Mark Moore provides an analysis of the recent Third Congressional District race and a glimpse of the next one
When I speak with the average Republican voter, one of the most common sentiments is something akin to “I don’t care about the Republican party, there is too much infighting, can’t we just get along.” In some ways, this is a fair criticism. There has been a civil war of sorts raging at all levels of the Republican party for over a decade. Roughly speaking the combatants can be separated into two groups. The Establishment, which would include people like Senators Mitt Romney, Mitch McConnell, and Lindsey Graham and the second group are The America First Republicans. This group would obviously include President Trump, and Congressmen like Matt Gaetz, Jim Jordan, and Andy Biggs. It is worth noting that the strongest America First legislators are in the House of Representatives given they are the body closest to voters by design. While a restatement of this dynamic may seem unnecessary, it helps to set the context for how this plays out in individual races throughout the nation.
Over the last two-and-a-half years, throughout Clark County dozens of selfless, patriotic Republican activists have been working in a collaborative fashion in response to citizen’s call for unity within the Republican party. At the Dec. 10, 2022 organizational meeting of the Clark County Republican Party (CCRP), new leadership was elected by an overwhelming margin. The Precinct Committee Officers of the CCRP responded to the vision of a bottom-up organization in which the PCO’s would set the agenda for CCRP activities in our county. This phenomenon is occurring all across the nation and is referred to as “The Precinct Committee Strategy.” It is how common sense Americans are taking back control of a political process they see as having been hijacked by self serving, corrupt special interests. The establishment, or Uni-party, fears this movement and has been exerting intense pressure to kill its momentum.
Exactly how the establishment works against the grassroots is less obvious, but incredibly effective. They simply get us to fight amongst ourselves. While there are legitimate differences in conservative circles, they are absolutely not substantive enough to grant the opponent an unearned victory … and Republicans must learn this lesson.
The underbelly of the body politic is dark indeed. The darkest elements are Political Action Committees (PACs) and the Consultant Class, often these two groups work in close coordination. They clothe themselves in patriotic nomenclature, but in truth they hunger for nothing other than money and power. They view voters as “less than,” and abuse them through manipulation of the electoral process. With rare exception the political class holds the American citizen in utter contempt.
Super PACs are the “legal” mechanism for extremely wealthy donors to put their hands on the scale and influence elections in favor of their own interests. Most people would be shocked to learn that in the 2022 Third Congressional District race, for example, of the $14,000,000 spent against Joe Kent, about $10,000,000 of that money came from REPUBLICAN PACs. It is a quite reasonable question to ask why Republicans would spend so much money to defeat such a strong Republican candidate, in a reliably red district. Especially one who had the endorsement of former President Trump. The answer is, establishment Republicans would rather see a Democrat in that seat than an America First, Trump-endorsed candidate. When Joe Kent defeated Jaimie Herrera Beutler in the primary, he embarrassed the establishment, and so did the voters of the Third Congressional District. The people spoke, but the establishment never intended to respect the voice of the voters, and they haven’t forgotten their embarrassment.
Federal level house and senate races employ political “consultants” that help candidates navigate unfamiliar political terrain. These consultants are well connected with Washington D.C. insiders and fashion themselves as “kingmakers.” If a person has a low opinion of politicos in general, it would be appropriate to reserve the lowest opinion for the consultant class. Consultants charge campaigns tens of thousands of dollars per month, and are often on the payroll of multiple campaigns simultaneously. These consultants are rarely motivated by party or ideological loyalty and often work for both Democrats and Republicans. It might be helpful to think of this consultant class as the money changers in the temple courts mentioned in Gospels of Matthew and Mark. The more a given race costs overall, the more money the consultant makes, so they are incentivized to create contentious primaries. Like the old saying goes, war is profitable.
The months leading into election cycles are ironically referred to as “Consultant Fishing Season.” Consultants, often in coordination with PACs, are actively recruiting candidates for these races. Often, this recruitment occurs to the exclusion of local party leadership, especially if the intent is to be disruptive in the local environment. These consultants make lofty representations to prospective candidates about how much money can be raised on their behalf, how the real power players in DC see them as just the kind of person who can get things done, and that they are just the kind of person voters in the district will support. These prospective candidates are usually great citizens, and public servants. They are also human and when skillful political apparatchiks shower them with praise and inflated promises, it is reasonable to understand that they might lose sight of the broader mission being advanced by dedicated patriots throughout the district. The ugly truth however, is that consultants are not recruiting candidates, they are recruiting a paycheck because they get paid those exorbitant salaries no matter how poorly the candidate performs. In some special circumstances a consultant can enhance their compensation by coordinating with PACs that have a special interest in defeating a given candidate … for example a candidate who embarrassed them in a prior election cycle.
Here is where the rubber meets the road in Washington’s Third Congressional District. With even a rudimentary understanding of PACs and political consultants, how might an embarrassed Republican establishment endeavor to make trouble for the America First candidate who was the very source of their embarrassment? Would they benefit from another extremely contentious primary battle in the Third Congressional District? How might they provoke another civil war amongst Republican voters in Southwest Washington? Who benefits from the infighting?
In the 2022 Third Congressional District Democratic primary, candidate Brent Heinrich was the early leader, had raised a fair bit of money, and had good name recognition. He was a viable candidate, but when Marie Gluesenkamp Perez was advanced as a candidate by the Democratic establishment, Brent withdrew and vigorously supported her. The Democrats may represent everything vile in this world, but THEY KNOW HOW TO WIN.
When the Democrat machine in Southwest Washington saw the destructive infighting in the Republican primary, they simply seized the opportunity to flip the seat. Democrats are not stupid, and they don’t use their primary races to adjudicate hurt feelings.
There is a sole beneficiary of a contested Republican primary for the Third Congressional District – Marie Gluesenkamp Perez. Her Democrat handlers have skillfully positioned her as a moderate while she is anything but, voting in lockstep with the most radical Democrat agenda in American history. Given the fluidity of conscience within the consultant class, it is entirely feasible Democrats and establishment Republicans are coordinating to recruit candidates into the Third Congressional District race to aid Gluesenkamp Perez. Former vice chair of the Clark County Republican Party and political consultant, Kathy McDonald, did precisely this in 2022. It is becoming increasingly obvious there is an effort afoot to create a sequel.
It is crucial to understand two things if they are successful. An outlier Republican candidate creates a channel for dark money PACs to spend their millions against Joe Kent, it also keeps the Democratic National Committee engaged in this race, actively supporting Gluesenkamp Perez. A Republican Party, unified behind a single candidate cuts off the attack vector of the dark money PACs, and simultaneously creates an environment in which the DNC likely abandons Gluesenkamp Perez. The DNC knows the Third Congressional District is a reliably red district, they were only able to flip it with the help of the Republican establishment.
There are other consequences to a repeat of the 2022 primary. The Clark County Republican Party is at its healthiest state in over a decade. It has fresh, young leadership and a unified executive board. While this culture of respect and unity is young, the party has turned the ship and is heading in the right direction. It is critically important to understand that a bitter, protracted, primary battle in the high profile Third Congressional District race will not only undermine the efforts of Republicans in that race, it will very likely result in the factionalizing of every effort of the party.
Republicans in Southwest Washington are faced with a very serious question. Will they set aside minor differences and hurt feelings of the 2022 primary to unite behind a single candidate to retake the seat gifted to Democrats through acrimonious infighting? Will they deny the establishment forces intent on recreating a civil war in Washington’s Third Congressional District and advance the cause of liberty?
Will Republicans choose to understand that external forces, who have no interest whatsoever in the will of Southwest Washington voters, are currently at work setting the stage for another contentious primary fight in the Third Congressional District? Will they choose to understand the corrosive effect this will have on every Republican effort in our area for years? Most importantly, will Republicans choose to reject those efforts, forgive past offenses, and work collaboratively to elect Republicans?
If the answer to these questions is yes, then we will know that indeed, Republicans actually want to win elections.
Mark Moore is a Vancouver resident, Clark County business owner and a Clark County Republican Precinct Committee Officer.
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