One of the most closely watched political races on the ballot this November is playing out in Southwest Washington, where Republican Joe Kent and Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Perez are vying for the 3rd Congressional District seat. Kent lives in Yacolt, Washington and is a retired Green Beret who is endorsed by former President Donald Trump. He defeated six-term incumbent Jaime Herrera Beutler in the August primary to advance to the general election. Gluesenkamp Perez was the top vote-getter in that primary and the only Democrat on the ballot. She lives in rural Skamania County and owns an auto repair shop in Portland with her husband. Neither of the candidates have held elective office before. They are both trying to shore up support from working-class voters for whom inflation and jobs are top-of-mind in a district that will soon send a new representative to Capitol Hill come January.
Third Congressional District candidates Republican Joe Kent and Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Perez join us for an in-person debate recorded on the evening of October 27 at the Wollenberg Auditorium on the campus of Lower Columbia College in Longview, Washington.
Note: The following transcript was created by a computer and edited by a volunteer.
Dave Miller: This is Think Out Loud on OPB. I’m Dave Miller. We’re going to spend the hour today with a raucous debate for Washington’s 3rd Congressional District. The district stretches from the state’s South Coast all the way to the Columbia Plateau. For the last 12 years, Republican Jaime Herrera Beutler represented the district in Congress, but she lost in the primary. Last night we hosted a debate in front of a loud and sometimes disruptive crowd at Lower Columbia College in Longview. It was with the two candidates who got the most votes in that primary.
Joe Kent is a Republican. He is a retired U.S. Army Green Beret who grew up in Portland and lives in Yacolt now. He spent 20 years in the military. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez is a Democratic candidate. She grew up in Texas and lives in Skamania County now. She is the co-owner of an auto repair shop. We flipped a coin before the start. And I asked Gluesenkamp Perez the first question, what does she see as the most urgent issue the U.S. is facing right now?
Marie Gluesenkamp Perez: It’s hard to divorce these issues from themselves. I think that in times of economic distress, it puts pressure on people’s democratic ideals. If you can’t afford to fill up your grocery cart, the sense that your right to health care is really the most important thing. That gets suppressed, right? And so I think that it’s hard to untie these things. I think that it is simultaneously the economy, in a downturned economy where crime is increased, and in those circumstances people are more willing to accept authoritarian regimes and authoritarian ideas.
Miller: Joe Kent, what do you see as the most important issue facing this country?
Joe Kent: The economy, inflation is going to rob every single one of us of one month of our pay, if not more. And this inflation is all because of massive amounts of omnibus spending shoved through by the Democrats. And then the Fed continuing to print more and more money. And these policies the Democrat party and my opponent endorsed, they want to continue to spend massive amounts of money giving the American people no relief whatsoever. They’ve killed off our energy sector. Joe Biden did that on day one, and now that the price of the pump just continues to rise. Again, Democrats, my opponent included, they have no solution for this whatsoever. All they’re going to do is talk about issues that don’t really affect the American people’s ability to go out and put food on the table, gas in their tank and feed their families. We have to start presenting real solutions and end one party rule in Washington DC. That’s what I’m here to do.
Miller: So let’s talk about your solutions then, sticking with inflation. What would you do as one member of 435 to curb inflation?
Kent: So, first off we need to stop this out of control spending. In the last Congress, they passed three major bills that put seven trillion additional dollars on the national deficit. The Fed continued to print and now the dollar is being seriously devalued. So we have to stop this reckless spending for one. We also have to turn back on U.S. energy. It was a conscientious decision made by Joe Biden to kill off Keystone XL and to stop issuing exploratory drilling permits. So what we need to do is we need to say very plainly to the Biden administration that he will turn back on U.S. energy and if he does not, then we will defund the government. We will withhold the budget of the federal government. If he’s going to choke the American people at the gas pump every day, if he’s gonna steal one month of wages from the American people, we’re going to play hardball with him. We can’t let one party rule by Joe Biden, by Nancy Pelosi, and Chuck Schumer take away one month of wages from the American people and absolutely destroy our economy.
Miller: So play this through. Let’s say that you’re able to threaten to shut down the government and you force Joe Biden’s hand. What are you saying it would take for you to reopen the government, to vote to spend money again?
Kent: Unleash U.S. energy turned back on Keystone XL, go back to re-issuing exploratory drilling permits. The actions that Biden took on day one of his administration absolutely killed off on our energy sector. Everybody remembers what energy prices and gas prices were just two years ago as a buck 50 to fill up your gas tank and grocery prices weren’t absolutely exploding. So we need to say to him, hey, you, you’re not going to do this to working . . .
Gluesenkamp Perez: You sound like a tyrant right now.
Miller: I’m about to give you a chance.
Kent: The one tool that Congress has is the appropriations process, is the budget process. So we can say, hey, if you’re going to do this to the American people, we’re not going to fund your budget for all the things that you want. This is the leverage that we have. We’re being hired by the American . . .
Miller: Gluesenkamp Perez . . .
Gluesenkamp Perez: This is just crazy talk, like the idea that you can just dictate oil prices. That’s not how the economy works. You know, when . . .
Miller: Please, this is the beginning of a long, long evening and I want to get a chance to have the candidates be heard. So let’s go back to this.
Gluesenkamp Perez: So you know, let’s be realistic. I mean oil traded at negative $3 a barrel in 2020. No one was gonna drill for more oil when oil was trading at negative values. So it’s just magical thinking to say that this is, Biden’s in his lap. Now, I’m not here to defend Biden. I think there have been mistakes made. I don’t think that it’s a mistake. I think he’s making the right step by continuing to release oil from the strategic reserves. We’ve got to do things to increase our energy supply. And we’ve also got to be doing things to ease demand and that looks like policies that . . .
(overlap in talking)
Miller: We’re gonna go one at a time or else this isn’t going to work. And I say that to both of you and even more so to our audience. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, so you were just explaining why you think Joe Kent’s ideas in terms of focusing on domestic oil supply and not defunding the government for that, are not right. What is your idea for tackling inflation?
Gluesenkamp Perez: Defunding the government is not going to tackle inflation. The way that we address inflation is that we rebuild our domestic manufacturing. There’s a massive workforce shortage right now, because we’ve eviscerated all the trade schools. I’m part of the generation where all of the great trade schools got turned into computer programming schools. And here’s the thing: plumbers, electricians, carpenters, those are jobs that can’t be offshored, that grows our native industry for the next several decades. And so, frankly, both parties have done a terrible job of supporting career education, supporting the trade, supporting small businesses like mine. And it’s been coming down the pipe for decades, and so things will not get better if we keep electing extremists that are talking about defunding the government. We need actual small business owners. We need tradespeople. We need people who believe in the nobility of work to restore the dignity to these jobs and support small businesses.
Kent: You can make all the jobs that you want if you continue to spend money via omnibus spending like she advocates for and you continue to let the Fed continue to print those dollars, there will be no economy for those people to enter the workforce in. If you keep us energy production shut off and you keep fuel prices high, we won’t be able to put gas in the tank for any of those jobs whatsoever, inflation will continue to rise. The cost of living will continue to rise. And if we continue to deplete our strategic petroleum reserves, actual emergency will come up when we need those strategic petroleum reserves and we will not be ready. Do you trust the Democrats and Joe Biden to keep us prepared for a natural disaster, for some sort of a man-made disaster, for a war, for a conflict? These people have proven they can’t be trusted with the economy. They can’t be trusted in times of crisis. So right now, this is why we have to end one party rule. These people have gotten us to this point, all they’re going to do is give us more of the same.
Miller: Let’s move on to healthcare. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, what solutions do you have for somebody who is uninsured or underinsured because they can’t afford to buy insurance on the open market, and they do not qualify for Medicaid?
Gluesenkamp Perez: So we’ve got to control the cost of healthcare. I think that is fundamental to solving this equation. Some of the programs we’ve seen that work really well, empowering medical nurse practitioners to be able to have more authority, especially in rural communities like mine where we don’t have the same level of access to doctors. There are also value based systems that we’ve seen really improve health outcomes and decrease costs. So those are the programs where you have a nurse that you work with long term for more preventative based care. And then when we think about drug prices, we should be negotiating all drug prices, not just the 13 drug prices that were negotiated under the I.R.A. And speeding generic drugs to market. We see real abuse in the patent system by some of these big pharmaceutical companies who just marry an existing drug to a new delivery technology, and bam make some money out of it. And Americans are the ones carrying the cost for that. So there are specific steps that we can take to lower the cost of healthcare and increase access.
Miller: Joe Kent?
Kent: So right now we need more competition on the market, we need people to be able to cross state lines and purchase healthcare. We need more than just a few healthcare conglomerates that are price gouging. We need to flood the zone with individual private competition on the market. So people actually have a real choice. We need to make it so that we can purchase pharmaceuticals from Europe, from Canada, from other countries that have an established medical system, and let them enter the U.S. market without massive amounts of testing. That’s going to free up the pharmaceutical market so that they’re competing for our dollars. We also need to make it so that individuals can write off tax deductions for their healthcare in the way that major corporations and businesses can.
Miller: What’s your theory for what the government could or should do to provide more companies that are offering their services, their health care services or health insurance? What should the government do to create competition?
Kent: The government should deregulate. The last thing the federal government should do is get involved in healthcare. Do you remember the last time the Democrats, Obama and Biden tried to run our healthcare, if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. And then we had 11-month wait lists for people to get care they needed like care for cancer. So we need a lot of deregulation.
We need to open up the market for competition. So the last thing we need is more Democrats trying to run healthcare from the federal level.
Miller: Marie Gluesenkamp Perz, what aspects of the Affordable Care Act, of Obamacare do you support and what if any, would you get rid of?
Gluesenkamp Perez: Well, I think it’s a good thing that more people have access to healthcare and to health insurance. People forget how ugly things have been. A lot of small business owners like mine having to sell their business, get a divorce, so they didn’t lose their house under medical bankruptcy. I mean, there are serious problems in the way that our systems operate now, but it is certainly better than it has been.
Miller: Joe Kent, what exact regulations in terms of health insurance, are you saying you want to get rid of?
Kent: From the federal perspective, I don’t want the federal government to regulate anything as far as people having to have this insurance or that insurance. I mean, the Supreme Court struck down the individual mandate. Obamacare just trying to do one size fits all top down, that’s the problem. The reason why healthcare costs are so expensive is because major pharmaceutical companies and a handful of conglomerates, only a few, they’re the ones controlling the prices. We need individual private insurance companies and healthcare companies that are competing on the market because we the consumer, we succeed when businesses are competing for our dollar. That’s what we need to introduce into the healthcare system.
Miller: You’re shaking your head. What?
Gluesenkamp Perez: Well, we need more medical transparency in the cost of things. I, as somebody who was recently pregnant and gave birth, you look around and try to figure out how much is it gonna cost for me to go into this hospital and get the care that I need? What if I need a C-section? What do these costs look like? And even though bills have been passed, they haven’t been adequately enforced, to ensure that there is transparency and what procedures cost across hospitals.
Miller: Do either of you – Joe Kent you can go first – support a single payer option? You can call it Medicare for all if you want, you can call it anything you want. But a government version of basic healthcare that would be available to compete with the private sector?
Kent: Not from the federal government. No. If the states want to handle that individually, I think that’d be a good thing for states to do. But from the federal level. Every time Washington DC has gotten involved in our healthcare, the healthcare of individuals, they have messed it up. Obamacare is case in point. If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. I support some form of a social network, a social fallback system for people to have. I don’t want anyone to, you know, not get the healthcare that they need. So I think some sort of a program where funding is provided the same way. We don’t have any starving to death in America, but we also don’t have deliveries of government food going to people’s houses. People get an EBT card that access dollars and then they compete on the market and they have companies competing for their EBT dollars. So something similar to that when we provide the basic funding to be introduced into the market. So the individual consumer has the option. But the last thing I want is the federal government being involved in the nitty gritty details of healthcare for individuals.
Miller: I mean what about Medicaid, Medicare, VA care?
Kent: Those are different. There are several programs, but as far as like for those are . . .
Miller: But those are examples of what you’re talking about right now. Would you support those programs?
Kent: Of course. I mean I get my healthcare from the VA.
Kent: Yeah I get help from the VA. And I can tell you it’s got a lot of problems. I think a system where we had more veterans’ choice, is the way to go as far as the VA goes. And I think that goes for most programs. People need to be able to get access to the care they need if they’re entitled to Medicare, they’re entitled to Medicaid. If they’re entitled to VA benefits. Then the money and the driver, they should be in the driver’s seat of that, and they should have healthcare companies competing for them, as opposed to Washington DC. And a bunch of bureaucrats dictating how they get their healthcare.
Miller: Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, do you support some version of Medicaid for all, or a single payer option that would be then competing against the private sector?
Gluesenkamp Perez: I think we need to expand those programs. I think that’s the first most pragmatic step we can take. I think that a lot of those ideas they need to be grassroots community supported. And I think we’re not quite there yet. But I will say there is nothing more disturbing: almost every time I bring my son into the doctor’s office, I hear one of the doctors arguing with an insurance company about whether or not some baby is actually qualified to get a cardiogram. My brother is actually a surgeon at the VA. And he likes that work because he’s able to just give his patients the care they need without bickering with some insurance adjuster.
Miller: I want to turn to immigration. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency this week reported that there were 2.3 million migrant apprehensions at the southern border in the last year. It is a new record and it beat last year’s record. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they have pointed out that more people are trying to cross the country illegally than ever before, because technology has gotten better. So it’s likely that more people are being stopped than before. But it’s obviously a gigantic issue. What do you see, Joe Kent first, as the root causes of this migration? This desired migration? And what if anything could or should congress do about those root causes? People coming from Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, wherever?
Kent: Yeah, we have to defend our southern border. The reason why our borders are being flooded is because Joe Biden on day one said the border is wide open and now we’ve had millions of people illegally enter our country. We think it’s whatever, 2.5, they have no idea. I’ve been down to the border and actually did a tour with the Department of Homeland Security and with Congressman Gosar. I saw they have no accountability whatsoever. What we do know, we don’t know the number of illegal immigrants coming to America. We do know that there’s been enough fentanyl pumped into our country to kill every single American. What we do . . .
Miller: Let me interrupt. My question is, what do you see as the reason people are trying to come, not what are they bringing or what or what would prevent them from coming?
Kent: This is a great country and there’s economic opportunity up here. That’s the reason why the vast majority that are coming up here, they’re coming up here to take jobs away from American citizens, because our government is foolish enough to let them do that. They’re coming up here to exploit our social welfare system. They’re also coming up here to run fentanyl into this country to target American citizens. The Mexican drug cartels, the Chinese Communist Party are at war with us, and Joe Biden and the Department of Homeland Security are facilitating that flow.
Miller: So let me ask you this, do you see a role for Congress to play in getting at the root causes? Clearly, you’re talking about ways to prevent people from getting into the country. What I’m wondering is if you see a role for Congress in making it so people don’t have a desire to come in the first place?
Kent: Make it impossible for illegal immigrants to get a job here, make it impossible and very clear that if you enter this country illegally, there is no pathway to citizenship for you here period. End of story. It is not a good deal to come to the United States of America illegally, because we prioritize our people and our security first, that’s the role of government.
Miller: Okay, all right. Again, folks, if you want to be able to hear more of your preferred candidate, if you make less noise, you’ll hear more from them. Maria Gluesenkamp Perez, the same question to you, what do you see as the root causes of this desired mass migration, millions of people who are trying to come to the U.S.?
Gluesenkamp Perez: Well, my dad actually immigrated here, fleeing, frankly, left wing authoritarian violence in Mexico. And in a time of increased global chaos, there are severe immigration pressures, and I do believe countries have a right and a responsibility to know who and what is coming across their borders. But this idea that Joe Kent is proposing that we should ban all immigration for 20 years, and he has agreed that he should do that because he wants to re-establish a white majority . . .
Kent: That’s not true whatsoever. I know that’s not true. She’s calling me a racist and misrepresenting what I said. No, you’re not . . .
Gluesenkamp Perez: It is . . .
Kent: . . . he’s not gonna call me a racist. No, absolutely not . . .
Miller: I’m going to give you a chance to respond. But first you, Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, instead of at this moment, talking about things you don’t like about his policy, I want to go back to the second part of my question for you and then we can talk about other things that you both want to talk about.
Kent: She doesn’t want to talk about the issues, that’s why.
Miller: What do you think Congress should do if anything, in terms of preventing people from wanting to come here?
Gluesenkamp Perez: I think that it is like trying to push with a rope. I think that the first most direct line we have is to have a secure border. It’s to ensure that there is a process that is fair and equitable. I think right now, it is frequently people who have money for lawyers who are able to navigate an overly complex system. And that we have a reliable source of labor for especially our agricultural industry, who has prior legal ability to bring in workers.
Miller: Okay, since Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, you brought up Joe Kent’s broader plans for immigration, let’s hear from him what his plans are. And then we can talk about them. You want to stop all legal immigration for the next decade?
Kent: Economic immigration.
Miller: What is economic immigration?
Kent: If your visa brings you over here to work, you are stealing a job from an American citizen. So that’s what we end. Because, and this has everything to do with protecting Americans of every single race, but in particular who is the working class? It’s our most diverse class that we have: hispanics, african americans, working class, white people. They’re the ones who have their jobs taken away the quickest, thanks to illegal immigration. And thanks to specific economic immigration. Again, what’s the role of the government? Our job in the government is to protect our people and make sure the system works for us. That American citizen can get jobs and support their families. And so that we have a secure country, everything that she’s talking about. It doesn’t address the security issues. It doesn’t address the fentanyl, and it doesn’t do anything but give an incentive, a massive incentive for more people to come in and take away jobs and wages from American citizens.
Gluesenkamp Perez: Who doesn’t have a job right now that wants one, Joe? Unemployment has never been this low. I mean that this idea that we . . . that’s just true. That’s just true. You know this idea that we are stealing jobs. No, I’ve had a now hiring sign out for eight months. I mean we are hurting. Housing prices are being impacted. The cost of groceries is being impacted. And that’s one of the reasons that so many people in the agricultural industry are supporting me, because they know that Joe Kent’s idea would bankrupt our agricultural economy and shut down a lot of these farms.
Kent: We can gradually scale away from it, but we can bring over temporary worker visas, but they can’t stay here permanently. The problem with the agricultural visa system is it’s exploited. Because the immigrants that come over, a lot of them don’t leave and they’re given amnesty as part of the farm bills that happened in this last Congress, it continues to happen. So once the people get here, they understand there’s an incentive system behind staying here illegally. So if we’re gonna temporarily bring these people in, I would like to get back to a place in our country where people value work and they have nothing, and they don’t think there’s anything wrong with doing hard manual labor. I enlisted in the army when I was 18 to do hard manual labor. I think it’s a great thing. We need to bring that culture back. But we also need to make sure that we are setting up the economy to support American working families. It’s absolutely . . .
Gluesenkamp Perez: That sounds like someone who’s never worked on a farm. To me, that’s what that sounds like. I’ve worked on a farm. I picked cucumbers. I picked tomatoes.
Kent: Right? So you picked tomatoes, right? So you did, right? So you’re an American citizen and that was your job to have. That job didn’t belong to somebody else. That job belonged to you.
Miller: You’re listening to the debate we recorded last night with Marie Gluesenkamp Peréz, and Joe Kent, the two candidates in the race for Washington’s fifth congressional district. We’ll bring you the second half of the debate after a short break.
Miller: This is Think Out Loud on OPB. I’m Dave Miller. We’re listening today to the debate we recorded last night in front of an audience at Lower Columbia College with the two candidates for Washington’s 3rd Congressional District: the Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Perez and the Republican Joe Kent. At one point, I gave each of the candidates a chance to ask their opponent a question directly. Joe Kent went first.
Joe Kent: Crime is out of control. The fentanyl is getting shoved across our border. There’s been enough shipped into the country to kill every American multiple times over. Here in our district we’ve had Democrat politicians in Olympia that passed a series of anti-policing bills just this last fall that have started to release prisoners from jail. The ‘three strikes and you’re out’ law is being repealed. A man named Roy Russell, who brutally raped and murdered a 14-year-old, is getting ready to be set free thanks to these laws passed by Democrats – many of whom have endorsed Marie, one in particular from Vancouver named Sharon Wylie. Marie, will you renounce her endorsement tonight and commit to actually keeping criminals in prison?
Marie Gluesenkamp Perez: The idea that Sharon Wylie is single-handedly responsible for someone being released from prison. I can think someone has a bad idea without thinking . . .
Kent: [ Inaudible ] . . .
Miller: No, you asked the question. Let her answer the question.
Gluesenkamp Perez: No, I’m not renouncing Sharon Wylie. I think that’s a bad idea, but I’m not renouncing Sharon Wylie. It’s ironic. I’m not gonna talk about Matt Gaetz right now and your endorsement, but crime is a problem. I own an auto repair and machine shop. I know you’re all tired of hearing that. I have had my building broken into four times this year. It has never happened before. All right? So we have got to start fully funding our police departments. There are 39 vacancies in the Clark County Sheriff’s Department right now. Joe Kent’s plan to defund the FBI, defund the DOJ; that’s not gonna fix those problems. That’s going to make them worse. I really like it when the police show up when I call.
Miller: Alright, Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, your turn to ask Joe Kent a question.
Gluesenkamp Perez: Yeah, so Joe you’re on video already saying that you would like to defund the FBI. You’re also on video saying that you are going to defund state police departments, stop federal grant dollars going to state law enforcement if they don’t enforce laws to your liking. If you had to vote today, would you fund law enforcement in our state?
Kent: With Jay Inslee in charge and Bob Ferguson in charge, I would not allow federal taxpayer dollars to go to the people that run Seattle, the CHAZ and have basically let crime run free. What I would do with those federal law enforcement dollars is I would give them to sheriffs because sheriffs are elected by the people. Fully fund sheriffs, and we the people get to hold the sheriffs accountable, as opposed to just taking billions of dollars and giving it to people like Jay Inslee, like Kate Brown, so we can have Seattle to our north with the CHAZ, and we can have antifa stand in Portland with Marie’s friends in antifa and, you know, the light rail that Marie supports pumping them across the district. I mean, we need to actually hold these sanctuary cities and these sanctuary governors accountable. And how do we do that? We do that by controlling the federal purse strings.
Gluesenkamp Perez: By defunding the police.
Kent: We do that by giving money to sheriffs because sheriffs . . .
Gluesenkamp Perez: You’re talking about defunding the police.
Kent: . . . are accountable to the people.
Miller: Let’s turn to another issue. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, it’s your turn to take this first. How would you approach abortion rights as a member of Congress?
Gluesenkamp Perez: Well, we need to codify Roe into federal law. This idea that we should have some staffer bro and Mitch McConnell, some 20 year old dude, writing law about when I can access health care and when I can’t. I mean that should be offensive to all of us. One in four pregnancies ends in a miscarriage, and the last thing that a woman needs after a miscarriage is the sheriff showing up on our front porch asking her to prove what really happened. Because you can’t just think about these laws. You have to think about how they’re going to be implemented. This idea should be offensive to all Americans.
Miller: Joe Kent?
Kent: So Roe v. Wade was just overturned. It’s back at the state level. The Supreme Court has ruled that this is no longer a federal issue. Now look, it’s no mystery. I’m pro-life. I believe life begins at conception. I pray for an end to an abortion. I pray that abortion ends every day. I want to have an actual culture of life that takes care of children and mothers throughout their entire life until they’re 18 years old. But look, and I get it, abortion is a hot-button issue. It’s controversial, and we should rigorously debate it. However, there is nothing more extreme right now than where the Democrat Party and where Marie Perez is. They believe that an abortion can take place up to the ninth month of pregnancy, and that position is too radical for most people. Oh, you’re right, you’re right. I forgot that they also want it to be funded by the taxpayers. That position is on par with North Korea and China. Most even European countries, they don’t support that. So it’s away from the federal hands. It’s in the state’s hands.
Miller: Last month, Lindsey Graham introduced a bill that would ban abortion at 15 weeks. That was in the Senate. Would you vote for that ban if it were in the house?
Kent: I think it’s a waste of time because the Supreme Court is just going to rebuke us. Now, if I’m put on the record and that bill makes it to the floor, I am always gonna vote for life. I am pro-life, 100 percent, like that’s it. But, at the end of the day, it would mostly be performative. That’s what I feel like this is right now because the Supreme Court is just gonna come and say, ‘Hey, what did we just say?’ We just said it’s with the court. Because right now the only thing they want to talk about is abortion even though it’s not, it’s not even an issue at the federal level right now. It’s a state issue. And, until we flip the house in Olympia, and we get rid of Jay Inslee, it’s not an issue in Washington state.
Miller: Marie Gluesenkamp Perez.
Gluesenkamp Perez: It is surreal to hear him talk about abortion rights as performative. I mean, it really, a dude would say that. You know?
Kent: So you support Lindsey Graham’s bill? I’m confused.
Gluesenkamp Perez: Of course not. Of course not.
Kent: I think Lindsey Graham’s bill is performative. That’s what I said.
Gluesenkamp Perez: Yeah. And to talk about abortion rights as performative. I mean, this is ridiculous, and it is so un-American. Washington state has been very, very clear about our priorities for access to women’s health care. To have someone come in and dictate what our values are in Southwest Washington, to us, is out of control. Who is asking you to do that? We have been very clear in Washington state what we believe.
Kent: Yeah, and Roe v. Wade put it back in Washington state’s hands. And until we flip the Olympia, until we flip the governor’s mansion, it’s not an issue right now. So I don’t even know why her and I are talking about it other than to distract from the fact that she has no plans to address inflation, the economy, crime, the things that actually . . .
Gluesenkamp Perez: Because you want a national abortion ban, Joe . . .
Kent: . . . at the federal level that actually are affecting people on a day-to-day basis.
Gluesenkamp Perez: Because you want a national abortion ban. That’s why we’re talking about it in Washington state . . .
Miller: We are going to move on to plenty more issues right now. Joe Kent, this goes to you first. What would you do to support logging in the Pacific Northwest timber industries here while balancing protections for waterways, for ecosystems, for endangered species?
Kent: This is another place we need to get the federal government out of the logging industry. There needs to be massive amounts of deregulation. The states and the counties where the logging is taking place, they should be the ones that are regulating this. We obviously protect the old growth, but we need to make sure that logging and the timber harvesting is taking place, and that it benefits the community where the logging is taking place and actually happening. So the funds that are generated in places like Skamania County, Clark County, Lewis County – that funding, the vast majority of it, should stay there in those counties. Something else we need to do is ensure that our mills are not shut down because logging, obviously that employs a lot of people, but the mills employ even more people. What happened with the mill in Camas was the Koch brothers came in; they bought it up, and they slowly gutted the place. It used to employ about 2,000 people, to include all the services that service the mill itself. That got shipped overseas to China, and now the mill only employs about 120 people. We need to actually have a protectionist trade policy that incentivizes our businesses and our industry to return here, with corporate tax cuts, with free government land. But then the stick to that is that they will be tariffed into nonexistence if they are not hiring American workers and building their products on American soil. So that’s absolutely essential.
I’m a conservationist. We need to make sure that our waterways and our forests are maintained. But this excessive regulation coming from the EPA – especially the Endangered Species Act protecting the spotted owls, protecting the sea lions – that has absolutely destroyed our natural resources industry. We need to be able to rethink and relook at a lot of those. I think the right answer every time will be to push those decisions down to the lowest level possible. The Supreme Court, we were talking about the Supreme Court, EPA v. West Virginia: That basically sets the precedent to get these federal regulations, these federal regulatory agencies, out of state’s businesses to put this back down at the state level.
Miller: Marie Gluesenkamp Perez.
Gluesenkamp Perez: Last week, my house was within two miles of the mandatory exclusion zone for the Nakia Creek Fire. I live in the WUI.
Miller: The rural-urban interface.
Gluesenkamp Perez: Right. Yes, the interface between where there are homes and where there are woods.
Miller: Oh, wildland urban interface.
Gluesenkamp Perez: Right. And the Eagle Creek Fire was about seven miles from my house five years ago, so it’s getting closer every year. We need to take this crisis seriously. The woods are a mess, by any objective standard. We need more thinning projects. We need controlled burns during the winter. Those jobs will put people back to work. They can regrow our paper industry. Go to the grocery store, look around, see how many products – that used to come in cardboard and paper – are now almost always in plastic, like laundry detergents, soaps. The solution to excessive plastic packaging is cardboard and paper, and that’s what we make in Southwest Washington. We can, not only clean up our woods but use that wood pulp and regrow our cardboard and paper industries.
Miller: You were touching on climate change. I want to turn there now. Just this week, the United Nations announced that the current emissions goals – that have been agreed upon by countries around the world – they will lead to warming of 2.5°C by the end of the century. Meaning way above an already scary increase of 1.5°C although not as bad as what some scientists were talking about five years ago. Decarbonization has been happening. We are making some progress there. What would you do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as a member of Congress?
Gluesenkamp Perez: Well, a lot of that is reshoring American manufacturing. That really does go a long way to address emissions globally. I believe in plug-in hybrid electric vehicles; that’s a great option. We need to be pursuing an all-of-the-above energy policy. Ninety percent of our renewable energy comes from hydro right now in Washington state. We’ve got to not take that off the menu. We’ve got to be investing in clean renewable – that includes nuclear. I don’t see the sort of urgency in climate crisis that it deserves. That’s one thing about people who live in rural communities. We see how bad the woods have gotten. We see the heat waves. We see creeks drying up. It’s a different perspective that’s missing from Congress right now.
Miller: Joe Kent.
Kent: Well, we’re going through a heating cycle right now. The question is, is it because of carbon footprint? I don’t think that’s definitive. What we’ve done is we’ve taken this narrative that ‘Hey, this is all because of carbon,’ and we have put ourselves at the mercy of, really, the Chinese Communist Party and other countries, where we say we’re gonna get electric vehicle . . . Look at Build Back Better. It was a $300 billion payday on its first pass by the Chinese Communist Party because that’s where we’re gonna get all the rare earth minerals for the electronic vehicle charging stations. China is one of the worst and egregious polluters there are out there. So, what we need to do is, we need to turn back on U.S. energy. We need to not be involved in any kind of treaty like the Paris Climate Accord or anything coming from the U.N. that cripples our ability to be energy independent. We need to pursue nuclear. We need to pursue everything else. All-of-the-above is 100 percent the way to go, but that starts by turning back on U.S. energy 100 percent, especially our fossil fuels.
Miller: Let me make sure I understand the first part: you’re saying that you don’t believe in climate change, and you think it’s essentially a Chinese Communist plot?
Kent: That’s not what I said. No.
Miller: I literally, I thought that is what you said.
Kent: Yeah, that was cute, but that’s not what I said. Yeah. So, what I said was, climate has always changed. We’re in a warming cycle right now. The question is, is it because of carbon emissions? That’s not definitive. We have put ourselves now, because of the treaties that we’ve entered and because of things like Build Back Better and shutting down U.S. domestic energy production, we have put ourselves at the mercy of the Chinese Communist Party because they control the raw earth minerals. They control the vast majority of the way a lot of the so-called green technology is produced while at the same time having a massive carbon footprint themselves. So, if the stated intent was to get rid of and reduce carbon footprints, going into things like the Paris Climate Accords and all that doesn’t do anything to address even that issue. We need to be 100 percent energy independent in America, not depending on any kind of foreign governments, foreign countries, foreign entities, that quite frankly hate America and then move towards actual clean energy here in America and free that up. Let the free market compete. Whoever can figure out how to make the best electric car, the best electronic charging stations, the best solar, the best wind, they’re going to be very, very wealthy. The free market will gradually take care of that if there is a demand.
Miller: You’ve both mentioned nuclear as one of the options that you’d like to see more of. Would either of you be okay with a new nuclear power plant in this district? Marie Gluesenkamp Perez first.
Gluesenkamp Perez: We have a lot of hydro here. I don’t know if you’ve noticed. So I’m not sure that this is where we need more power generation, in Washington state. We’re actually an exporter of energy.
Miller: Is that a ‘No’?
Gluesenkamp Perez: I mean, that is a conversation for the community to decide. But what we do need is federal funding for developing more safe nuclear storage, more small reactors. This idea that the free market is going to come in and swoop and invest billions of dollars. That doesn’t happen that way, Joe. It is a public-private partnership. That’s how our national labs were founded. That’s who built our dams.
Miller: Joe Kent, would you support a nuclear power plant in this district?
Kent: Not mandated by the federal government. The people of the district should vote on that. That should be something the states would handle if there’s a demand for it there. If we need to bring in more nuclear power throughout the country, I think there are states that would compete for that and want that. If the people in the 3rd District vote for it, then I would support it.
Miller: I want to turn to election laws, starting with a question that I don’t think I’ve asked before in a debate. But after the last year-and-a-half, it seems more relevant. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, I think it’s your turn to answer the question first. What would it take for you to accept that you had lost this election?
Gluesenkamp Perez: Math. I mean, I believe our county auditors. These are elected public servants. These are patriots. You guys need to get off Facebook. There’s not this conspiracy theory. Go down there and talk to these people. They are public servants. They are patriots. Having this constant barrage . . . Show us the evidence. They keep dancing around, moving the goalpost on what would show election fraud. Joe Kent’s calling for the abolishment of mail-in voting in Washington state.
Gluesenkamp Perez: People don’t believe that.
Miller: Joe Kent, what would it take for you to accept that you had lost this election?
Kent: I’ll accept the results. I mean, yeah, I’ll accept the results. And I will continue to push for full forensic audits. Like I’m part of the lawsuit that sued the state of Washington . . .
Gluesenkamp Perez: Dismissed.
Kent: . . . and Jay Inslee for a full forensic audit. We basically wanted to see where our ballots were. I think that’s a very reasonable request for citizens to make. And you know what? I won the primary in August. That’s why I’m sitting here right now. I’d be more than happy if we went down to the county auditor’s office in every single county throughout the district and did an audit. I’m fine with that, too. As a matter of fact, I encourage that. I do want to get rid of the . . . We tried. Trust me. I do want to get rid of the paper ballots because they’re wrought with fraud. Marie herself is receiving an Oregon ballot and a Washington ballot at her house. This is a very unsecure system. We need to . . .
Gluesenkamp Perez: That’s a lie. Joe, I have never voted in two states . . .
Kent: No no, I didn’t say . . .
Miller: I’m gonna give you a chance to respond. One second . . .
Kent: I said you received two ballots. I never said you voted. I’m not accusing you of a felony. I’m just saying this system is so flawed that she’s getting sent two ballots. And she’s not the only one. There’s probably plenty of people in here tonight that get sent ballots. It is a horrible, unsecure system. We need to get back to voting in person, on a paper ballot, with an ID card that proves you’re an eligible voter. A transparent process – that’s all we’re asking for.
Miller: Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, let me give you a chance to respond.
Gluesenkamp Perez: Yeah. I mean, talk to anybody that actually works for a living and does shift work. The idea that we’re going to take a day off from work – if our employers let us – go show up and vote, stand in line all day. You know, it was a Republican auditor that implemented mail-in voting. This works. This gets people’s voices represented. If you want a representative body, if you want people that do shift work, if you want voters who have mobility issues, if you have people who are homebound; mail-in voting works.
Miller: Joe Kent?
Kent: It’s pretty sad and unfortunate, Marie – especially you said your brother works for the VA – that you consider people who served their country, especially for 20 years, did 11 combats, as not working.
Gluesenkamp Perez: That is not what I said.
Kent: I think it’s pretty insulting to all of our veterans.
Gluesenkamp Perez: I’m sorry, are you working right now?
Kent: But hey, I’m all about making Election Day, or even two days to deal with shift workers, a national holiday. Let’s do that. Let’s get everybody involved in actually participating in our democratic republic, but it needs to be a transparent process. The problem that we have right now is that you have probably, what, 75-80% of Republicans who think that 2020 had major issues, major fraud. You have 45-50% of Independents who believe the exact same thing. We’ve got a lot of Americans right now who don’t trust our system. So why wouldn’t the government simply open up the books and be transparent? That’s all we’re asking for.
Miller: What exactly is the disagreement here about opening up the books? I’m not sure what you mean by opening up the books.
Kent: Yeah, actually having an audit . . .
Gluesenkamp Perez: They’re audited.
Kent: . . . and having a transparent process where you don’t just get mailed the ballot, you put it back in a box, it goes into a machine, and then we’re told what the result is. There’s no transparency in that.
Gluesenkamp Perez: That’s not how it works, Joe.
Kent: Especially, we don’t know how . . .
Gluesenkamp Perez: That’s not how it works.
Kent: . . . the machines run the tabulation codes. Yeah, there’s signature verification, and they look at the ballot, but you’re not standing there presenting your ID to prove that you’re the eligible legal voter. Plus chain of custody. We don’t know what the chain of custody of these ballots are. Chain of custody has been broken on multiple occasions. So, to make a secure transparent process, you just take out all that guesswork. People show up on Election Day, or election two days, with their ID. They prove that they’re eligible to vote, and they vote.
Miller: Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, one last word on this. Then we’re gonna move on.
Gluesenkamp Perez: This is an assault on democracy. This is how you undermine elections.
Kent: Transparency is . . .
Miller: Let’s . . .
Kent: . . . an assault on our democracy. Write that down.
Gluesenkamp Perez: That, that is . . .
Miller: Actually let’s move on to a very related question. I think, Joe Kent, you’ll get this first. How do you describe what happened on January 6, 2021?
Kent: A constitutionally appointed process to adjudicate discrepancies in the election was disrupted by a riot. That’s exactly what happened on January 6, and since then the process was incomplete. That’s why people don’t trust our elections right now. The constitutionally appointed process that was playing out on January 6 was that every single state where there was discrepancies, if there was a senator and there was a congressman who rejected the seating of that state, they got two hours to make their case in front of the American people. If there was problems, the speaker of the house and the vice president could send it back to the state legislatures because the constitution says the state legislatures has purview over this for further adjudication before the actual certification of the election. There was a riot that happened after that, and that process was stopped. That’s what happened on January 6.
Miller: Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, your turn.
Gluesenkamp Perez: Yeah, there was a political riot. There was a mob that killed five police officers, and radical extremists continue to defend it.
Kent: There was only one person killed on January 6, and that was Ashli Babbitt. She was an unarmed protester shot by the Capitol Police. That’s it.
Gluesenkamp Perez: Sorry. So you dispute that those police officers died?
Kent: They didn’t die on January 6.
Miller: Marie Gluesenkamp Perez.
Gluesenkamp Perez: Five police officers were murdered at that protest. And the idea that this is political speech. We should all be horrified that there’s such a lack of. . .
Miller: I don’t think the police officers died that day, there.
Gluesenkamp Perez: No, as a result of those riots.
Kent: So that’s the problem. Now we have this narrative where it’s, ‘Hey, this one side of the aisle, they assaulted the democracy, they killed five people.’ And now that is justifying the national security state coming in, depriving people of their civil liberties, that’s pushing . . .
Gluesenkamp Perez: What?
Kent: . . . all of this division in our country, people calling their fellow Americans traitors, . . .
Miller: I . . . Listen, I gave you . . .
Kent: . . . insurrectionists . . .
Miller: . . . I gave you a long time to talk about this . . .
Kent: . . . I think it’s absolutely disgusting what happened.
Miller: So what do you see, Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, as the ramifications of January 6?
Gluesenkamp Perez: Well, I think that in 2020, radical extremists decided to try to use brute force to overturn an election. There was a staged coup. And now they’re assaulting the ideas, the spirit of elections, the integrity of our ballots, to try and steal it in a political coup. We are entirely too sanguine about this. I mean, take these people seriously. When they say that they want to overturn our elections, take them seriously.
Miller: I want to go back to arguments for why each of you think you should be the next representative for this district, with a focus on people who didn’t vote for you in the primary. A little more than 49,000 people voted for Jaime Herrera Beutler. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, you can go first on this one. What would you say directly to those voters because, frankly speaking, those are the voters who each of you need to win over, to win. What would you say to those voters, for why they should select you this time?
Gluesenkamp Perez: You know, we were outspent 40-to-1 in the primary. The idea is Congress does not look like America right now. We have got to do a better job of electing people who work for a living, people who run small businesses, who work in the trades. There’s only one moderate on the ballot. My opponent has not been endorsed by any of the federally elected Republicans in our state: not by Jaime Herrera Butler, but not by Dan Newhouse, not by Cathy McMorris Rodgers. He is going to Congress to join a clique of Twitter celebrities, not to serve our district. We have got to start electing people who believe in working in the middle, who believe in delivering results. Joe Kent wants to break things. I fix things.
Miller: Joe Kent, what is your pitch to these 49,000 people in this district who voted for the soon-to-be-former incumbent?
Kent: Marie said I want to destroy things, I want to break things. She’s right, I want to destroy and break one-party rule in Washington, D.C. Marie has a handful of great, nice anecdotes about where she lives and what she does for a living. But the bottom line is she is not a different kind of Democrat. She’s more of the same. You heard her policies. She wants an open border, she wants to send judges down there to expedite illegal immigrants coming into our country.
Gluesenkamp Perez: That’s not . . . That’s a lie.
Kent: She refused to reject the endorsement of Democrats that are letting criminals out of jails. You heard her spending plans. She wants to continue to spend with these massive omnibus bills and continue to let the Fed print money. This is what’s driving the cycle of inflation. No plan to turn back on U.S. energy. So the question is, ‘Can you afford two more years of one-party rule in Washington, D.C.?’ It’s very simple. Do you trust Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer and these Democrats, Jay Inslee, to continue to run our lives for the next two years? We have to put an end to one-party rule in Washington, D.C. I’ve served this country my entire adult life at the most elite levels of our special operations community and intelligence community, and it would be an absolute honor for me to take that fight and to continue my service back in Washington, D.C. to end the stranglehold of one-party rule.
Miller: Joe Kent is the Republican and Marie Gluesenkamp Perez the Democrat in the race for Washington’s 3rd Congressional District. We recorded the debate last night in front of an audience at lower Columbia College in Longview.
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