Trump-endorsed challenger Joe Kent has continued to charge toward a coveted second-place position held by U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, a fellow Republican, in the Southwest Washington congressional primaries.

Updated tallies published Friday night show Kent, a former Green Beret who trailed by roughly 5,000 votes earlier this week, is now just 257 votes behind the six-term incumbent.

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The pair are jockeying for the last spot on the November ballot. In Washington state, the top two vote-getters advance to the general election. Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Perez already won the top position with 31% of the vote.

Joe Kent, at his home in Yacolt, Wash., Sept. 29, 2021. Kent, a Republican, is challenging Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler for Washington’s 3rd-congressional district. Kent is a Gold Star husband and retired Special Forces officer.

Joe Kent, at his home in Yacolt, Wash., Sept. 29, 2021. Kent, a Republican, is challenging Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler for Washington’s 3rd-congressional district. Kent is a Gold Star husband and retired Special Forces officer.

Kristyna Wentz-Graff / OPB

The razor-thin margin between the Republicans could remain in place until Monday. None of the district’s counties are expected to update vote totals until then, according to the Washington Secretary of State’s website.

Neither Kent’s nor Herrera Beutler’s campaign could be reached for comment Friday.

If the same pace is kept, however, it’s likely to trigger a recount. Under Washington law, recounts are required if two candidates are split by less than 2,000 votes and 0.5% of the total votes cast.

Kent’s comeback has been steady in recent days, chipping away as election workers count thousands of ballots and re-tabulate the totals.

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Washington is a vote-by-mail state and allows voters to turn in their ballots up until 8 p.m. on Election Day. It can take days for workers to tabulate a final result, depending on how many ballots are involved.

“People are a lot more interested in accuracy than speed,” said Greg Kimsey, the elected auditor who oversees elections in Clark County, the largest county in the district. “We’re going through it carefully and methodically, the way we do every election.”

The newest batch of votes came from Cowlitz, Clark, Pacific and Thurston counties. In all but Pacific, Kent made gains. In total, he picked up 5,501 votes Friday compared with Herrera Beutler’s 4,090.

U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, right, talks with County Public Health Officer Dr. Alan Melnick during an April 5, 2021 visit to Clark County. The visit was one of her first public appearances since voting to impeach former President Donald Trump.

U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, right, talks with County Public Health Officer Dr. Alan Melnick during an April 5, 2021 visit to Clark County. The visit was one of her first public appearances since voting to impeach former President Donald Trump.

Troy Brynelson / OPB

The neck-and-neck finish seems to be a suitable end for a race that has been more than a year in the making. Kent was among two Republicans who declared his intention to run for the seat almost immediately after Herrera Beutler voted to impeach former president Donald Trump after the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Still, it’s possible a clear candidate isn’t identified even after the ballots are counted. Even if a mandatory recount isn’t triggered, processes are in place to allow people to call for recounts.

“If someone doesn’t have confidence in the election process, then they have options available to them,” Kimsey said.

Kimsey also noted counties have until Aug. 16 to finish counting. Then the results must be certified by local canvassing boards.

“A close race is a close race until it’s certified,” Kimsey said.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article misstated the number of terms served by U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, who is a six-term incumbent. It has been edited to reflect that.

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