One week after voters in Washington’s third congressional district went to the polls, the Associated Press called the race for the former Green Beret.
The 42-year-old will now move ahead to the general election in November, where he will face Democrat Marie Perez.
“BREAKING: Republican Joe Kent advances to November general election in Washington's 3rd Congressional District. #APRaceCall at 5:32 p.m. PDT,” the AP tweeted on Wedneday evening.
In the open primary in which the top two candidates progress regardless of their party, Mr Kent had his focus very much on Jaime Herrera Beutler, one of ten Republicans in the House who voted for Mr Trump’s impeachment.
During Mr Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate last year, Ms Herrera Beutler released a statement detailing the conversation between the then-president and House minority leader Kevin McCarthy, and said that Mr Trump initially thought that antifa protesters were the ones who rioted at the Capitol.
Ms Herrera Beutler said that when Mr McCarthy refuted that and said that they Mr Trump’s supporters committed the raid, Mr Trump reportedly said “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.”
After the first results were announced after last Tuesday’s primary, Ms Herrera Beutler, 43, who was first elected in 2010, was ahead of Mr Kent, and second to 34-year-old Ms Perez.
But as more results were counted and announced, Mr Kent continued to make ground. On Monday night, he passed Ms Herrera Beutler, and on Tuesday evening she conceded.
With 95 per cent of the votes now counted, Ms Perez has 67,933, Mr Kent has 49,807 and Ms Herrera Beutler has 48,828.
There was no immediate reaction from Mr Kent to the announcment by the AP.
In an interview with The Independent earlier this year, Mr Kent said: “We’re feeling pretty strong [Trump’s] still probably the most powerful endorsement in the history of US politics.”
Asked about his support of Mr Trump’s false claim that the 2020 election was rigged, he said: “I’m pretty adamant. I’m pretty confident in what I’ve seen that the election was rigged or stolen, however you want to put it, that Joe Biden did not 270 electoral votes.”
He added: “The way I’ll always caveat that, though, is that I believe that and I want to prove it. So I want there to be a venue. And I think when I get into Congress, we need to have a full congressional inquiry.”
In an interview with the right-wing Breitbart News on Wednesday, he called on conservatives to back him in his effort to win the seat.
“The stakes are too high for us not to be unified. The left and the administrative state are unified and working with a high degree of coordination. If we are to save our republic, we must unify,” he alleged.
“The left is not playing politics anymore, they are at war with the core of America, they are seizing every level of power and wielding it against us. We saw that when the FBI raided President Trump’s home. This isn’t the politics of 10-15 years ago; this is war and we must unify and fight back.”
On Monday evening Ms Perez thanked Ms Herrera Beutler for her serive to the country, and in particular for her decision to vote for Mr Trump’s impeachment, something that resulted in her and the other Republicans who did so, being targeted by the former president.
“We may not always see eye to eye, but we both value democracy, the rule of law, and free, fair, open elections. I know most voters in our district share those values too,” she tweeted.
Speaking to voters, she said of Mr Kent: “Kent will only add to the dysfunction paralysing our country. With your backing we can reject extremism and support the common good. I look forward to earning your support.”
Ms Herrera Beutler is the third Republican who voted to impeach Mr Trump to lose her primary. Representative Tom Rice lost his primary in South Carolina’s 7th District to Russell Fry, whom Mr Trump supported, in June. Last week, freshman Representative Peter Meijer in Michgan lost his primary to John Gibbs, whom the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee boosted in ads, as it saw Mr Gibbs as a more beatable candidate.
Representative David Valadao survived his primary in California, which has a top-two primary system where the two candidates who receive the most votes advance to the general election regardless of party. But he faces a tough race against a Democratic candidate. Representative Dan Newhouse, also of Washington state, won his primary last week.
Meanwhile, Representatives Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio, John Katko of New York and Fred Upton of Michigan all chose to retire. Representative Liz Cheney faces a primary challenge against Harriet Hageman, whom Mr Trump and Mr McCarthy have both endorsed.
After Ms Herrera Beutler’s conceded the race, the non-partisan Cook Politcal Report, changed its rating of the third congressional district frrom “Solid R” to “Lean R”, suggesting it feels Ms Perez has more chance of defeating Mr Kent, than she did of beating the incumbent. The last time a Democrat won the seat was 2008.
Also on Tuesday, Republican Heidi St John, who also contested the race, and who Mr Kent reapatedly accused of being a “spoiler” whose campaign had been funded by mainstream Republicans and Democrats in an efffort to block him, called on her supporters to vote for the former special forces soldier, whose wife was killed by an Isis bomb in Syria.
“It’s true that Joe Kent and I have some real differences on issues, but these differences are nowhere near the differences between Joe Kent and Marie Perez. These differences are not worth hurting our cause to make a point,” she said in an email.