By Rick Bannan / The Chronicle
The recent sea change in the federal government stemming from the 2020 elections is not in the direction three candidates for Washington’s 3rd Congressional District wish to see the United States head, making their concerns known during a recent candidate forum.
On March 30, Republican Congressional hopefuls made their cases to unseat sitting U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler in a forum in her hometown of Battle Ground. The forum, hosted at Church of the Rock, was put on by Activate Republicans, the Clark County Republican Party and ClarkCountyToday.com. It featured candidates Joe Kent, Heidi St. John and Wadi Yakhour answering questions. They hit similar tones in their wariness over the actions and policy of the Democratic Party and left-leaning political agents.
“The left is trying to take our nation off of a cliff. We are staring socialism in the face right now. We are staring (at) Marxism, and even communism” St. John, an author with a strong social media following, said. “We are watching the left take aim right now directly at your ability to have a free and fair election.”
“I have spent 20 years of my life out on the road, talking to audiences about why it is so important that we get off the bench and onto the battlefield,” St. John said. “This nation is the greatest nation on the face of the earth. It is worth fighting for.”
Kent, an Army veteran, said that in 20 years in special forces and later in the intelligence community, he was taught to “recognize patterns and to know when (he was) being attacked.”
“Our nation right now is under attack from the left, and what the left is doing is very deliberate,” Kent said. “They’re going after our family units, they’re going after our culture.”
“They have full control of the media, they have full control of the education system,” Kent added, calling the situation a “complex information war.”
He said the situation became evident in the proceedings of the 2020 election, pointing to the “deplatforming” of individuals who contested the election results as an example.
Kent brought up the For the People Act in Congress, which he said was “extremely radical,” adding that the act, which seeks to expand voting rights and change campaign finance laws among other things, was an attempt to “codify 2020 and the election and the way that that went down.”
Kent noted the only reason he left government service was after his wife was killed fighting ISIS in Syria.
“I’ve been on the receiving end of failed policy,” Kent said. “My wife would be alive right now, today, had the Democrats and the bureaucrats not slow-rolled president Trump in withdrawing our troops from Syria.”
“If you’re like me, you’re tired of seeing self-serving politicians who fail to stand for their constituents and America’s values,” Yakhour, a Navy veteran and Trump Administration appointee, said. While going to school at Washington State University Vancouver using the GI Bill following his service, Yakhour said he volunteered for Trump’s campaign, remarking that those in the campaign “were building those Trump signs faster than the Democrats could tear them down.”
Yakhour was eventually hired for the campaign full-time before making his way to Washington, D.C., following Trump’s win, eventually ending up as chief of staff for the Selective Service System.
“In that role I have seen the ins and outs of Washington, D.C.,” Yakhour said, adding he worked with the “full spectrum” of appointed and elected government officials from local, state, and federal levels.
“From the Navy, from my time in Washington, D.C., and from this political climate, I have been bulletproofed, and I have been torture-tested to withstand … and to come back and serve my local community (that) I was born and raised in,” Yakhour said.
One of the first questions candidates were asked dealt with how they would represent their constituents should they be elected. Kent said that after a year of remote meetings and events, there were “zero excuses for not communicating with communities,” calling out Herrera Beutler’s outreach in the later years of her tenure.
“I think being able to come and connect with people face-to-face is incredibly key,” Kent said, “and if you can’t communicate face-to-face, everybody has phones, everybody has Zoom.”
“Washington, D.C., is a swamp, and it will suck you in if you don’t stay connected with the people that actually put you in Washington, D.C.,” Kent said.
St. John agreed with Kent’s statements, adding that she did “not plan on living in Washington, D.C.” if elected.
“It’s a pretty harsh commute, but we belong here,” St. John said. “When we move out and when we stay in Washington, D.C., for undetermined amounts of time, we lose touch with the people that are here.”
Yakhour said that all communications from his office if elected would be “clear, professional and transparent.”
“My office door will always be open to you,” Yakhour said.
He outlined how he would go through constituent communications, saying that he would “always treat (constituents) with the dignity and respect that you deserve as an individual.”
“Whether it’s a scheduled meeting in my office, or a conversation in the grocery store aisle, you will always have my ear and I will never dismiss you,” Yakhour said, “and I will definitely not call you frenzied white supremacists.”
Yakhour said that “being louder as a party” was paramount among his focuses if elected, which he said he would achieve using the skills he learned while studying strategic communications.
“If I asked you to name five Republican members in the House of Representatives, could you name them off the top of your head?” Yakhour asked.
He said that using communications would help to get the party’s message out to help ensure that it would remain competitive in the current political climate.
St. John said First Amendment preservation was her chief policy concern, pointing to her own experiences expressing conservative views publicly.
“If you (come) out with anything that questions the liberal narrative or the left, they squash you, they take away debate,” St. John said. “We need debate in this country. We need to see ideas brought to the floor.”
Kent’s biggest policy concern was election integrity, stating that he “would not let the media or the swamp bully us into saying that the election of 2020 was completely and totally legitimate.”
Kent said that Congress should “hold a full accountability” of November’s election, with subpoenas, reiterating his stance that the For the People Act “was just a copy and paste of 2020.”
“That (Congressional action) will allow state legislatures to actually have some accountability and to pass some good laws that actually strengthen our election process, so that we can all have faith in our Constitution and in our government,” Kent said.
CCRP Chair Joel Mattila said that Herrera Beutler was invited to participate in the forum, but did not respond to the invitation. Herrera Beutler has seen a multitude of challengers from her own party come out following her vote to impeach then-president Trump following the storming of the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters Jan. 6.
Both Kent and Yakhour said they would not support Herrera Beutler if she became the Republican nominee, though St. John said she would do so begrudgingly. She noted she had financially supported Herrera Beutler over the past 10 years, but said the congresswoman made a “very small footprint” within Congress during her tenure, something she would seek to correct if elected.
“Put me in a room with Nancy Pelosi and that girl is going to lose,” St. John said.