Jun 24, 2022 - Politics

Pro-impeachment Republicans face major test in primary election

A man with white hair in a suit at left and a woman with brown hair in a suit jacket at right.
Dan Newhouse and Jaime Herrera Beutler. Photos: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images and Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

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.

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.

What's next: Ballots for the Aug. 2 primary election will be mailed to registered voters in mid-July.

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