Opinion: The CCRP is doing the right thing by doubling down on a single candidate for the Third Congressional District race

Joe Kent • Leslie Lewallen

Editor Ken Vance offers his perspective on the decision of the Clark County Republican Party to reject Leslie Lewallen as a Republican candidate in this important race

Ken Vance, editor
Clark County Today

My dear friend Mark Warkentien passed away this past winter. Mark was a long-time executive in the National Basketball Association. At one of the many lunches I enjoyed with him over the years, he told me something I will never forget.

Editor Ken Vance
Editor Ken Vance

“I don’t care what it is, if they’re keeping score, I want to win,’’ he said. Obviously, Mark’s life was professional sports. Even though it may seem like life or death at times, pro sports are still just games being played with some kind of a ball. 

A case can be made that there is no greater scoreboard in our society than who wins elections, particularly at the federal level. Elected officials at that level have the ability to impact how much we are taxed. How those funds are allocated or distributed. They can directly impact our quality of life. It’s not a game with a ball. Much higher stakes are involved.

There has been much discussion this week about the decision by the Clark County Republican Party (CCRP) to double down on its support for Joe Kent in his attempt to unseat Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Perez in the 2024 Third Congressional District race for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. A majority of the precinct committee officers who were present at the July 13 meeting rejected a request by Camas City Council Member Leslie Lewallen to be recognized as a Republican in the Third Congressional District race. 

Clark County Today has published several letters to the editor and many comments were also posted on those letters. There has been support for Kent and others have supported Lewallen. Others have talked about a fair process of letting the voters decide. All of those opinions are valid. For me, it’s not about that. Like my friend Mark said, it’s about winning.

Many in this community, including myself in this previous column, have urged the Republicans to learn from past failures, put aside their differences, and do what it takes to win elections. Whether you like this particular strategy or not, the CCRP PCOs are trying to do just that by rallying around a single candidate in the 2024 Third Congressional District race.

I’ve never heard a negative word about Leslie Lewallen. The CCRP previously recognized her as a Republican candidate in her bid to become a member of the Camas City Council. For all I know, she would be a wonderful congresswoman. But, the question is, does she give the Republicans the best chance of unseating an incumbent Democrat? I think the answer to that is very clear that she doesn’t. I know, I know, Gluesenkamp Perez seemingly came from obscurity to unseat Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler in her bid to be reelected for the sixth time, but without going too far down a previous rabbit hole, that was more about the Republicans’ failures than it was about Gluesenkamp Perez.

Kent lost to Perez by 2,629 votes, less than 1 percent. And, I am one of those who believe he wouldn’t have lost had the Republicans not made him spend virtually all of his campaign finances to just narrowly survive the primary. In the weeks and months between the primary and the general election, the Kent campaign was financially on fumes and I couldn’t turn my TV on without seeing an ad for Gluesenkamp Perez, who still had a war chest because she was basically unchallenged in the primary.

In that 2022 election, the Republicans had at least three very strong candidates in addition to the incumbent Herrera Beutler. Kent was joined by Heidi St. John, who gave Kent all he could handle in the primary, and former state Representative Vicki Kraft. I don’t endorse candidates or tell anyone how to vote, but if I were to hand out endorsements, at some point during her political career, I’m sure I would have endorsed Kraft. But, there was no way she was going to get elected in 2022 and her presence in the race only further complicated matters.

The Republicans attempted to unseat their own incumbent, Herrera Beutler, largely because of her vote to impeach President Donald Trump. Had they not attempted to do so, I believe she would have easily sailed to another term in the U.S. House of Representatives. And, had they not been split on such a crowded field during a bloody primary campaign season, Kent would have had enough gas left in the tank after the primary to defeat Gluesenkamp Perez in the general election. . 

This column is not an endorsement for Joe Kent. It’s an endorsement for the CCRP’s strategy. By virtue of his narrow loss to Gluesenkamp Perez in 2022, Kent has earned the right to be the Republicans’ featured candidate in this race in 2024. If he can’t get the job done this time, then his political career, at least in the Third Congressional District, is likely over. The CCRP is doing the right thing by doubling down on a single candidate for this very important race.

Did the CCRP do the right thing by doubling down on Joe Kent as the recognized Republican candidate in the Third Congressional District?*
1018 votes

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