Two races in Washington could tip scales in Congress

With control of Congress potentially hanging in the balance, Democratic candidates took early leads Tuesday night in two key races in Washington state. But the state’s vote-by-mail system means final results likely won’t be known for days.

In the 8th Congressional District in central Washington, incumbent Democratic Rep. Kim Schrier faced a challenge from Republican Matt Larkin. In the 3rd District in the southwestern part of the state, Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Perez was up against Trump-endorsed Republican Joe Kent, who edged out incumbent Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler in the state’s top two primary.

Both races were too early to call.

Herrera Beutler was among those targeted by former President Donald Trump for her impeachment vote following the attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Washington’s congressional delegation currently comprises seven Democrats and three Republicans, and the remainder of the seats are considered safe for the incumbents, including Republican Rep. Dan Newhouse, who survived a primary challenge over his impeachment vote.

Washington’s 8th Congressional District stretches across the Cascade Mountains, encompassing wealthy Seattle exurbs populated by tech workers and central Washington farmland. Schrier, a pediatrician, is the only Democrat to hold the seat since the district was created in the early 1980s. She won reelection in 2020 against Army veteran Jesse Jensen. She now faces Larkin, a lawyer and former Washington attorney general candidate who works for his family’s company, which makes parts for water pipes.

Larkin acknowledges President Joe Biden was legitimately elected, though he also notes that many people disagree and are frustrated about it. He has hit Schrier on things like inflation, gas prices and crime, saying Democrats’ policies have aggravated all three.

Schrier has pointed to results she’s achieved for the district while in office, including securing federal money for a new bridge in Wenatchee. She also notes she’s the only pro-choice female doctor in Congress, saying that is crucial following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade.

Democrats see a chance in the 3rd Congressional District, which Republicans have held for more than a decade. That race has pitted an "America First" Republican against a rural Democrat. Herrera Buetler took 22% percent of the vote in the primary, and which candidate her supporters opted for could be key in determining whether Republicans retain the seat or Democrats score an upset.

Kent, a former Green Beret who is a regular on conservative cable and podcasts, has called for the impeachment of President Joe Biden and an investigation into the 2020 election. He’s also railed against COVID shutdowns and vaccine mandates and has called to defund the FBI after the search on Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home for classified documents.

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Gluesenkamp Perez — who co-owns an auto shop with her husband just across the border in Portland, Oregon — said that as a small business owner who lives in a rural part of the district, she is more in line with voters. She supports abortion access and policies to counter climate change, but also is a gun owner who said she opposes an assault rifle ban, though she does support raising the age of purchase for such guns to 21.

Because ballots only need to be postmarked by Election Day, or dropped in a drop box by 8 p.m. election night, it often takes days to learn final results in close races as ballots arrive at county election offices throughout the week.