One of the biggest Republican presences in the country quietly swept into Southwest Washington for a late-game fundraiser on Monday with a candidate he fought in the primaries.
U.S. House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy held a fundraising luncheon at the home of a Clark County real estate developer alongside Donald Trump-backed candidate Joe Kent, who is seeking to win Washington’s 3rd Congressional District seat.
The visit was not widely circulated and, according to at least one person, its organization only started in earnest in the middle of last week. Neither the Kent campaign nor McCarthy’s answered OPB questions on Monday.
Invitations sent out to local Republicans described the reception as hosted by real estate developers Al Angelo III and Rick Takach, as well as entrepreneur Brandon Dawson. None could be reached by phone.
Ozzie Gonzalez, Kent’s campaign manager, declined to provide a guest list or specifically state where it was held. Kent posted a photo of himself with McCarthy to social media on Monday.
To Kent supporters, a visit from a high-ranking Republican official showed an ability for Kent to play nice with a wing of the party he has denounced at nearly every step of his quest to unseat U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler.
But others — including Republicans who declined to speak on the record — wondered if the visit aimed to give the Kent campaign a last-minute injection of cash and support as he now takes on a well-funded campaign by Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Perez.
Carolyn Crain, a Clark County Republican who helped organize the event, said it came together late last week. Although she said she felt indifferent to McCarthy politically, she welcomed the scene of the two together.
“I think what it shows is the willingness to collaborate within the caucus in order to advance the agenda,” Crain said. Crain added she believed at least 70 people attended the fundraiser.
McCarthy backed Herrera Beutler throughout the primaries, as the incumbent faced multiple Republican challengers after she voted to impeach former President Trump in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack. The two had been linked in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack, as well, after reports surfaced of McCarthy’s heated phone call with Trump that day, which Herrera Beutler witnessed.
Through a committee named Take Back The House 2022, McCarthy gave nearly $200,000 to Herrera Beutler’s re-election.
That alliance was never lost on Kent. Ahead of the primaries, he regularly dismissed high-ranking Republicans as part of the “establishment” with whom he views himself as battling for the GOP’s future.
At the time, he said he wouldn’t support McCarthy as speaker of the U.S. House should Republicans win a majority in November.
“The Republicans... the corporate GOP, they’re absolute snakes and we need to root them out,” Kent told a crowd at a July town hall in Ridgefield. “We have Kevin McCarthy, Mitch McConnell, these guys really want to see Jaime Herrera Beutler go forward. ... They want to be able to say ‘Hey, this Trump America First thing, that was a flash in the pan.’”
Now, Kent has blunted his stance. At an Oct. 24 town hall in Camas, he said he would support McCarthy if he emerges as the only Republican candidate for the job.
McCarthy has started embracing policies that Kent and other Trump-backed conservatives promote, Kent told the crowd. The so-called “America First” movement, Kent describes, takes a hardline approach to immigration, withdraws from foreign conflicts and pushes corporations to reshore jobs that have gone overseas.
“I feel that my job and everybody else in the America First movement, our job with speaker McCarthy is to say ‘Hey, we’re here to support you and we want you to be successful,’” Kent told the Camas crowd. “But you need to reflect these priorities.”
McCarthy’s visit comes as Kent’s campaign has squared off with Gluesenkamp Perez, whose campaign has surged and wildly outspent Kent.
The Democrat from Skamania County has spent close to $3 million since mid-July, according to financial disclosures. That includes $1.5 million in October alone.
By contrast, Kent, who spent considerably to rise above a crowded Republican field in the primary, has spent $1.3 million since mid-July and $400,000 in October, filings show.