the start, I plan on using the bully pulpit to call out all of our local leaders, all of our state officials and federal officials who will not fight for our individual liberties. This is going to bring across a wide swath of working class, normal, independent and Democrat Americans into our ranks to carry the district.’’

How would you stop federal spending and the rising debt? 

Kent: So the short answer about the debt, which is obviously that huge elephant in the room, we start by not moving the Biden administration’s agenda one inch farther. So, for the first two years that we’re in Congress, I’m not going to be coming back here and telling you about all the bills that we passed. Our job is to kill off their agenda “Build Back Better.’’ That green new deal that was gonna put trillions of dollars in more debt on the backs of our children and grandchildren was only killed off by Joe Manchin. The Republicans went along with that. The Republicans went along with raising the debt ceiling. So, if we need to do it, we shutdown the government. We don’t advance their agenda anymore. 

“Once we take power, we have to start restructuring our economy. We’re gonna have to look heavily at all the bloat in the federal government. There’s a lot of agencies that we can start to get rid of – ATF for one, I think the Department of Education is a pretty good one, but we can start going through them. We also need to look at entitlement spending.

“We also have to look at a lot of the ways that the oligarchs, the top 2125 richest people who absolutely hate this country are exploiting our tax system, why all of us are paying 13-14 percent in taxes total, and they’re paying less than 2 percent. And it’s not like they’re doing anything good for the country. They’re helping to rig elections. They’re absolutely indoctrinating people with their social media and taking further control of the nation for the globalist corporations. So it’s going to be a long and serious process. And we’re going to have to get serious about and have honest conversations about what the federal government could do with money. 

“We’re going to have to get back to being energy independent and become a net exporter of energy. We’re going to have to get all of our industries back online here to become independent. We have a massive amount of resources in this country. We just have to use them to benefit our people. That’s what nationalist economics are all about.’’

St. John: “I’m a business owner. I’ve been living in this area for a long time. We’re watching inflation. It’s crippling our communities right now, particularly people on a fixed income. And I’m of the opinion that it’s really not that hard to figure out how to stop spending money. And that’s the problem. The Democrats know how to tax and spend. And one of the very first things that I would like to do if I’m elected to represent you is to put a tourniquet on the bleeding that the Biden administration and Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi have inflicted upon the people of Southwest Washington state and the rest of the country by just saying repeatedly: ‘no, we’re not going to do that.’

“You know, we heard this from Nancy Reagan a long time ago. She said, ‘just say no to drugs.’ Well, I say, ‘just say no to new spending.’ We are wildly outside of what we can afford. As a country. We’re in so much debt to China. And pretty soon those countries are going to start calling in the note. … It’s going to be more important, I think, now than ever for us to look at what’s coming down the pike for our grandchildren. I have a grandson who’s eight years old and I want to be able to look at him and say I did everything I could to secure your future; just so that you could buy a home so that you weren’t saddled with this. And with this absolutely unparalleled debt, the Democrats are reckless in their spending. 

“There’s a couple, three Democrats now that are willing to stand up against Joe Biden. And the fact of the matter is, most of the Republicans are too cowardly to do it. They’re too cowardly to stand up. And so I would like to see us say, ‘absolutely, no, we cannot continue to raise the debt ceiling.’ And we should be willing to be strong enough to say we will shut down the federal government to stop you from putting this nation into slavery, because of the debt that we keep incurring because of our elected officials.’’

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