Northwest Republicans split on effort to overturn Electoral College votes

By Ryan Haas (OPB)
Jan. 6, 2021 1:44 p.m. Updated: Jan. 6, 2021 4 p.m.

Republicans who represent Oregon and Washington are nearly evenly divided over an effort to question the results of the 2020 election, which is expected to take place during Wednesday’s vote by Congress to certify results of the presidential election.

The vote by senators and representatives to certify the electors from each state is the last official process to confirm President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in November, but supporters of President Trump have seen the typically ceremonial process as yet another chance to push unsupported claims of widespread election fraud.


Republicans in the nation’s capital — some of whom won their first term in office in November — have claimed voter fraud was so widespread in 2020 that they want to create a panel to audit the election. They also plan to challenge electors from some states, though the challenges will not change the outcome of the election without support from the Democratically-controlled U.S. House.

Sen. Cliff Bentz, R-Ontario, asks questions during the Senate Judiciary Committee work session for House Bill 2625 on April 30, 2019.

Sen. Cliff Bentz, R-Ontario, asks questions during the Senate Judiciary Committee work session for House Bill 2625 on April 30, 2019.

Kaylee Domzalski / OPB

Oregon Rep. Cliff Bentz, a Republican who represents the state’s sprawling 2nd Congressional District, signed a letter supporting GOP efforts to investigate “election irregularities,” but has not yet publicly commented on whether he will support challenging the certification process Wednesday.

Speaking about the letter Dec. 18 on social media, Bentz said he wants House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, to “initiate such investigations and we will see if she is willing to help rebuild faith in our election process.”

Bentz, who won his first term in 2020 and will replace retiring Republican Rep. Greg Walden, did not respond to repeated requests for comment by OPB. Walden has previously stated that he believes the election result is accurate and elections were conducted fairly.


Similar to Bentz, Southwest Washington Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler has turned down requests from OPB to comment ahead of Wednesday’s vote. The congresswoman is entering her sixth term in office, and has at times put distance between herself and President Donald Trump.

Herrera Beutler did not sign the Dec. 11 letter calling for a congressional look at election fraud, and recently told The Columbian she plans to certify the Electoral College vote.

U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler on Election Night in Vancouver, Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018.

U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler on Election Night in Vancouver, Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018.

Molly Soloman / OPB

“I intend to vote to uphold the Electoral College. I have supported the president’s right to advance his evidence of election improprieties and I do think there have been problems, but so far none of the court challenges have produced … widespread evidence that would overturn an election. There is an end date on it. We need to move on to solving problems for citizens,” she told the newspaper in an opinion column on Saturday.

Washington Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers announced late Tuesday night in a statement that she will support the effort to challenge the election results, while also saying the vote was “not about overturning an election.” She and Washington’s third Republican congressman, Rep. Dan Newhouse, had supported previous efforts by the Trump administration to challenge election results in the courts.

“It is imperative that Republicans and Democrats work together to build trust and confidence in our elections,” McMorris Rodgers said in the statement. “That’s why this week, I will support the objections to the Electoral College vote counts in states where there have been allegations of voter fraud and questions raised about the legality of changes to state election law.”

Though McMorris Rodgers, like other Republicans, questioned alleged legal issues with the election results, attorneys representing the president have failed to prove such allegations in dozens of lawsuits across the country since November.

Meanwhile, Newhouse stated this week that he plans to join “constitutional conservatives” opposing the Electoral College challenge, according to the Seattle Times.

Newhouse’s break from his support of the president’s challenges followed the Sunday release of an hour-long call between Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and President Trump, in which the president suggested Raffensperger “find” votes to change the outcome of that state’s election.