Pro-impeachment Republicans face major test in primary election
Of the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach former President Trump last year, two are from Washington state.
- Now, U.S. Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Battleground) and Dan Newhouse (R-Sunnyside) face challengers from the right who are angry over how the two lawmakers voted.
Why it matters: Whether Herrera Beutler and Newhouse survive their primary challenges will provide clues about the direction of the state's Republican Party — and whether those who buck Trump's influence still have a place in it.
What's happening: Herrera Beutler, who represents the 3rd Congressional District in Southwest Washington, was particularly outspoken after the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, decrying the former president's actions as inappropriate.
- Herrera Beutler's opponents now include three pro-Trump Republicans who have publicly disagreed with her impeachment vote: Vicki Kraft, a state representative; Joe Kent, a retired special forces officer; and Heidi St. John, a Christian author who promotes homeschooling.
- All have questioned the validity of the 2020 election and suggested without evidence that the vote was fraudulent.
Meanwhile, Newhouse faces six GOP challengers in Washington's 4th Congressional District.
- One is Loren Culp, who ran for governor in 2020 and later filed a baseless lawsuit alleging widespread election fraud — a claim he withdrew after the state threatened his lawyer with sanctions.
- Another Republican in the race, state Rep. Brad Klippert, has also questioned the 2020 election results.
- Both Klippert and Culp have criticized Newhouse's impeachment vote, as has Republican candidate Jarod Sessler, a Prosser businessman and former NASCAR driver.
State of play: In Washington's top-two primary system, voters aren't required to register by party and can vote for whichever candidate they prefer, regardless of affiliation.
- Because the two candidates who get the most votes in the primary move on to the general election, a Republican vs. Republican matchup is possible.
What they're saying: Peter Graves, a Republican consultant based in Washington state, told Axios the state's top-two primary system is likely to help Newhouse and Herrera Beutler.
- He said the Democrats running in each district aren't mounting particularly strong campaigns, making it more likely that some Democratic and independent voters will choose the two GOP incumbents.
Yes, but: Crystal Fincher, a local political consultant who works with Democrats, said the Republican base has moved further to the right since Herrera Beutler and Newhouse were first elected — plus, recent redistricting slightly changed the boundaries of their districts.
- "All of that does create a lot of uncertainty," Fincher said. "Wild things can happen in crowded, low-turnout primaries."
Flashback: Shortly after Newhouse and Herrera Beutler voted to impeach Trump for his role in the Jan. 6 riot, the state Republican Party passed a resolution expressing "particular disappointment" in them.
- Both lawmakers later voted for an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
- When the commission idea stalled, however, they voted against creating a select House committee to investigate.
- That committee has been holding public hearings this month, including on Thursday.
What's next: Ballots for the Aug. 2 primary election will be mailed to registered voters in mid-July.
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